Kanab, Utah: April 14 - 21

Peek-a-boo Trailhead . . . and snow!

I had heard of a free boon docking spot about 10 miles outside of Kanab.  It was developed as a trailhead for an ATV club and in addition to a very large parking area, contained a few picnic tables.  Even with the ATV’ers on the weekend, it was a fine place to camp.
Except for the couple of really cloudy, really cold and finally snowy days that drove us into town for a night. Cold enough that the furnace had to be running (20F)  and with not enough sun for the solar panels to keep up, we opted for a night at an RV park in Kanab – full hookups and clean, hot showers!
Snow at Peek-a-boo Trailhead.

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Best Friend’s Animal Sanctuary

I have friends who volunteer for a week or so at Best Friends every year.  I believe it’s the biggest animal shelter in the country (over 3,000 acres!).  They have really nice enclosures and housing for mostly cats, dogs, horses, pigs,bunnies, birds – but they house other animals on occasion as well.  Their rehabilitation facilities are great and if they can’t rehome an animal, it will live out it’s life on the property.

We took a 2 hour tour of the property and facilities which was really quite interesting.

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In the several houses dedicated to cats, there was no shortage of beds and special places – I guess these are for the apartment loving cats.

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There were even cat beds and litter boxes in the rafters for the really timid cats.

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Kanab feels a bit like home

I’ve been to Kanab several times over the years.  Every year there is a big benefit for Best Friends put on the Greyhound Gang (a greyhound rescue organization nearby).  I used to come every year with my greyhounds for a weekend of socializing, events and all-around silliness.  There were signs up around Kanab advertising this year’s Greyhound Gathering – made me miss those days when I traveled with Jack and Molly.

I met another couple who are traveling in an Escape.  I had been emailing a couple who live in Oregon and bought a 19 foot Escape at last year’s Escape Owners Rally.  But it seemed that our travel schedules just didn’t quite mesh.  Until they turned up in the parking lot at the same time I did.  Sometimes, it’s a really small world.  The next morning we went over to their campground to visit and get a tour of their trailer.  Hugh has made some interesting mods – some things to think about when I decide to upgrade.

City of Rocks, Twin Falls, Idaho; April 22


A long drive through not very much

Northern Utah into SW Idaho is not a particularly pretty drive – it’s a lot of very flat, very grey land.  But there were a few bright spots.  Not far from the border, in an area that claims itself to be the middle of nowhere, I find a treasure.

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Molly’s CafĂ© is an old-fashioned diner.  A long counter with red stools and red leatherette booths; home-made everything including pies!  (I had it all!)

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City of Rocks, Twin Falls, Idaho

For my friends, the movie reference for this place would be a rocky, less verdant version of ‘the Shire’ in the movie, The Hobbit.  The granite rock formations here resemble many things (bunnies, baboons, elephants, and yes – Hobbit Houses).


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City of Rocks was originally a stop on the California Trail – for immigrants and gold-rush pioneers.  Now, it’s apparently a very fine rock-climbing venue.


This is just one of the signatures pioneers placed along the way.  Most are fading now but this one is still pretty clear.


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All too soon, it’s time for a temporary goodbye, Kanab, Utah


After traveling together for 4 months, it was time for Julie and I to travel separately.  I’m headed home and Julie is off to see friends and family before spending the summer Camp hosting at Bear Lake Campground high in the Southern Colorado mountains.  Traveling sure is different when you have a companion to share everything with. 

The first time in 4 months that our trailers are heading in different directions – a sad moment.

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Later that day, Zion NM, looking gorgeous as ever.

I had intended to stop and get my Parks Passport stamped – but the park was so choked with visitors that there was no place to park, even for a few minutes!!


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The desert is blooming!


The cactus and wild flowers are in full bloom now.  I love it!  Not much to say – just enjoying the color everywhere.

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Even the yucca!


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Petroglyphs and Pictographs . . . my favorite things!


Catstair Canyon – GSENM

So named because, before the highway was built (and blasted it open), this canyon was so narrow only a cat could navigate it. 

