Discovering Lakes in Arizona

There’s a saying in America’s southwest … “Whiskey’s fer drink’n and water’s fer fight’n over!” In a nutshell, water in the western United States is a precious commodity worth fighting over and fight they did back in the 1800’s. Gosh, even today, states continue to fight over water rights all the time, but instead of gunshots being slung, you’ll find attorney’s slinging water rights paperwork. Yeah, there’s beaucoup bucks in water rights … take note any young aspiring attorney.

Watson Lake Prescott Arizona

Watson Lake, Prescott, Arizona

I grew up in the Midwest where water was never an issue. Sure, we occasionally experienced a summer drought when communities would implement water usage restrictions. Such restrictions were usually centered around limiting homeowners to the frequency of lawn sprinkling or car washing.

With an abundance of lakes and rivers in the Midwest, Al and I had dreams of one day owning lake front property. Oh, we came close a couple of times buying something in Wisconsin or Minnesota, but eventually logic ruled and our dream was always put on the back burner. Ah, such young responsible adults we were!

Goldwater Lake Prescott Arizona

Goldwater Lake, Prescott, Arizona – this lake reminds me of northern Minnesota

Gunflint Lake Minnesota

Al paddling in northern Minnesota – 1988

Once we moved west, that dream became even more elusive considering lake front property in the western United States is a rarity. Most lakes are used for water storage … reservoirs. Maintaining a clean water source is top priority in a land where water is a precious commodity. Considering water is not taken for granted in Arizona, it makes a body of water that much more special and appreciated.

Because of our love of water, lakes in particular, Al and I enjoy exploring and searching out those bodies of water whenever we have the opportunity.

Lakes around Prescott, Arizona

Within a thirty minute drive or less from our RV Park here in Prescott Valley, we have access to four lovely little lakes. All allow kayaking as well as offer picnic areas and a great trail system. I used to think Watson Lake was my favorite lake around here until I discovered the other lakes in the area.

Watson Lake Prescott Arizona

Watson Lake, Prescott, Arizona

Last summer I spent a great deal of time hiking around the unique boulder laden landscape titled Granite Dells. Willow Lake and Watson Lake are both man-made reservoirs located within the Granite Dells area of Prescott and the scenery is so unique that it calls for regular visits.

Watson Lake Prescott Arizona

Watson Lake, Prescott, Arizona

I loved hiking around this fascinating landscape – up and down the various trails, exploring all the nooks and crannies around every boulder until …. until the snake encounter. Yeah, the sound of a rattle from a Diamondback can get the heart pounding and quickly take the joy out of any hike. After that experience, it was time for me to search out a few different trail options.

Once I discovered Lynx Lake and Goldwater Lake, I became smitten with them. Talk about a contrast of landscapes. Where as Watson Lake and Willow Lake are surrounded by a mostly barren, lumpy rock landscape, Lynx Lake and Goldwater Lake are nestled in a forest of wonderfully scented tall pine trees providing some nice cooling shade.

Goldwater Lake Prescott Arizona

Once again these are man-made reservoirs serving as water storage, but also offer some nice recreation for the public’s enjoyment.

Lynx Lake was the perfect spot for my friend, Rachael, and me to meet for lunch and catch up on our travels. I met Rachael a couple of years ago up in Arco, Idaho. She was on a one year solo RV adventure, and we had an immediate connection once we started talking cameras, which then lead to a couple of photographic outings together. Ever since our Idaho connection, we’ve stayed in touch. Rachael has since given up the RV life and now lives full-time in Sedona, Arizona … not too far from me which made meeting in Prescott easily doable.

picnic at Lynx Lake Prescott Arizona

enjoying a picnic lunch at Lynx Lake with a friend

During our Idaho time together, Rachael had made lunch for me, and now this was the perfect opportunity for me to reciprocate. Once again, our cameras were brought along for the outing and plenty of shutter time was shared after our tummies were filled. Even Rachael was pleasantly surprised with the beautiful lakes seen around Prescott.

Although these four little lakes might not be impressive to the average Midwesterner, they are a treasure to an Arizonan. I for one appreciate it when these reservoirs are full of water and pristine. I make it a point to take full advantage of their beauty while they’re in my current backyard … okay, I’m not saying they’re literally in my backyard considering it takes me at least twenty minutes to drive to any one of them, but hey, in Arizona I’ll take whatever kind of water front I can. The short drive is worth those water views any day.

Lake Pleasant Phoenix Arizona

Lake Pleasant, northwest of Phoenix, Arizona

More Arizona Lakes worth noting …

Since our children live in Phoenix, Arizona, we spend several months every year during the winter hanging around the Phoenix valley. That has given us the perfect opportunity to search out and explore many of the scenic lakes (rather reservoirs) in the area.

Lake Pleasant is located on the far northwest side of the valley and used to be a regular camping spot for us. The sunsets here are some of the most spectacular that I’ve ever seen. Absolutely stunning!

Saguaro Lake, Canyon Lake, Apache Lake, and Roosevelt Lake are all located on the far east side of the valley in the Tonto National Forest. This string of reservoirs are all connected via the Salt River and each body of water offers unique scenery and plenty of boating recreation.

Salt River Arizona

The Salt River – photographed below Saguaro Lake.

Bartlett Reservoir is located to the far northeast of Scottsdale and also within the Tonto National Forest. This lovely body of water takes a little longer to get to from the heart of Phoenix but so worth the drive, and if you don’t need internet connection, you can enjoy camping right along her beautiful shores.

Eastern Arizona –

We still have yet to spend much time in Arizona’s White Mountains. We enjoyed a brief taste last August during a short visit with our friends in Pinetop. This eastern side of the state reminds me of parts of Colorado. No, you won’t find any tall majestic mountains here, but you will find a landscape of large hills or little mountains surrounded by pine forests and dotted with lakes. Yep, there are lakes all over and stocked with enough fish to satisfy most anglers.

White Mountains in eastern Arizona

White Mountains – eastern Arizona

This is a beautiful part of Arizona that should not be missed and begs for more exploring on our part. But do note, this is a summer destination for RVers and plan on sharing this landscape with lots of desert dwellers who like to spend weekends in the White Mountains. The mountains serve as the perfect escape from the extreme summer heat found in the Phoenix valley.

Northern Arizona –

In the northern section of Arizona, you’ll find the city of Flagstaff and the Coconino National Forest. Once again, the forested landscape offers a bunch of little lakes, some of which I’d say are more like an over-sized pond than a lake, but hey it’s Arizona and water is water …. don’t dis the body of water. We’ll take it any which way we can … pond, lake, river, creek … water is life!

Lake Powell

Lake Powell at the Arizona – Utah border

But if size matters to you, than it’s time to head to the Arizona-Utah border and the shores of Lake Powell. Here you can boat to your heart’s content or until you run out of gas, which happens to boaters all the time. Yeah, it’ll literally take you days to boat the length of Lake Powell and a boat load of gasoline too.

Lake Havasu Arizona

boating with friends on Lake Havasu, Arizona

Western Arizona –

If Lake Powell’s a little too big for your taste, then Lake Havasu on the Arizona-California border might be more to your liking. We’re fortunate to have friends that live in Lake Havasu City and own a pontoon boat. Oh yeah – loved getting out on the water.

Lake Havasu

Yep, I’m a happy camper out boating on Lake Havasu.  Photo taken mid February. So while folks in the east were shoveling snow, I was enjoying a day on the water… no coat needed!

Southern Arizona –

Oh my goodness, I haven’t even touched on the southern half of the state where we really enjoyed Patagonia State Park and the lovely water setting seen there. So many more lakes to discover!

Hot and Dusty …

In a state where the words hot and dusty are used often, it’s no wonder the diverse landscape and fresh bodies of water are such a delightful surprise to many a visitor. I know all these picturesque lakes have been a fun and fantastic adventure discovering during our travels throughout the state.

No surprise our wheels have barely rolled across the Arizona state line this past year with so much picturesque scenery to discover and still so much more to see. Now if only I could figure out a way to fold up that pontoon boat and store it in the belly of the RV …  then I’d really be in tall cotton!

Lake Powell

Camping near water is the next best thing to owning lake front property – oh yeah, a gal could get used to a lake front yard like this!

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What I don’t like about …

What could I possibly not like about northern Arizona near Page and Lake Powell? After all, I’ve been gushing about it lately. Just look at these photographs showcasing this amazing landscape.

It’s pretty darn special around here, but it’s not a panacea. As a photographer and blogger, I like to showcase the best about an area and sometimes fail to disclose the downside. Yeah, there’s a few downsides … downsides I don’t like.

So let’s get real

Tourism is big business around northern Arizona (Spring, summer and fall). The town of Page is on the schedule as a stopping point for many international tours. You’ll see large tour buses (holding around 50 passengers each, give or take) all around town. You’ll see them parked at McDonald’s, Walmart, the Carl Hayden Visitor Center, Horseshoe Bend overlook, the marina’s at Lake Powell, and of course, the slot canyons at Antelope Canyon.

What an unpleasant treat it is to get in line at Walmart after the bus load of tourists hit the registers or how about pulling up to a scenic area only to see buses unloading hundreds of tourists at a popular site like Horseshoe Bend 😕

Don’t even get me started with the tourists and their selfie taking …… 🤣

Tourists taking a selfie … guilty!

