My Great American Road Trip

To Americans, there’s nothing that holds more appeal than the classic road trip.

Moody Mansion, Galveston, Texas. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Moody Mansion, Galveston, Texas. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the ’20s, the car was a symbol of freedom—a chance to escape your small town or rural America.

As the highway system was developed in the ’50s and ’60s, a wave of young people set out on the road to explore the country, giving new life to America’s car and road trip culture.

And to this today, Americans have an ongoing love affair with the car and great open road. And no road trip holds more mystery and allure than traveling cross-country. It’s the king of all road trips.

In 1986 on a working road trip across the U.S. we drove our truck and fifth wheel trailer across the U.S. from west to the east and back west again.

Leaving our home in the Northwest we spent over eight months traversing the country, getting as far east as Virginia Beach, the Outer Banks, Charleston, Savannah,  and Jacksonville, and as far south as Orlando, Miami, the Everglades, and Key West before turning back west, driving across the southern states with numerous stops along the way including Pensacola, Mobile, Pascagoula, Galveston, San Antonio, El Paso, Las Cruces, Tucson, and Phoenix. But we barely scratched the surface of what America offers. We saw and experienced a lot—from the Rocky Mountains, to the Black Hills, across the Great Plains.

Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights
Our Grand Circle tour included Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights

But you don’t realize just how vast the U.S. is until you’ve been driving for twelve hours and notice you’re still in Texas.

The U.S. is big and there is still so much more of it to see.

During the past 18 years, we’ve driven over 130,000 miles in varied RVs as we explored America from the Oregon Coast to the Charleston and from the Upper Peninsula to the Rio Grande Valley.

We have traversed the U.S. along varied interstates and scenic routes and byways further exploring the beauty and uniqueness of this vast country. There is prodigious variety in the cities and towns and scenic attractions and offerings in various regions, a country of many impressions.

From Memphis to Montana, Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon, the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachians, Wine Country in California, Utah’s Grand Circle Tour, Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Mobile, and much more, we continue our exploration in our trusty and comfy motorhome.

“What’s your favorite place to go?”

Sedona and Red Rock Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Sedona and Red Rock Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Of course that’s what we’re asked. It’s the polite thing to ask, after all. People like to seem as if they’re interested in what you do. In this case, the question also always has a twinge of yearning.

I always give the same answer. I find something I like nearly everywhere I go, and it’s hard to pick just one or even two places.

People hate that answer.

“Come on. If you could pick just one place, where would you want to go again? Just one place.”

They all want to hear something exotic and bucket-listy. They want to hear the Key West or Santa Barbara, the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone, Sedona or Santa Fe, Charleston or Savannah. They don’t want the truth. Can they handle the truth?

The truth is, we have visited 34 states and 4 Canadian provinces in the past 18 years, and found something that we adored in every one of them.

Our decade and half of RV travel stoked a love affair with American and Canadian attractions and historic sites, local towns and cities, and national and state/provincial parks.

Historic Downtown Charleston has stood throughout Charleston’s history as the cultural capital of the South and is considered by many to be a living museum, with a wonderful variety of things to do and see. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Historic Downtown Charleston has stood throughout Charleston’s history as the cultural capital of the South and is considered by many to be a living museum, with a wonderful variety of things to do and see. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I did begin rereading John Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley — an incredible rumination on the America that he experienced as he took a road trip around the country with his wife’s standard poodle as a companion. Steinbeck was 58 years old in 1960 when he began his journey, and he felt compelled to get out and really see the country for the first time in a long time. He said he felt like a criminal writing about a country that he didn’t know enough about anymore.

After all these miles and varied experiences, I still feel the same way.

The “Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise”, the best is yet to come as I have quite the long route in front of me. Please stay tuned!

Worth Pondering…

You’ve heard the old Willie Nelson country music song with the lyrics, “On the road again. Just can’t wait to get on the road again…” We’ll be singing this song for sure.

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The View Campground: New Way To Enjoy Monument Valley

It’s all about the mystical view.

New Way To Enjoy Monument Valley
New Way To Enjoy Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

That is, the view of Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, on the northern outskirts of the Navajo Nation.

Experience Monument Valley as you’ve never seen before. The View Campground offers some of the most spectacular views of Monument Valley.

Opened in December 2008, The View Hotel is a Navajo owned business located within the Navajo Nation and the Navajo Tribal Park at Monument Valley.

The View Hotel features accommodations that serve the needs of visitors from around the world while blending with the environment so as not to detract from the beauty of Monument Valley. The three floors provide 95 rooms, each one with a private eastern facing balcony with views unlike anywhere else in world. The top floor features StarView rooms with unforgettable views of the stars, the entirety of Monument Valley, and serves as a perfect venue for amateur night-time long exposure photography without leaving the comfort of your room.

balcony_dsc_0093w1000Other amenities include Wi-Fi internet access in the lobby, conference room, a fitness center with sunset views, flatscreen televisions. Also included are in-room coffee makers with organic coffee and tea, a micro-frig, and microwave.

Unique to The View is the authentic Native American décor with a locally woven Navajo Rug, traditional Navajo dye chart, and other Native American inspired decorations.

New Way To Enjoy Monument Valley

A multi-dimensional campground, called The View Campground now offers a new way to enjoy Monument Valley. You can choose from RV sites, wilderness camp sites, or cabins. Each offers their own unique view of Monument Valley.