This was another difficult to find trail head.  Again, creeping along highway 89 with no shoulder, around blind curves, when the speed limit was 65, looking for single track dirt roads.  Julie spotted the road (I would have missed it) and we turned off.  We knew we’d have to go through a ranch gate and as I opened it, I saw the small (maybe 6” square) trail marker nailed to a fence post – that was it for trail head marking.  We made our way to a small parking area where another small sign pointed us down in to the wash for the start of the hike.  After about 1/2 mile walk, we saw the petroglyphs and pictographs and an ammo box chained to the rock (that was the visitor sign in log!).  Less than 50 visitors had signed in this year – not a surprise considering how hard it is to find some of these trailheads!.  Another 1/4 mile walk was the end of this box canyon. 

The highway is within sight (or ear-shot) for most of this short hike – but looking at the thousand year old petroglyphs make civilization feel much further away.


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More hiking in GSENM–Kanab, Utah


The ‘Toadstools’

This was an easy, short hike (1.6 miles round-trip) from a well-marked parking area just off the highway (89E).  After hiking in the Bisti Wilderness, I can’t say that the rock formations blew me away but I did enjoy the contrasting colors of the rock – white, chocolate and red.


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The best part of this hike was meeting a couple who gave us a great tip on another ‘must see’ area within the Monument.  People are so helpful!  We had seen signs for the old Pariah Townsite and Movie Set – but I had been prepared to give it a miss.  But, based on the recommendation of our fellow hikers at the toadstools (both equipped with big, fancy cameras!), we decided to give it a look. 

Oh my – it’s hard to remember that such variety and change in scenery can happen just a few miles off the main road. In this case, less than 5 miles off the main road (and pretty much straight down a very narrow, VERY steep dirt road) brings you to a valley on the Pariah river, surrounded by cliffs of more shades of pink and purple than I’ve ever seen!

The movie set had burned down years ago and there wasn’t much left of the historic townsite – but purple/pink cliffs – worth the trip for sure!!


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Hiking in Grand Staircase Escalante


While I’ve been to Kanab several times, I had done very little sight-seeing in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.  Like all the parks in Utah, it contains an abundance of fantastic scenery and hiking opportunities.  The hiking is mostly pretty rugged.  Some trails, some ‘just walk east on the wash’ and some hikes where good directions, map and compass are needed.

“The Wave”

One of the most photographed places in the monument is “The Wave”  - this is a tough hike to an amazing rock feature.  The Park Service only permits 20 people a day to visit; permits are issued two ways; the first is an online lottery (10 permits) and the other is a walk-in lottery (10 permits).  If you’re taking a dog, he requires a permit too!  People spend years trying to get a spot through the online lottery.  We took a chance on the walk-in lottery – 10 slots for over 100 people who signed up. 

We didn’t get permits, but the lottery process was kind of fun (not sure I’d be up for coming every morning of my vacation just to try to get a spot!).  In any case, there are a ton of really nice hikes in the area,, so I wasn’t disappointed.

Here’s the park ranger, running the lottery.

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If you win, they give you directions for getting to the Wave and the permit is good for the following day.


Where we did hike – Wirepass Canyon

GSENM is definitely not Disneyland.  Trails are not well marked and the roads are not well-maintained.  It took us two passes and additional directions from a park ranger to find the road leading to Wirepass Canyon Trailhead.  The road was on a blind curve from the highway (imagine traffic going a minimum of 65 mph around a curve while you are creeping along, looking for a poorly maintained, single-track dirt road turn-off.  Yikes!!  Once we found the road, it was about 9 miles of bad wash-board and deeply rutted dirt to the trailhead. 

The hike itself was lovely.You follow a wash that gradually narrows and deepens before turning into a really lovely, slot canyon.  Unfortunately, not too far in was a 5 foot drop that, while I probably could have slid down, didn’t look like I would be able to climb back out. I watched several much younger, and stronger folks having problems with it. 

Having decided not to risk it, I was surprised at the offers of help from a family – people can be so kind.

Even though I didn’t get to hike the entire slot, it was a lovely hike.  Next time I’m bringing rope!  I’m not used to slot canyons – now I know to bring a bit of climbing rope for the drops and sandals for the pot holes.


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We were just leaving the parking lot after our hike when we met a young family from France.  They had started their hike from Buckskin Gulch and hiked through Wirepass from the far end.  Altogether they had hiked about 6 miles (a long way considering a lot of the footing is soft sand) and they were looking at another 6 miles back to their rental car in the heat.  Although we didn’t have room for all four, we gave the wife a ride back to her car so she could then pick up the rest of the family.  Even  this early in the year, it gets hot during the day and the hiking can be deceptively difficult.