Speaking of Antelope Canyon …. Hiking a slot canyon is an amazing experience. The sight is magical and surreal, but sharing it with hundreds of other tourists and being rushed through the canyon is the reality for many. Most of these unique slot canyons lie on Navajo Indian land, and therefore, tourists must pay for a guided tour if they’d like to experience a slot canyon.

slot canyon

The two most popular slot canyons are Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon. There are a few other lesser known slot canyons where group sizes are kept smaller and some specialize in photographic tours. So depending on what your interests are in hiking a slot canyon (fun or photography), you’ll want to shop around.

Weather

I don’t think I’d be exaggerating if I called northern Arizona / southern Utah a land of extremes. The land is stunning, perplexing, and wild and so is the weather.

hoodoos

Mother Nature carves interesting sculptures with wind and time

During our four-week stay (April 2018), we experienced temperatures as high as 84 degrees Fahrenheit during the day to overnight temps as low as 36 degrees F and everything in between. On a nice day, winds were as low as 4 miles per hour, while on a bad day, we experienced sustained winds as high as 25-30 mph with gusts over 50 mph.

Those high winds made camping on a beach lively! The RVers that paid attention to the weather forecast usually packed up and left before the impending high winds started while others were caught off guard. Campers with a pitched E-Z UP didn’t fare so well with those excessive winds as evidenced the next day at the dumpsters.

EZ up

EZ-up frames filled the garbage dumpsters after high wind storms. People can be stupid. There are a total of 5 dumpsters. While the one on the end was overflowing with trash, the other 4 were barely half full….duh!

On those extremely windy days, it was impossible to enjoy any outdoor activities without being sandblasted. I’m sure with all the wind and sandstorms Al and I endured, we ingested our bodily quota of minerals. The grit in our teeth confirmed no additional supplements were needed …. nor did I need to use any of my wonderful exfoliating potions as Mother Nature’s sandblasting quickly rid me of any dead skin cells 🤣

The upside to all that nasty wind was it cleared out the beach leaving only the crazy hardy to ride out the storm …. a reprieve from the crowds, I’ll take it.

But let’s face it, without all the annoying wind, we wouldn’t have this boggling landscape to ogle. And just so you know, March and April are the two windiest months out of the year. Guess we timed it right 😞

Guess I’ll endure the winds so I can admire this bazaar landscape

Camping

In my opinion, the camping options are sparse around the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area especially for the amount of tourism this area receives. Tourists driving RV rentals are everywhere and all vying for a place to overnight.  The nicest and most sought after option is camping at the Wahweap Campground. It’s a beautiful campground if you can find an available site or have a reservation.

Then there’s the private Page-Lake Powell Campground. We stayed here several years ago and it was okay. But with the increase of international tourism and the renting of RV’s, this place fills up fast also.

Camping around sand is pretty on a calm day and not so great on a windy day

During our stay, we camped most of the time at the Lone Rock Beach area located along the Arizona – Utah border. Although it’s dispersed dry camping, there is a fee and a stay limit. The cost to overnight is $14 a day with the use of an American the Beautiful National Park Pass or $21 without the pass – ($7 a night for holders of a senior national park pass) 2018 rates!

Although my photographs may make the Lone Rock Beach area look quiet and enticing, the reality is this can be the wild wild west. People come here to have a good time and in the process bring all their toys.

regular roar of engines heard all day long

There’s a bunch of off-road trails at Lone Rock for folks to play on with their UTV’s.  I’ll admit, it looks like a lot of fun tooling around on the hills and sand. With the water right there, the sound of boat engines can be heard all day long, and of course, a steady hum of generators keeping all the RV’s charged up rumble at all times of the day (Quiet hours are 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.). The sounds of engines, music, and laughter fills the air. This is not a place for quiet solitude, but it can be a very entertaining and fun place to hang out for a short time.

Our friends Faye and Dave being entertained. Who needs TV when you can watch people being dumb sh*ts !

At the end of March, we even had some ‘Spring Breakers‘ show up for a couple of nights. Ah, to be young and silly again!

The guys showed up first with the motorhome and later the gals drove up with a popup camper – Party time!

Yeah, it was party central and the music carried all the way to the other end of the beach. I was more amused than bothered. These college kids were there to have a good time and I’d say they succeeded, BUT temps were only in the low 60’s and seeing them lightly clad had chills running up my spine. I’m sure the liquid heat was flowing freely in the form of spirits so they probably weren’t as cold as I was.

Watercraft

Al and I no longer own any form of a watercraft … sigh! Although there are a bunch of things to do around Page, Arizona, the real draw is the lake – Lake Powell. Camping near the water became more and more of a challenge for me once the weather starting warming. I began to miss my boat and wave runners. Visiting Lake Powell and not getting out on the water with our own boat was probably the thing I disliked most about our stay.

We looked into a bunch of different ideas to get out onto the water, but since it still wasn’t as warm as I prefer for boating, we forewent renting a boat and opted for a one-hour boat tour through Antelope Canyon. That was just enough to satisfy my  boat craving …. for now!

Another beautiful sunrise out my RV window

Most disliked

So aside from not having my own boat, the traffic was my least favorite thing. The way some folks drive around here was down right dangerous. I can’t count how many near head on collisions there are every day. People getting impatient seem to take chances passing slower moving vehicles like RV’s on the two lane highways. Plus, there are so many tourists (foreign and domestic) that slow down and make turns on a whim. Yeah, it’s important to be a vigilant driver on these two lane roads.

Did I already mention there are a lot of tourists around northern Arizona? Not only are they forever taking selfies, they drive like they are the only ones on the road, and have a tenancy to gawk at wildlife. Check out the wildlife and the crazy tourists 😁

I’ll be back

Ah, it was still a very fun and awesome time spent amongst some of the most amazing scenery. Waking up every morning to a gorgeous view and beautiful sunrise made any of my minor dislikes about the area seem insignificant. Yeah, I’m already missing those killer views and stunning sunrises … sunrises that I could literally watch while still laying in bed. How awesome is that!!!

sometimes the sky seemed to mimic the land with its layers

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Adventures at the Arizona – Utah border

What started off as a one to two-week visit to Page, Arizona, ended up turning into four weeks. Yep, an entire month! Changing our travel itinerary on a whim is a wonderful thing and since we didn’t have our next RV Park reservation until May 1st, we took full advantage of the freedom to roll at will.

cairn

After a month of exploring around the Lake Powell / Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in northern Arizona and southern Utah, one might think we’d seen it all, but such is not the case. Although, we did manage to see and do a bunch of things, I know there’s still much more to discover. Guess that means we have to come back!

Our first week whizzed by as our adventures were shared with friends. We hiked a slot canyon with friends. We enjoyed a back road 4×4 excursion with friends, and we also spent a week boondocking with friends. Sharing our adventures made our time in the area that much more enjoyable and entertaining. That week was filled with hikes, campfires, laughs, and beautiful scenery.

Lone Rock Beach

Lone Rock Beach

Camping with friends

Al and I arrived to the Lone Rock Beach area a couple of days ahead of our friends which gave us the opportunity to scope out the lay of the land.

Once our friends arrived, the four of us found a level spot to call home for the week. Faye and I began to gather rocks and set about building a fire ring. I recall there being a lot of laughter, especially when she and I decided to build some trail cairns to aid Dave in finding his way back to the RV from the campfire 🤣

cairns

Our friend Mona Liza had heard about our antics and expressed concern. Not to worry Mona, we broke no rules gathering the rocks and no rocks were harmed for the sake of our entertainment. All rocks were later returned to their original home …. leave no trace 😁

Unfortunately, our friends had a travel schedule planned and after a week they moved on leaving Al and me to our own devices. No problem …. I had formulated a list of things to see and do over the coming weeks.

Dining at Lake Powell

Our first stop was the Antelope Point Marina.  Al and I enjoyed a very tasty lunch at the recently opened Jádi To’oh Restaurant. Great atmosphere and good food. After lunch, we walked the docks looking at boats … boats or yachts?

Yeah, some of these boats were huge and Al and I had fun visualizing the owners, or most likely companies, that own these floating beauties. Walking up and down the docks served as a great way to not only entertain us, but also get in some exercise.

Next up, was a visit to the Wahweap Marina and the Lake Powell Resort. The views from the resort are beautiful and I would highly recommend a visit here. Al and I stopped by for happy hour and enjoyed drinks and a sandwich in the bar area.

But the dining room …. oh my, what a view! I’d venture to say, it might be worthwhile enjoying breakfast or dinner here in the Rainbow Room (no lunch service). I can’t speak for the food or service, but those views are amazing.

While strolling around the Lake Powell Resort, we stumbled upon a wedding. Wow! What a great spot to get married. “Hey honey, wanna renew our vows?”

Hiking, hiking and more hiking

What can I say about the hiking possibilities around northern Arizona and southern Utah? …. Toadstools, slot canyons, mini waves, a rim trail, a hanging garden, and Horseshoe Bend …. and those are just the few trails we hiked. There’s many more.

Hiking a slot canyon in northern ArizonaWhen it comes to hiking, the slot canyons around here are the crème de la crème and a photographers delight. Folks from around the world travel here to experience one of these slots – Antelope Canyon being the most popular. Since the majority of these slot canyons are located on Navajo Indian land, permits and/or guides are required.

We hiked two slot canyons during our stay in Page. First was the Waterholes Canyon and second was Wire Pass Canyon. Both canyons had obstacles to negotiate, and this is when team work came in handy for me. I could not have hiked either canyon by myself, but I did discover several non slot canyon hikes that are easily doable solo.

New Wave trail – The newest trail around Page, Arizona, is what’s called the New Wave and although it doesn’t come close to the real Wave, these mini waves are made up of the same Navajo sandstone with extensive fine detailing and cross bedding.

Rimview trail – This 10 mile scenic Rim Trail loops around the town of Page. Hikers and bikers can access the trail at any number of locations.  I hiked this trail several times during my visit, BUT fear not, I never completed that ten mile loop. Nope, not me! Instead, I made my own much shorter hike. I parked at a small parking area near the  Lake View Primary School, and by hiking this northern section of the trail, I was able to take in the sparkling blue waters of Lake Powell below me.

Horseshoe Bend overlook – No trip to northern Arizona would be complete without a visit to the Horseshoe Bend overlook, but be forewarned, it’s a crowded tourist attraction that brings in bus loads of people from around the world …. literally, tour buses filled with tourists.

I was lucky to visit during a lull in tourism – spring break was over and ‘the season’ hadn’t yet begun. During spring break, I saw the line of traffic stretch dangerously down Highway 89 and there was no way I was going to join those masses. Currently construction is underway to improve access and parking.

The hike to the overlook is about 3/4 of a mile one way in a sometimes sandy trail and is uphill on the return to the parking lot.

Hanging Garden Trail – This is another short and easy hike not far from the Carl Hayden visitor center (Dam). The trail leads to an interesting rock overhang where vegetation grows out of the rock, but the real fun here begins with a little off trail exploring. Fascinating, perplexing and colorful rock abound with more wave like action.

Scenic drives

If hiking isn’t your thing, how about a scenic drive? We enjoyed two back country 4×4 excursions. Our first outing was to the most amazing scenic overlook known as Alstrom Point, and second was a drive via Cottonwood Road through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

We didn’t need four-wheel drive on either excursion, but found the high clearance on the Toyota Tacoma was helpful, even though not necessary. Also, the weather was very agreeable for both excursions … meaning it hadn’t rained in quite sometime and the ground was extremely dry.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Without the Glen Canyon Dam there would be no Lake Powell, and Lake Powell is obviously the star of northern Arizona, and the Grand Canyon, of course. The Carl Hayden Visit Center is perched on a ledge overlooking the Glen Canyon Dam and the waters of Lake Powell and the Colorado River.

The visitor center is a great place to stop and gather local information, pick up a trail map, take a tour of the dam, or walk the Glen Canyon bridge. Walking across the bridge to take in the sight is a must do, but I’ll admit, I wasn’t a fan of the bridge vibrating when semi-trucks crossed 😮 The bridge and the dam are an engineering marvel, especially amongst such challenging terrain.

Glen Canyon Dam

Glen Canyon Dam and the Colorado River

The above photograph was taken at a scenic overlook located on Scenic View Road near the Wingate, Baymont Inn and Sleep Inn. The overlook requires a short downhill stroll over sandy slick rock. For the more adventurous, hike around the ledges and bluffs for impressive views in all directions.

Lodging in Page

There’s no shortage of hotels around Page with more being built to accommodate the influx of tourism. However, there is a shortage of available RV parking (in my opinion) especially on weekends which is why many end up boondocking out at Lone Rock Beach or Wallie-docking at the local Walmart.

If money is no object, consider staying at the exclusive Amangiri Resort. No lookie- loos allowed beyond the gate …. sorry, I tried. Perhaps, it’s understandable that if guests are paying upwards of $3,000 a night, that they’d like their privacy. Can’t imagine why they wouldn’t allow this hiking clad RVer into their luxury abode for photo-ops 😏 I don’t think they believed me when I told them my Louboutin’s were back at the RV 👠🤣

Fenced out 😕

Time to move on …

After having more fun in Page – northern Arizona, than we ever imagined, the time has come for us to lift the jacks and move on. It’s what RVers do 🤗 It was a memorable visit …. one we hope to repeat!

 

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Toadstools and a Slot Canyon

When Al and I awoke to a beautiful and calm morning, we were quick to agree on an early morning hike …. early meaning out the door around 8:00 a.m. The previous two days kept us indoors due to high gusting winds. Ah, those pesky winds.

Toadstools

But while a sculptor may use tools like a chisel or rasp, Mother Nature sculpts with wind, water and time. Without all the annoying sandblasting wind, I wouldn’t have all this perplexing scenery to go gaga over. So I endure the bad along with the good, and plan our excursions around the weather.

An easy hike

With an eagerness to get out an explore, we hopped in the truck and traveled about twenty miles north of the Arizona – Utah border. This trailhead and hike will lead us toward what is known as the Toadstools.

This relatively easy and well-marked short trail starts out in a sandy wash.

Therefore, it’s probably not a good idea to hike this trail after a rainstorm. As it was, we encountered a few muddy patches and it hadn’t rained in days.

the trail is clearly marked

The trail is pretty nondescript until you crest a hill and are greeted with the first and most impressive toadstool.

These mushroom like shaped rocks had Al and me tilting our heads in wonder. Bewildered, we were duly entertained and found ourselves drifting from one interesting rock formation to another.

By starting the day early, we literally had the place to ourselves ….. that is, for at least fifteen minutes ….. it was ours, and ours alone, and we loved every minute.

We found the land very strange and a bit surreal.  We briefly felt like we were on some old movie set like Star Wars or Game of Thrones … perhaps, we even spotted ET!

Not having to share this landscape with other visitors allowed Al and I to have fun with the self-timer on the camera. Yeah, there were a few laughs and retakes as I didn’t always run and pose quick enough. It was me against the ten second timer and many times the timer one 😆

If you find yourself visiting Page, Arizona and looking for a fun way to spend an hour or two, consider visiting the Toadstools. It’s easy to get to. It’s an out and back hike and is less than 2 miles total. But be sure to linger amongst the toadstools and stroll in all directions before returning to the trail. You never know what else you might see!

A slot canyon hike with an obstacle

The weather was dictating our schedule and as much as we didn’t want to embark on a well known trail on a Saturday, we did exactly that (April 14, 2018). This time we were out the door by 7:30 a.m.  (Arizona time). After all, we had about a one hour drive in front of us to get to the Wire Pass trail located in southern Utah.

Wire Pass Trail Utah

Upon arriving at the trailhead, we found plenty of room to park. After grabbing our packs and paying the $6 per person trail fee, we were eagerly on our way. Once again our hike started off in a sandy wash which continued for about the first mile.

Eventually, the landscape started to get interesting as the red rocks began to surround us. We entered a small short slot, of sorts, before the rock walls opened again. I felt the canyon was teasing me, and giving me a little taste of what was to come.

Not long afterwards, the fun began.

Before deciding to hike Wire Pass canyon, I had done a fair amount of research about the trail. Al and I do not consider ourselves avid hikers. As such, I wanted to make sure we didn’t get ourselves into a situation beyond our abilities.

I read somewhere that there is one major obstacle in the slot …. an eight foot drop. Hmm, sliding down might be doable, but since this was an out and back hike, I had concerns about getting back up that 8 foot drop. Therefore, Al and I agreed ahead of time that we’d probably turn around at that point.

This is the major obstacle on the trail – 8′ drop

Guess I was wrong!

Before I knew it, Al had negotiated the drop. Of course, I’m always lagging behind with my camera as I snap away. Turns out, someone had placed some rocks and an old tree trunk at the base of the drop to aid in the navigation.

Al was encouraging and quick to help me on my scramble down. I have to admit, I was really glad he was game and wanted to hike further. I felt this obstacle shows up rather quick in the slot canyon. Actually way too soon in my opinion, and at the point, there was no way I wanted to turn around. I wanted …. needed to explore further!

Once over the drop, the canyon proceeded to get narrower and deeper. The lack of light made it difficult to photograph, but oh so fun to hike. The slot canyon was long and deep and we were glad we didn’t need to pass any other hikers. Eventually, the canyon opened up and we were at the intersection where the Wire Pass trail meets the Buckskin Gulch trail.

Wire Pass Trail ends at Buckskin Gulch trail.

Buckskin Gulch is considered the longest and deepest slot canyon in the U.S. Its towering walls make it difficult for the sun to reach the canyon floor and hikers can expect to encounter water and mud. We were here in mid April and according to hikers exiting the slot, water was waist-high in one direction and knee-high in the other, and the water was very very cold.

Buckskin Gulch

Buckskin Gulch Trail – I tried staying out of the mud

My curiosity got the better of me and I had to peek around the corner, but I didn’t get very far before I felt my shoes sink into the mud. I walked Buckskin Gulch in both directions before that mud had me retracing my steps back to the Wire Pass trail. We weren’t prepared or equipped to hike in water nor did I have the inclination.

With hubby antsy to keep moving, I quickly took some photographs of the Buckskin Gulch trail and then we started our return trek.

There was a time when I would prefer and seek out loop trails instead of out and back hikes, but I’ve discovered when hiking in the opposite direction, the scenery can look quite different on the exact same trail ….. and I found that to be very true on the Wire Pass trail.