Vermillion Cliffs

Sometimes I wonder about people . . . .

Around here, there are huge ‘balanced rocks’.  Rock the size of small busses balanced on eroded stems of rock – looking really quite unstable.  After all, they fell off the nearby cliffs at some point, or they wouldn't be where they are!

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So, you’d think that folks would give these rocks a wide berth right?  WRONG!  In the early 30’s, it was apparently somewhat trendy to build living quarters under and around these things!  One  woman, Blanche Russell was so taken by these formations that, in 1927, she bought some land and starting building. 

Kind of cool – but also a little weird.  Voluntarily go to sleep under 40 tons of just balancing there rock??  Oh, pick me, pick me.

The following picture includes a pickup truck to provide some scale on how big these boulders are.

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Perhaps being built into the rock, the houses kept cooler in the summer.

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Another interesting factoid

Back in the 20's, automobiles had gravity fed engines - so that going up steep hills sometimes didn't allow gas to get to the engine; so cars would sometimes BACK up hills (not much traffic then, I guess).  This may have been why Blanche Russell got stuck overnight and had time to think of such a silly thing to do with big, barely balanced boulders.

Wildlife Identification . . . not such an easy process

Mostly, I’m happy with the most generic of wildlife identification (little brown bird, lizard, another slightly different lizard . . . . ), but we saw these distinctly larger, fatter ‘lizards’ and I was moved to try to get a more definitive ID.  Not easy, as I think there are over 50 species of lizard and skink listed for Arizona. 

At first, I thought these were Gila monsters (mostly because I wanted to see one) but they don't have black faces or 'beaded' skin.  So, upon reflection and some research, I think these are ‘Common Chuckwallas’ but, really, who knows.

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Lee’s Ferry – April 9-12

Navajo Bridge and Condors

Lee’s Ferry was, in “the old days”, the only place to cross the Colorado River within 600 miles.  So, first, Lee’s Ferry was an actual series of ferries that took people and livestock across the river.  Then, the Navajo Bridge was constructed.  There is a new bridge now to handle modern traffic and the old bridge is for pedestrian, sight-seeing only.

From atop the bridge, we saw 2 condors, perhaps sitting on a nest in the cliffs up river from the old bridge.  There is an experimental Condor release area not far from here in the Vermillion Cliffs area – so, if the two banded birds we saw are an indication, the program must be successful.  The river here is pretty quiet, although fast in the deepest channel.

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At Lee’s Ferry itself, there is the old fort, an assayer office, the remains of some gold mining (mostly old rusty stuff including a big boiler) and the remains of a sunken ferry.

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Sunken ferry – looks like it rolled over on its side by the shore and is now mostly buried in the silt.

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Makes me want to pull out my inflatable kayak and go for a paddle – but the water is deceptive fast here and most folks opt to pay for a tow upriver and then float down to this point.  Below Lee’s Ferry, you need a permit and a lot of paperwork.

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Raft trips!  The more modern use for Lee’s Ferry

Lee’s Ferry is known as “mile 0” or the start of raft trips down the Colorado.  Private trips seek permits through a lottery system and can take more than a year to get.  Rangers inspect your gear, your paperwork (over 30 pages!), ID’s etc. before your trip can start.  The boat launch is very busy – even at this time of year.

We saw both commercial and private trips setting up to launch while we were at Lee’s Ferry.

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Paria River Riffles – the only action at this point in the river.  At this time of year, Paria River is more like a little creek; I don’t know how active the Riffles get when Paria river has more water running.

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Hiking Cathedral Wash

There are a number of hikes in the Lee’s Ferry Recreation Area.  We took one up the Cathedral Wash which runs back up into the Vermillion Cliffs.  It starts out as a wide wash, becomes narrower, then much narrower, and then climbs more sharply over big boulders and becomes more accurately “scrambling and bouldering” than hiking.

The rocks here range from layers of creamy tan, to deep red/orange, with bands of yellow ochre, olive green, aqua blue, and forest green thrown in for contrast.

a bit deceptive - probably 5 feet deep and maybe 3 feet across.