The scenery in the canyon was spectacular and it looked as though we were hiking a completely different trail on our return. Ah, but this was the same trail, and therefore, we would need to climb up that eight foot drop. Would I have a problem, I wondered?

I decided to go first. I tried one foot there. Hmm, that didn’t work. How about this foot there? No, that wouldn’t work. At 5’4″ tall, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get a firm hold on anything that would allow me to get high enough so I could fling my body over that boulder.

“If I could just hoist myself higher, I’d be able to crawl over that boulder”. Nope! I couldn’t do it. The sandstone walls were slick and didn’t provide any leverage. I couldn’t get a firm grip on that boulder. I could feel a little panic build up inside me. I realized the only other way out of the canyon was hiking miles via the Buckskin Gulch trail that was filled with water 😥

Hopefully, Al’s 6’3″ frame would be tall enough to get us out of here. Fingers crossed!

At that point, we both put on our gloves to help grip the boulder better (yep, we came somewhat prepared). After Al struggled a bit, I lent my hand as another foot hold for him, and then up and over he went. Whew! Now that he was at the top, he helped pull me up and over.

This was the only area in the slot canyon where we ran into other hikers ….  they were coming down, and all appeared to be about half our age. Some navigated the drop like mountain goats, while others were more tentative like yours truly. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to watch anyone else climb back up this obstacle.

I think the trail is actually more interesting on the return

With a new-found spring in our step and a few pats on the back later, Al and I took our time hiking the rest of the way back to the truck. I found the scenery even more amazing on our return trek and I wanted to savor it.

The Wire Pass Canyon trail is a relatively easy hike with the exception of that one major obstacle. Al and I promised each other that we’d hike it again next time we’re in the area, but we’ll be sure to bring rope or some other aid in climbing back up that drop.

The Wire Pass trail is about 3.4 miles round trip. All in all, the hike took us about 2 1/2 hours, but that included lots of stops for photos and lingering on the Buckskin Gulch trail. My Fitbit registered 4.3 miles.

This was a leisurely stroll for us through a fascinating canyon. It was a beautiful day and a fantastic hike that we’d repeat in a heartbeat. BUT if  photography is your goal, I would recommend Waterholes Canyon. It’s much more photogenic yet equally fun to hike 😊

Additional tidbit – near the Wire Pass and Buckskin Gulch intersection is an interesting arched alcove with a hanging garden. Along a nearby wall are some petroglyphs…. signs of an ancient civilization. We also noticed water weeping down the walls in the narrowest part of the slot.

Finding the trailhead – From Page, Arizona, take US 89 into Utah for about 34 miles before turning left on House Rock Valley Road (near mile marker 25). The turnoff is in the middle a 50 mph right-angle curve making it a little precarious with impatient traffic. The trailhead is 8.5 miles down this gravel road. From Page to the trailhead, the drive took us close to an hour.

(affiliate links) Next time we’ll be sure to take rope. Our gloves and hiking shoes were perfect for the hike.
Outdoor Climbing Rope       Outdoor Sports Gloves

Women’s Hiking Shoe

Merrell Men’s hiking shoe 

 

Hiking a Slot Canyon with Friends

Last week, I took the best hike ever! First off, the hike involved a slot canyon, and second the experience was shared with friends. Yes sirree, it was an awesome morning filled with amazing scenery and lots of laughter.

Up until we started RVing full-time five years ago, I had never heard of a slot canyon. I had no clue what folks were talking about, but by reading blogs, I was introduced to Antelope Canyon. The photographs intrigued me to the point that I had to see and experience this magical sight for myself.

What is a slot canyon?

The first time I heard the term slot canyon, I remember asking myself, “What is a slot canyon?” I was totally clueless. So what exactly is it? A slot canyon is a narrow canyon formed by rock wearing away by water rushing through it. The split rock crevasses are polished by water and time and are a photograper’s delight. A slot canyon is much deeper than it is wide and many slots are formed in sandstone and limestone rock …. the perfect conditions here in northern Arizona and southern Utah.

Water Holes Canyon slot

The most popular and world-renowned slot canyon in the United States is Antelope Canyon which is located in northern Arizona near the town of Page. Folks come from around the world to see this unique and stunning red rock slot.

Since Antelope Canyon is located on Navajo Indian land, the only way to experience these canyons is via a paid tour. Tours are usually not my thing, but ever since I hiked my first slot canyon at Kasha-Katuwe, I was eager to hike one of these red rock wonders. I pondered the thought of a tour …. but then ….

Friends plan a hike together

Mona Liza on the left, Faye in the middle and me on the right

So let me set the stage for you ….. A couple of months ago, these three RV blogging pals began discussions on a potential rendezvous.  You see, Mona Liza and I met online via our blogs over five years ago. A couple of years later, I introduced Mona Liza to Faye, another friend I met via blogging.

friends made via bloggingOver the past few years, the three of us have crossed paths rather happenstance. I’ve bumped into these ladies separately in Texas, Arizona, Colorado and even Idaho.

The three of us have serendipitously  found ourselves camped in Texas and Arizona while Faye and Mona Liza have stumbled upon each other in Utah and Canada.

This past winter, Faye and I spent a month camped at the same RV park in Phoenix, Arizona, but it had been quite a while since either one of us had seen Mona Liza. Thus, a little planning was in order. Since Mona Liza (and her honey bunch, Steve) had a well planned RV travel itinerary scheduled with firm reservations, Faye and I did a little rearranging of our own schedules so the three of us could meet up.

After comparing notes, it was decided Page, Arizona, would be the best place for us to connect even though we’d have less than 48 hours to hang out together. With that said, we didn’t waste any time. During our first happy hour, we discussed potential hikes for the following day.

We all love hiking slot canyons and our first consideration was the Wire Pass Trail, but that would require at least an hours drive north into Utah and the group didn’t want to waste our short time together driving. Plus, Mona Liza and Steve would be heading out-of-town and traveling the next day anyway.

hiking near Page, Arizona

Our group – me center front, Mona Liza on the left, my hubby Al in the red, then Faye, Steve, and Dave

Unanimous decision

After a short discussion over drinks, we agreed on Water Holes Canyon for the hike of the day. Since this self-guided slot canyon trail is located on Navajo land, a permit is required. Obtaining the permits turned into a little laughable fiasco since much of the info we found online seemed to be outdated.

As of this writing, the only place to purchase a permit to hike Waterholes Canyon is at the  Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park Office located on Coppermine Road, 3 miles south of Page and next to the LeChee Chapter House. The cost is $12 per person and the office is closed on weekends.

Note: The state of Arizona does not participate in daylight savings time. We never change our clocks. BUT the Navajo Nation does. Depending on the time of year you visit, you’ll want to verify and double check the time so you arrive at the appropriate time for any tours or stopping by a Navajo business. Nothing like keeping tourists on their toes!

the trail from the parking lot to the canyon

With permits in hand, we hit the trail around 9:00 a.m. (Arizona time). The trail is clearly marked with rocks leading from the tiny parking area down into the canyon. Once we navigated the steep descend into the canyon, we took a left heading east.

The trail also goes to the right, but once you pass under the highway bridge, you’ll need some serious Canyoneering skills…. as in ropes, ladders, strong upper body strength, rappelling, experience – I think you get the picture. So take my advice and go left, east of the highway.

Once you pass under the Hwy 89 bridge, the trail is for experienced hikers with canyoneering skills.

The trail starts out wide and sandy. Our group ooh’s and ah’s at the unique red sculpted sandstone. It was a beautiful morning with few other people on the trail …  just yet.

Eventually the canyon starts to narrow … hence the term slot canyon. More ooh’s and ah’s were heard!

As the trail narrowed, there were a few obstacles for those of us a tad more vertically challenged. But we all excelled in a our team building efforts.

The most challenging part of the entire hike for me was that first ladder because it wasn’t quite tall enough for my comfort level. Thank goodness I had help at the top. Mona Liza needed help being pulled up as well.  The two ladders strapped together made for a rickety setup and we all took caution climbing it.

Once past the ladder, the slot canyon continued to wow us with her beauty. With three out of the six of us carrying cameras, there was plenty of stopping. With all the stopping to admire the canyon and snap photos, there was no cardio workout for this group.

Dave and I compare camera settings

Photographing a slot canyon can be a challenge due to the light, but that’s also what makes it so interesting. I’ve heard great things about the Indian guides at Antelope Canyon instructing photographers on the best camera settings. Dave said he learned a  lot about his camera and the best settings from his guide when they hiked Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon a couple of years ago. Hmm, I may need to take one of those tours yet.

Depending on the time of day you visit, the colors of the rocks can vary greatly. So I highly recommend taking the time to admire the ever-changing light.

A word of caution …. Be sure to check the weather before embarking on any slot canyon hike. Remember how a slot is formed …. rushing water. You’ll want to avoid a flash flood, which can occur even if the rain is many miles away and upstream. This is not something to be taken lightly and even experienced hikers have lost their battle with a canyon flash flooding.

Once we reached the end of the trail (near the overhead power lines), it was time for us to turn around and view the canyon from a new direction. The hike is just as amazing on the return, but this is also when we starting running into crowds. Seems as the day progresses, it can get busy.

Time to climb back out of the canyon. We need to join Al up there!

The climb back out of the canyon is a bit steep and this was another area where I was glad I wore good hiking shoes for traction. In the above photo, the hike up is around that bend and up to where Al is standing. Seems I failed to photograph the trail back up 😏

But here’s one of Dave’s photos showing us hike down, and showcases the kind of rock we had to walk on. This could get real slick if wet. As it was, the rock is dusted with sand and gets a little slippery in spots.

slot canyonWaterholes Canyon is about a 3 mile (total) out and back hike. I loved it! It was so much fun …. partly due to the stunning scenery but a bigger part due to the wonderful camaraderie.

Yep, this was one great hike … a great hike with great friends. Doesn’t get much better!

I’m so glad we rearranged our travels so we could all connect for this fantastic hike. Unfortunately, as full-time RVers, it’ll be awhile before we bump into each other again. Seems we’re all heading in different directions this year.

Laughter and adventure near Lake Powell – Thanks for the memories!

slot canyons

Hiking a slot canyon with friends

Good humor is a tonic for mind and body. It is the best antidote for anxiety and depression. It is a business asset. It attracts and keeps friends. It lightens human burdens. It is the direct route to serenity and contentment. – Grenville Kleiser

UPDATE – As of May 2018 access to the Waterholes Canyon trail has been changed. Supposedly permits are no longer being issued and a guide is required. The information regarding this trail is ever changing and confusing. Please do your homework for the latest information before embarking on this hike.

(affiliate links) Good hiking shoes are a must for this trail for sure-footed traction. Al and I love our Merrell’s…..

Merrell Men’s hiking BootMerrell Women’s
Compass T-Shirt

Wildlife on the Trail?

Would you know what to do if you came face to face with wildlife on the trail? Obviously, a lot depends on exactly what kind of animal we’re talking about.  A marmot would have me stopping in my tracks to snap a bunch of photos all the while baby talking to it and letting him know how darn cute he is.

A snake on the other hand gets my heart pounding while exclaiming, “Oh sh*t!” but of course still managing to take a quick snapshot 🐍😮 (which I don’t recommend)

rattlesnake

coming face to face with a rattlesnake on the trail

Even though I should already know the answer(s) considering my past wildlife encounters, lately I find the need to evaluate my trail safety savviness and ask myself, “What should I do if ….. ?” The reason for my review pertains to my recent encounter with a rattlesnake on the trail last week. This was my second time having a close encounter with a diamondback and I’m hoping it’s my last, but when you spend as much time hiking in their habitat as I do, chances are we’ll meet again.

Willow Lake Prescott Arizona

Willow Lake, Prescott, Arizona

So what did I do when I heard that unmistakable sound only a diamondback rattlesnake can make? My tale about his tail ….

Willow Lake, Prescott, ArizonaLast Thursday was a glorious day offering a much wanted reprieve from the every day rainstorms. However, it is monsoon season here in Arizona and the moisture is very much-needed in this arid climate.

With the sunny blue skies, it didn’t take me long to lace up my hiking shoes and head on over to the Granite Dells area for an exploratory hike with the camera.

I chose an out and back hike at Willow Lake in Prescott, Arizona. The trail started off like any other dirt hiking trail, but soon I found myself scrambling across huge boulders and using the white spray painted dots to guide me along the trail.

hiking Willow Lake, Prescott trails, Arizona

white dots highlighting trail

I was a mere fifteen minutes into the hike when the trail went up rather steeply and I began wondering what I had gotten myself into.

To maintain my balance, I leaned forward toward the boulder and steadied myself with one hand on the ground as I climbed following the white spray painted dots.

I continued to pay close attention to those dots as to not veer off the trail. I was focused on my footing and my where abouts and of course the obligatory photo taking.

About 20 to 25 minutes into the hike, the trail had taken me up and over some beautiful scenery. I was enjoying myself and getting in a great workout. The trail had dipped down only for it to head back up over a rock outcropping. I was slightly winded as I climbed and just as the boulder leveled off, there was an unmistakable sound to my right.

diamondback rattlesnake

Is it just me, but I see shoes? I find his skin beautiful … the repetitive pattern, texture, and color is stunning.

“Oh sh*t, not again!!!” There off to my right about 10 to 12 feet away was a rather large diamondback rattlesnake in strike position. Tail was up and rattling. Head was up with tongue dancing. I slowly and gingerly kept walking (which I felt was my safest and quickest option).

Within seconds, he settled down and both of us no longer felt threatened. I quickly, and I mean quickly, snapped a couple of photos while admiring his unique beauty.  Hmm, years ago I owned a pair of snake skin shoes with a similar texture. At the time, I lived in the Chicago area and had never seen a snake in the wild.

For some reason, I kept thinking about those shoes and soon came to the conclusion that it would somehow feel very wrong to me owning a pair of snake skin shoes. Although I didn’t appreciate the encounter on the trail, I do appreciate wildlife and that beautifully textured skin belongs in the wild and not on my feet.

diamondback rattlesnake

I was hiking from left to right when I met Mr. Diamondback

diamondback snake

guess I wasn’t the only one on the move.

rattlesnake

As I was hiking from the left and coming over the ridge, I was more focused on my footing and potential critters in the rock crevices which is why I didn’t immediately notice the snake sunning himself near the ledge.

For a brief second, I thought about hanging around for more photo-ops. He was rather large and a good-looking snake at that, but thank goodness my better judgement took over.  Although he and I seemed to have come to an understanding, you never know what might provoke the guy. He is a snake after all and unpredictable. I’m not afraid of snakes, but I am afraid of being bitten by a snake.

I continued on my hike and once I was on the other side of the ravine, I looked back to see if the snake was still there.

Willow Lake Prescott, Arizona

Looking across the ravine to see if the snake is still on the trail.

I certainly felt somewhat relieved seeing Mr. Diamondback on the move. Remember, I have to hike back this way 😲 This rattlesnake encounter did take some of the joy out of the rest of my hike and I was almost ready to call it quits, but I’m a stubborn gal and I was on a mission to see the red bridge. Thus, it was onward and upward …. figuratively AND literally.

hiking Prescott trails, Arizona

Eek – all those nifty places for snakes to hide. “Please Lord no more diamondback encounters”.

Red Bridge Willow Lake Prescott, Arizona

The red bridge looks more pinkish than red thanks to the Arizona sun

I made it to my destination; the red bridge. I was tempted to continue hiking a little further, and probably would have had it not been for the snake encounter. It was already 85 degrees Fahrenheit at ten in the morning. With the heat and sun shining, this was ideal snake weather and one diamondback meet up was more than enough.

Willow Lake, Prescott, Arizona

Red Bridge – Willow Lake, Prescott, Arizona

After a little rest and several photographs later, it was time to turn around and retrace my steps. To say I was on edge or a little jumpy would be an understatement. Each little rustling of vegetation from lizards or grasshoppers would have me whipping my head around in search for the cause of said movement, and lets not even talk about the sounds of crickets or birds.

lizardgrasshopper

 

 

 

 

 

It really was a beautiful day and Willow Lake is a wonderful place to hike, but I couldn’t relax and enjoy the return hike. I was on edge and just wanted to get back to my car.

Prescott trails

I laid my pack down next to the white trail marker to help show the grade – steepness

I navigated the areas of the trail where I was concerned about the steepness of the boulders with a quickness and ease that surprised me. And to think, earlier I thought I’d be scooching back down this trail on my derriere.

Willow Lake trail Prescott, Arizona

follow the white dots – hiking up to see if Mr. Snake is still there!!!

When I retraced my steps on the trail near the rattlesnake encounter, I felt nervous and heard a large sound in my ears. It was a familiar sound, yet unfamiliar. It was so loud that it nearly drowned out the sounds of birds chirping. I stopped for a second to figure out what it was and soon realized it was the pounding of my heart.  “Geez, Ingrid. Get a grip. It’s only a snake”.  “Ah, but not any old snake”, I replied to myself.

critters on the trail

careful of sneaky critters on the trail!

Okay, now I’m talking to myself.  I vowed, when I got home, I’d do some Googling and investigate what to do when encountering wildlife. I felt pretty sure of myself and what to do, but a little review might be helpful and perhaps make me feel a bit more confident in the future.

hiking in Prescott, Arizona

The stick on the trail made me jump thinking it was a snake

I made it past the rattlesnake sighting only to have a hornet keep buzzing around me. Must’ve been the sweet nectar oozing from my pores. Between the heat, blazing sun, and nervous fear this gal, who normally doesn’t sweat, was sweating indeed.

And although I managed to avoid a snake bite or hornet sting, I did return to the RV with a dozen itchy tiny welts from mosquitoes.

At least these were itty bitty mosquitoes when compared to the huge ones found in Minnesota.

hiking in Prescott Arizona

So here are my thoughts on safety guidelines. Although today I’m talking about wildlife, I use the same personal guidelines when visiting a city. Thus, whether I’m in the wilderness surrounded by boulders and vegetation or in a metropolitan area surrounded by concrete and roads, a little street smarts goes a long way.

  • learn an animals habits and potential dangers
  • stay calm and back away slowly
  • appear tall and confident
  • allow a wide berth
  • do NOT turn your back
  • do NOT act threatening or provoke
  • be prepared and always have an exit strategy
  • carry pepper spray/bear spray

I know this is a basic  guideline and each animal reacts differently, but in all cases, I’d say most important is not acting threatening or provoking. So what would I have done if bitten by that rattlesnake?

  • First, distance myself from the snake
  • Second, sit down and stay calm. Try not to move.
  • Third, call 911 (when I’m out and about, I’m always checking my phone for reception) If my phone won’t work, use my whistle or scream for help (I try never to hike remotely when by myself. Although this day, I didn’t run into another hiker on the trail. Thank goodness I had good cell service)
  • Always be familiar with your location and surroundings so you can give good directions should you need rescuing. I stopped at every trail post noting my location.
  • If not dizzy, slowly make my way back to the trailhead
  • Get to a hospital as soon as possible.
  • Additional info on snake bites here and here

Willow Lake Prescott Arizona

Have you ever come across wildlife unexpectedly and feared for your safety?

Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildlife, A Guide to When, Where, and How

These are affiliate links!

What goes Up, Must go Down

The view was mesmerizing and stunning.  We knew it would be beautiful, yet we were still awed, not only with the landscape but with ourselves. It took us nearly four hours of grueling uphill climbing to get to Observation Point in Zion National Park.

Zion Canyon

The view from observation point – breathtaking!

hiking zion

We hiked from the valley floor to the top of the mesa. Over 2,100 feet in elevation gain!

The high fives and exuberance were short-lived as we soon came to the realization that we still needed to hike back down to the valley floor. What goes up, must go down! At this stage of the hike, I would have gladly entertained any other way back down the mountain.

Observation Point Zion

Proof we made it to the top! Observation Point trail in Zion National Park

Hmm, as I glanced over the cliff edge thoughts of repelling, paragliding, or base jumping came to mind …. tempting but obviously not available options. So after one more photo-op showing proof that we indeed made it to the top (made it to observation point, known as one of the more strenuous hikes in Zion National Park) we slowly meandered our way back down the trail.

Zion National park hiking

Hiking on top of the mesa was enjoyable and relatively easy.

All was well and good that first mile. The trail was still pretty much on the mesa. The views were lovely and the trail easy, but once we started the decent …. well, let’s just say, Ashton and I were not a couple of happy campers.

hiking zion national park

Ashton hugged the wall, even when passing uphill climbers.

hiking Zion

She did great confronting her fear of heights, but she sure did walk fast going down.

Ashton’s pace quickened as the trail zig-zagged and offered staggering drop-offs. She knew she needed to get through this section of the trail without letting her fear of heights kick in. As for me, I stopped to tighten my shoe laces a couple of times trying my best to keep my toes from jamming into the front of my hiking shoes.

top of the mesa

Me taking a much needed break!

I’ve always been prone to cramps in my toes, especially if my shoes are laced too tight, but under these circumstances, I was left with no choice. After tightening up the laces, I managed to keep up with the downward trek at a somewhat reasonable pace until the balls of my feet started burning. My feet were hurting like never before and I’ll admit I was overcome with a little panic.  We were barely a quarter of the way back down the mountain and I was having trouble walking. “How in holy heck was I going to keep going another two hours?

hiking zion national park

Can you spot the hikers on this ledge portion of the trail?

Zion national park hiking

Ashton was a ways in front of me as her focus was getting beyond this part of the trail with the sheer drop-offs. Once I caught up to her and the switchbacks seemed less daunting, I sat down in a nicely shaded area. I was on the verge of tears as my emotions were filled with concern and pain. Thoughts of Reese Witherspoon flooded my mind ……..   A month earlier after my daughter and I binge watched Netflix’ the Gilmore Girls, I rented the movie “Wild”. This movie is based on a true story. Although, I thought the movie itself was merely ok, it did have a thought-provoking impact on me. What possesses a woman to hike 1,100 miles by herself? Would I ever entertain such a silly notion?

As I sat there on the side of the trail in Zion National Park with my shoes and socks removed attempting to ease the throbbing pain in my feet, scenes from that movie played in my head along with some very non-lady like expletives. Just then, I remembered the medical/sports tape and knife in my pack. Oh yeah, let’s tape up these paws!

First it was up and around the second toe wrapping the tape in two directions. That toe has been sensitive ever since I lost the toenail last fall from all the up and down hiking I did at the Sonoran Preserve. Then it was around the balls of my feet – round and round, I wrapped the tape around the front of my feet …  shoes and socks back on …. laces tied tight …. when I stood up, the discomfort was gone. I was overcome with relief and nearly (I said nearly) started to skip down the trail. Oh thank God I brought that tape!

photo-op

There’s always time for a photo-op

photo-op

Now we were making good time, rarely stopping and keeping a steady pace. After about an hour, we seemed to be somewhere at the half way point of the hike back to the trail head. It was at this point I thought I was out of water. I couldn’t suck any more water out of my camelbak, but I didn’t think that would be a problem considering we were getting closer to the trail head with each step.

light at the end of the tunnel

Is there light at the end of the tunnel? Are we there yet? Oh, please Lord!!!!!!!

However with only about fifteen more minutes to go and the shuttle bus stop in clear view, my legs started shaking uncontrollably. Sure they felt a little weak but not falling down weak. I found it humorous but Ashton was seriously concerned for my well-being.

She grabbed my pack and started fiddling with it. Low and behold, there was still some water in the pack. After a healthy slug, the shaking subsided and I responded with, “Thank you, mommy”.  Which daughter swiftly responded with, “Oh be quiet and keep walking. I really don’t want to have to carry you down this hill, and as tired as I feel right now, just be glad I don’t roll you down”. 😆

hiking Zion

Yes, we had hiked up there!

With the shuttle bus stop mere minutes away, we moved quickly down the remaining switch backs. Once on the bus, we snatched one of the last remaining seats and plopped ourselves down. A huge aaaahhhh escaped our mouths simultaneously. Our heads turned to look at each other and we burst into laughter and shared another high-five.

camp cooking

Spaghetti for dinner!

During the entire twenty-five minute bus ride back to camp, we sat in a silent and exhausted state. We exited the bus at the visitor center and still had to walk back to our campsite which resulted in a few ow, ow, ow’s with each step.

Along with our sore muscles, we were famished, and the homemade spaghetti waiting for us in the cooler, begged to be heated up. Over dinner, we discussed the events of the day. There were so many highlights, but what impressed Ashton most were the friendly folks who’s paths we kept crossing on the trail along the way to the top of Observation Point.

hiking zionWith the steady uphill climb, there was a lot of stopping to catch a breathe by everyone… young and old. One minute we’d pass someone along the side of the trail only to have them a few minutes later pass us as we were stopped to catch our breathe.

We engaged regularly with a family of three; mom, dad, and teenage son. They enlisted our help when they had trouble finding the trail head for Hidden Canyon. When we pulled out our map and informed them that they had passed the spur an hour ago, they laughed and decided to go in our direction. The stopping for air had us passing each other regularly which resulted in smiles and chuckles.

When we passed them as they were having lunch sitting on the side of the trail, the mom wanted to make sure we brought our lunch, because if we hadn’t they had an extra sandwich we could have…. complete strangers willing to share their lunch. How awesome is that? A little while later once we had all reached our goal, we took turns handing each other our cameras for those special photo-op moments.

We also engaged with another couple along the trail who visit Zion National Park regularly. This was their second attempt at hiking observation point. Right before the serious zig-zag, cut in the rock portion of the trail, we noticed the wife sitting along the side of the trail by herself. Her fear of heights kept her from continuing yet again, and she sat waiting while her husband went on to complete the hike. We sat with her for a little while and visited. It was amazing how much she and I had in common. We literally could’ve sat there and talked for hours.

Sometimes it’s these little encounters that are like adding a cherry to an ice cream sundae. It’s the topping to an already amazing adventure.

camp cooking

We enjoyed a wonderful homemade meal back at camp.

According to Ashton’s Fitbit, we hiked 11 miles, climbed 249 flights of stairs, almost 25,000 steps, and burned over 2,800 calories. She received a bunch of Fitbit awards that day!  Observation Point Trail took us almost four hours to hike up and two hours to hike down. I’m sure our socializing on the way up, impacted that time 😉

hiking zionShortly after we were done eating, our two neighbors returned from their hikes and we once again shared a campfire together. The three families all met while waiting in line for a campsite and we ended up camping together.

There was the couple from Germany traveling in a rented Class C motorhome with their two small children, and then there was the retired Canadian couple from Quebec traveling in a Class B Van and then Ashton and me in a tent.

This camaraderie with complete strangers that we encountered on the trail and at camp was new to Ashton and added a unique fun element to our overall adventure.

Ashton also became familiar with the term “RV time“. Whenever she’d ask me a question regarding our plans for the day, I’d usually respond with, “Doesn’t matter. Whatever we feel like. We’re on RV time”. Which basically means, we might have a tentative schedule, but if one of us wants to change things up, no problem. If one of us didn’t sleep well or is hungry or doesn’t feel well, we’ll adjust the plan.  We roll with the flow and change directions on a whim if we need or want to. There’s no time clock, no rules, no schedule, and no competition = living on RV time.  Her biggest goal now, is to figure out when she can start living every day on RV time.

Ashton learns more about RV time the next day when the road we want to take is closed due to a landslide …. which way do we go, which way do we go?

hiking zion

Look who took our picture!

zion national park

There’s always someone on the trail willing to help take a photo!

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

An Epic Hike in Zion

It was six o’clock in the morning on May 19th, 2017. As I laid cocooned in my sleeping bag, I listened to the sounds on the other side of the nylon tent walls. I noticed it was getting light outside and the sun would be rising soon. Although with the towering canyon walls, I wasn’t sure when the warmth of the sun would actually reach our campsite.

Observation Point Zion

Me on the left, daughter Ashton on the right. Angel’s Landing off my right shoulder.

The fluttering of wings as the birds flew from one tree to another along with their continuous chirping put a smile on my face, but there was another sound, an unusual sound, that took me a moment to figure out.

I quietly (as quietly as possible) unzipped the tent and then slowly stepped out.

deer in Zion

The deer in the campground were not bothered by people. This was a rare opportunity to photograph wildlife with a wide angle lens.

The unusual sound I heard while laying inside the tent was made by deer … it was the ripping of grass and chewing.  A deer had been grazing just on the other side of the tent wall, mere inches from my head, but by the time I stepped out of the tent, that deer had moved on. However, two other deer were across the street grazing.

Quaker oatmeal and coffeeThese deer are obviously used to people and when the two grazing deer came walking toward and then past me, I stood frozen and silent. This was one time a zoom lens wasn’t necessary. What an awesome way to start the day!

Ashton and I had a couple of hikes in mind that day, and we wanted to get a somewhat early start.

Shortly before seven, I started heating up the water for coffee and oatmeal, and when Ashton stepped out of the tent, I excitedly pointed behind our tent. There in the tall grass lay three female deer munching on grass while watching the tourists pass by. This was their yard, and we were their tolerated guests.

wearing makeup while campingWe knew in our gut, this was just the beginning of one heck of a memorable day.

With breakfast out of the way, we continued to get ready for the day, which for these gals, includes a little makeup. Hey, just cause we’re camping doesn’t mean we can’t do it in style 😆

We loaded up our gear and then hiked over to the visitor center to pick up the shuttle bus. Twenty-five minutes later, we exited the bus at stop #7 for the Weeping Rock and Observation Point trails. We headed up the short Weeping Rock Trail which is less than a mile round trip. It’s a steep paved trail which ends at a rock alcove with dripping springs. Kind of cool and interesting and we thought worthwhile.

Weeping Rock Zion

The trail to ‘Weeping Rock’. It was a brisk morning which Ashton can attest to!

Weeping Rock Zion National Park

Weeping Rock – interesting sight.  Water seeps out of the rock and vegetation grows in crevices.

Little did we know at the time, but this trail served as a nice warm up as to what was to come. After admiring the seeping rock and lush plants, we hiked back to the trail head and took the spur toward Observation Point. We agreed earlier that morning that this 8 mile (12.9 km) round trip strenuous hike with a 2,148 foot (655 m) elevation gain was more than we wanted to tackle. Therefore, we planned to hike about an hour and a half up then turn around (3 hours round trip) to head back to camp for lunch and explore the Watchman Trail in the afternoon. Good theory!

Observation Point Trail Zion

Can you spot the shuttle bus?  Offers scale.  Little did we know, the trail would climb and take us near the top of that mesa – white portion of rock….  😲

From the get go, we could feel the trail climb. We were immediately huffing and puffing and stopping frequently to catch our breath. Although the trail starts out paved, the continuous uphill, zig zag climb is anything but easy.

hiking zion

the trail is a never ending zig zag

As we neared Echo Canyon, we were thankful the trail leveled off and offered a nice reprieve from the continual uphill climbing.

Echo Canyon

Echo Canyon. We enjoy the reprieve from climbing.

Echo Canyon

Enjoying the flat part of this strenuous trail

slot canyon Zion National Park

Ashton’s first slot canyon

This was Ashton’s first ever exposure to a slot canyon and although we only hiked a small fraction of Echo Canyon, it was a visual delight. In order to hike the actual Echo Canyon Trail a permit is required and canyoneering skills are necessary. Yep, not for us. We were thrilled and satisfied with the sliver we did experience.

hiking in Zion

Observation Trail continues

I don’t recall how long it took us to hike to the other side of Echo Canyon, but I do remember Ashton and I being awed by the landscape. The photo-ops were endless and there was no way we wanted to turn around at this juncture … not yet, anyway.Zion national Park

It was onward and upward, and the uphill climb seemed unrelenting, but did we stop?

hiking Zion

Is this our turn around point?

When we came to a trail sign …. (this was the noted spot on our trail map where Ashton and I originally planned to end our climb and turn around) …. we decided, we’ve come this close …. “lets do it“! Truth be told, it was our stubbornness that egged us on. We refused to be each others excuse as to why we couldn’t complete this 8 mile strenuous hike.

Zion National ParkIn other words … there was no way I would accept defeat so my daughter could say, “We couldn’t complete the trail because my mom couldn’t handle it“.  Heck no! That makes me sound old. I may be old, but I’m not that old.

And then, Ashton refused to give in to her fear of heights because she wouldn’t give me the ammunition to say, “We couldn’t complete the trail because of my daughters fear of heights”. Yeah, we’re stubborn!

Ah, but that age thing did catch up with me. At one point, I found the need to actually sit down on the side of the trail to rest and let my heart rate come completely down. All that climbing had my heart pounding rapidly in my ears. Years ago, I worked out with a personal trainer and used a heart rate monitor regularly. Because of that experience and knowledge, I knew I was pushing too hard and needed to take a break for my health and safety. After munching on a Lara Bar, resting, and drinking more water, I felt ready to tackle another stretch of climbing ……  just in time for my daughter to face her fears.

hiking in Zion

Ashton’s fear of heights kicks in! Who’s got the racing heart now?

This would be the final stretch of climbing needed to get to the top of the mesa. The trail was literally blasted out of the canyon wall and offered dizzying drop offs and eye-popping scenery. Not exactly ‘fear of heights’ friendly.

hiking in Zion

can you see the zig zag trail?

hiking Zion

Let’s zoom in a little closer – can you see the trail now? Check out that elevation gain.

hiking Zion

Zoomed in more! This stretch of trail was the most challenging for Ashton, not to mention my lungs.

hiking Zion

Ashton confronts her fear of heights! The popular Angels Landing Trail is just to the top left of Ashton’s head.

Ashton’s fear of heights was news to me. I have to admit, I found the whole situation somewhat humorous and had to ask, “Since when did you develop a fear of heights?” Somewhat hesitantly, she responded in a near whisper, “Since I went bungy jumping in New Zealand”. Her response resulted in more chuckling on my part …. “So you gave me gray hair, and gave yourself a fear of heights.”  Photo-op!

hiking zion national park

Ashton tries calming her nerves – fear of heights! “Seriously, mother!!! You really have to take a picture?”  Yes I do honey, yes I do 😆

zion national park

Another needed stop to calm the dizziness.

hiking Zion

Whew! Climbing has stopped. Mini panic attack over, but we still had further to go… Far left Mesa in the distance – to the left of the red vertical line = “Observation Point”

Once we reached the top of the mesa, we were able to breathe normally, but still had more distance to hike to get to “the point”. Ashton’s racing heart caused by a fear of heights had calmed down, and my racing heart caused from the ridiculous uphill climbing had also calmed. Deep calming breathes were taken by both of us followed by a sigh of relief.

hiking Zion

Observation Point in the distance – note the red vertical lines against the white rock – the V lines point to our destination.

hiking in Zion

Can you see the specs of people at Observation Point?  Follow the red vertical stripe up.

With the goal now in sight, our pace quickened. Ashton and I kept looking at each other with smiles and saying, “We’re doing this. We’re actually doing this. We’re almost there“.

As we exited that last cluster of pinion trees, we were assaulted with the most breathtaking view that is quintessential Zion Canyon. Engulfed with awe, we high-fived each other while huge smiles stretched from ear to ear. “Oh my gosh! I can’t believe we made. We did it!”Zion Canyon

It took us four challenging hours of unrelenting uphill climbing and at times we questioned our sanity. We also questioned each other, “Are you sure you don’t want to turn around?”  “It’s up to you. If YOU want to turn around, we’ll turn around“. “I’m fine. If YOU want to turn around, we’ll turn around“.  “Well, I’m fine too“.  Onward and upward!  Did I mention, we’re stubborn?

hiking Zion

Note the brass survey marker embedded in the rock. As you look to the monolith rock to the right – we are looking down on the infamous Angels Landing. Ashton was ready for a photo-op now!

Observation Point

Observation Point

That view … is that not the most incredible view! Thank goodness we embraced that stubbornness or we might have missed out on this experience. And what an experience this epic hike was. A memorable day indeed …. from start, to finish!

hiking zion

Time for a break! Let’s savor the view.

But the hike wasn’t over yet. What goes up, must go down, and what one thinks might be easy, probably isn’t. Next up, the journey back down the mountain ….

Zion Canyon


A Popular Trail in Zion

When Ashton and I chose Zion National Park as the destination for our road trip, I had only two requests …  stop at the Zion Lodge and hike the trail that was accessed across from the lodge. Other than that, I left it all up to daughter. Sure, I’d offer my input, but ultimately, we’d do and see whatever she would like.Zion National Park

Back in the early to mid nineties, we lived in Las Vegas, Nevada for a few years, and it’s an easy two and a half hour drive from Las Vegas to Zion National Park. While living in Las Vegas, Al and I visited Zion once with the kids in tow and later I revisited with a girlfriend. Both times, I overnighted at the Zion Lodge in one of the rustic cabins. The buildings themselves are unassuming, but the huge green lawn accompanied by a bunch of benches left an indelible impression upon me. A visitor can sit, and admire the soaring canyon walls …

Zion wildlifeAs I sat on one of those benches looking up, I remember feeling awed by the beauty around me. This former flatlander from Illinois was overwhelmed with the unique and stunning landscape.

Today, I was equally awed, if not more so. I’m not sure if it’s my age or the fact that I’m able to travel leisurely on regular basis, but there was a relaxed calmness about me that allowed me to savor the scenery along with each experience and hike I accomplished.Zion National Park

As any parent knows, traveling with small children is a huge distraction which I’m sure had an impact on my first visit to Zion. This go around was different. Instead of me, the mom, constantly concerned about the where abouts and antics of a six-year old and four-year old, my adult daughter was the one in charge and it was her responsibility to keep me (dear old mom) from getting into trouble. No easy task 😆  This new-found lack of responsibility on my part was oh so fun!

Zion National ParkAfter our Riverside Walk, we took the shuttle bus back down the canyon to the Zion Lodge and bought a couple of lattes at the cafe.

We found a bench near the large grass lawn and sat in silence while sipping our coffee. The last time my daughter and I sat here, she was four years old. Wow, how those twenty-three years seemed to have whizzed by!

Not only was I awed by the majestic landscape surrounding me, I was equally awed by the young lady sitting next to me. What a beautiful, caring and successful person my daughter has become. A mom can’t ask for much more!

With our energy boosted from the caffeinated coffees and a stop at the Zion Lodge checked off my list, it was time for a little more nostalgia. I wasn’t sure which trail hubby and I took with the kids all those years ago, but I was pretty sure the trail head was near the Zion Lodge, which meant it had to be the Emerald Pools Trail. What I do remember as the highlight of that day for our family of four was walking behind a waterfall. Thus, Ashton and I were off in search of that waterfall.

Emerald Pools Trail Zion National Park

Walking behind a waterfall – Emerald Pools Trail

Yep, I found the right trail and memories flooded back. It was every bit as entertaining during this visit as it was all those years ago, even though the amount of water falling was light in comparison.

The Emerald Pools Trail is a collection of short trails that meander past a small, lushly vegetated stream that rolls down from the cliffs and forms several interesting pools. Since the trail head is located across the street from the Zion Lodge making it easily accessible, the Emerald Pools trail is one of the most popular trails in Zion National Park. With that in mind, we weren’t surprised we encountered plenty of other hikers on the trail, but even though we had to share the trail, it was still worth the hike.

Emerald Pools

The beginning of the Emerald Pools trail hike

Emerald Pools

We did the entire hike from the lower pools to the upper pools, which is about 3 miles round trip. The last stretch to the upper pools was the most difficult, partly due to the number of other hikers on the trail and partly because of the elevation gain.

Zion National Park

Interesting scenery along the trail

Emerald Pools

Traffic jam at the upper pools. When they say this trail is popular, they aren’t kidding!

Emerald Pools Trail Zion National Park

This was a lovely hike that we enjoyed, but personally, I liked the super easy Riverside Walk Trail a little more. Not because it was easy (well, maybe) but because it offered open views of the soaring canyon walls, the rushing Virgin River, and of course, those lush hanging gardens. The Emerald Pools trail is more about the waterfalls and pools of water. The trail to the lower pool is rated easy, but as the trail climbs to the middle pool and eventually upper pool, it gets a little more difficult which is why this stretch is considered moderate.

From the Zion Lodge to the Upper Pool there’s a 350 foot elevation gain. It’s about 3 miles round trip. Plan around 2 hours – depending on photo stops.

Next up, we’re in search of more stunning scenery, and we’ll tackle the hike of all hikes … our epic hike ….

Zion National Park

Virgin River – Zion National Park

Stunning Beauty at Zion National Park

Although the sun hadn’t risen yet, it was no longer pitch dark in the tent. As I breathed in the crisp cold air, I was reminded of the inclement weather the day before.  With each exhale, I could see my breath.  Yeah, it was cold.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

Yesterday was a mixed bag of interesting weather at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes.

I glanced over to my left.  Ashton was totally cocooned in her sleeping bag and still sound asleep. How we managed to fall asleep with the tent whipping about in the severe wind while being pelted with sleet and snow remains a mystery to me.  But we slept great.

Tenting in snowI quietly grabbed my toiletry bag, a towel, change of clothes, and quickly walked down the road to the restroom.

The moment I stepped into the building I breathed a sigh of relief …. heat, glorious heat …. a reprieve from the below freezing temperature. The restroom was heated and offered warm water.  Aaaaahhhhh!

I slowly got ready for the day, and when I returned to the tent Ashton was awake. Now it was her turn to get ready, and while she did that, I headed back over to the dunes with the camera.

Coral Pink Sand dunes

“Come on mom. We gotta get going!”

I could’ve spent hours with the camera exploring the sand dunes, but we both knew we needed to hurry and get to Zion National Park as soon as possible.  We didn’t have a campsite reservation and were keeping our fingers crossed that we’d be able to snag a first come, first serve campsite at the South Campground.  It was imperative we join the line as soon as we could.  The earlier, the better!

Zion National Park

We entered Zion National Park via the east entrance

Zion National Park

Waiting patiently for a campsite at the first come, first serve South Campground. We waited in line for over 2 hours, which wasn’t bad from what we hear 😲

We arrived at the South Campground in Zion National Park about 8:30 a.m. to a long line of cars and small RV’s all waiting for a campsite.  Yeah, we realized we were already late to the game. It wasn’t looking good for us. Check out time was 11:00 which meant it’d be just a matter of time before we’d find out if we were one of the lucky ones to get a site.  As soon as a campsite was vacated, the camp hosts quickly assigned the site to the next camper in line. It was sheer craziness!

Right about 11:00, we were given a site. Yippee! Our new friends in the small Class C motorhome behind us also managed to get a site.  We were some of the last ones to snag sites and felt incredibly lucky.

South Campground Zion National Park

Our campsite in Zion National Park

Ashton and I quickly set up camp and started fixing lunch. Remember, we’d been planning this trip for several weeks which also included meal planning and prepping. No going out to eat for these gals!Coleman Camp StoveGrilled chicken

With tummies full, we were ready to explore Zion National Park. From our campsite, we walked over to the visitor center and caught the shuttle. The shuttle system here is awesome, and at this time of the year, it’s the only option to enter the national park.

We stayed on the shuttle until it reached the end of the line at the end of the canyon; Temple of Sinawava stop. The half hour drive allowed us to get an overview of the national park so we could prioritize what we wanted to explore.

Shuttle in Zion National Park

Ashton admiring the views from the comfort of the shuttle. Great shuttle system in Zion National Park.

The end of the canyon or rather stop #9 Temple of Sinawava is the gateway to the famous Narrows hiking trail, which isn’t a trail per se as much as it is a hike through water.  The ‘trail’ was actually closed during our visit due to high fast waters from snow melt. It wasn’t a hike of Riverside Walk Zion National Parkinterest to Ashton and me anyway, but we did have a curiosity and therefore decided to hike the Riverside Walk trail which leads to the beginning of The Narrows.

The paved Riverside Walk is rated as easy and according to the park info is 2.2 miles round trip (3.5 km) and should take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours.

This is a great hike for anyone including families with small children, elderly, and most of the trail is handicap accessible.

We were pleasantly surprised as to how much we enjoyed this hike. It was the perfect first trail easing us into the stunning beauty of Zion … not that we needed any easing!

The Narrows Zion National Park

Ashton views the start of The Narrows trail – yes the trail is THROUGH the water!

hanging garden Zion National Park

Ashton photographing the hanging garden.

We were fascinated by the ‘hanging gardens’ … a sight we’ve never seen or even heard of before. Water seeping out of the rock sandstone creates a wonderfully lush garden filled with ferns, wildflowers, and mosses. Water was slowly cascading in small streams, sometimes dribbles, and occasionally it looked like miniature waterfalls … all on the the side of a huge rock wall.

hanging garden Zion National Park

Ashton admiring the hanging garden – Zion National Park – Riverside Walk

hanging garden Zion National Park

Unbeknownst to us, Zion National Park is famous for these weeping walls and hanging gardens. Unfortunately, our photographic images did not capture the dripping water. Suffice it to say, we found the steady streams of water and lush vegetation intriguing and beautiful. It captivated our attention and kept our cameras working. No wonder they say the hike can take one to two hours.

Riverside Walk Zion

The Riverside Walk offered plenty of entertainment and stimulation

After admiring the hanging garden and trying our best to capture its essence, it was time to stroll over to the bank of the Virgin River.  All that looking up was putting a crimp in our necks 😄

Virgin River Zion

Ashton photographing me, photographing her along the Virgin River

As we meandered back to the shuttle stop, we couldn’t help stopping several more times just to take in our surroundings. We were in awe! We were hiking in a gorge with Navajo sandstone rock rising skyward. On one side of the trail we were kept amused by the weeping, vegetated rock and on the other side we were admiring the rushing Virgin River.Zion National Park

Our senses were on overload and this was just the beginning. Time to stop at the Zion Lodge for a cup of coffee and then we’re off to hike the Emerald Pools…..

Coleman Camp Propane Grill/Stove