The cabins at the campground are called “The Cabins at The View.” Located just north of the hotel, the campground has 29 cabins that exemplify a cultural retreat and vintage peaceful pleasure.

The private, fully-furnished valley rim cabins offer a unique way to experience Monument Valley. Each cabin features a private porch that overlooks the valley and is decorated in an old west decor. Bedrooms are equipped with queen sized beds and an additional sleeper sofa can accommodate up to six guests. Each cabin also has a full restroom and shower plus refrigerator and microwave.

panorama1w1400-1024x242The View Campground also includes 30 RV spots and 30 wilderness campsites which attracts outdoor enthusiasts who want to capture the essence of rustic living and a dust of authentic Navajo history.

The RV sites feature the best sunset views of Monument Valley. All RV sites are dry camping with no hookups. A convenience store is located in the registration office and offers camping supplies, food, drinks, and ice.

The wilderness camp sites offer one of the best views from a campsite anywhere in the world. Located on the cliff-side of the park, the view is breathtaking. A full restroom and shower facility is available to all campers.

“The view captivates what we want visitors to see and experience,” said Armanda, Navajo/Dine.

In traditional Navajo culture, touching Mother Earth is a form of healing and medicine, so it was important to design the rooms with a ground level ambiance and give visitors a down-to-earth experience.

The Navajo-owned company hired up to 20 people during the peak of the tourism season in the summer. The campground was completed in June 2014; however, there are additional plans for improvement.

New Way To Enjoy Monument Valley  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
New Way To Enjoy Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The View Campground…where the stay is as important as the view. Is the perfect retreat to hear silent whispers of Navajo culture.

Details

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

Monument Valley boasts sandstone masterpieces that tower at heights of 400 to 1,000 feet, framed by scenic clouds, casting shadows that graciously roam the desert floor. The angle of the sun accents these graceful formations, providing scenery that is simply spellbinding.

The landscape overwhelms, not just by its beauty but also by its size. The fragile pinnacles of rock are surrounded by miles of mesas and buttes, shrubs, trees, and windblown sand, all comprising the magnificent colors of the valley. All of this harmoniously combines to make Monument Valley a truly wondrous experience.

Address: PO Box 360289, Monument Valley, UT 84536

Phone: (435)727-5874/5870 or (435)727-5875

Website: www.monumentvalleyview.com

Worth Pondering…

…and may you always walk in wonder.

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Top 5 Picks for 2015

If Time can  pick a Person of the Year and Good Housekeeping can put its seal of approval all over everything, I figured that it was time to designate a few things of my own.

A powerful and inspiring landscape, Grand Canyon overwhelms our senses through its immense size. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A powerful and inspiring landscape, Grand Canyon overwhelms our senses through its immense size. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I begin with five of America’s most historic places/natural wonders.

Grand Canyon National Park

John Muir saw the Grand Canyon and called it “God’s spectacle.”

A powerful and inspiring landscape, Grand Canyon overwhelms our senses through its immense size. Unique combinations of geologic color and erosion decorate the canyon that travels 277 river miles from Lees Ferry to the Grand Wash Cliffs, up to 18 miles wide, and a mile deep.

Nearly five million people see the Grand Canyon each year. Most of them see it from the park’s free shuttle buses or from their car at overlooks along the South Rim. Open all year, the South Rim is the most accessible part of the park.

A much smaller number of people see the Canyon from the North Rim of the park, which lies just 10 miles across the canyon from the South Rim but is a 220 mile by car—all the way around the canyon. Averaging 8000 feet above sea level, rises 1000 feet higher than the South Rim, and because of its remote location, is much less accessible than the South Rim and closed during winter.

A block east of Santa Fe Plaza is St. Francis Cathedral, named for Santa Fe’s patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A block east of Santa Fe Plaza is St. Francis Cathedral, named for Santa Fe’s patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Santa Fe

A combination of altitude, desert, and pueblos has produced a magical city that bears little resemblance to nearby Albuquerque or anywhere else for that matter. Santa Fe is the United States’ longest continuously occupied state capital. Located high and dry in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this well preserved center of Southwestern art and architecture attracts visitors with its galleries, cuisine, and play of light on its adobe buildings.

Santa Fe is referred to as “the city different,” a city that honors its Native American, Hispanic, and Anglo heritages and embraces its natural environment unlike any other in the United States. A city whose beautiful, brown adobe architecture blends with the high desert landscape and a city that is, at the same time, one of America’s great art and culinary capitals.

Acadian Farmstead is situated along the bank of Bayou Teche. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Acadian Farmstead is situated along the bank of Bayou Teche. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cajun Country

Adventures in culture, food, and music await in Cajun Country where life is on the spicy side.

With quintessential Louisiana flavors such as boudin, crackling, crawfish, gumbo, jambalaya, and hot sauce, Acadiana has all the makings for a taste-tempting trip. Louisiana’s landscape and history create a culinary tradition unlike any place else—and that makes it the perfect RV getaway for anyone who loves to eat.

But there is more to the Cajun appeal than just the food. Between bites of their tasty cuisine, boredom is never a problem in Cajun Country. Popular activities include dancing to Cajun and zydeco music, living history tours at Cajun historical villages, and air boat rides. Nature experiences are abundant on the Creole Nature Trail, an All-American Road.

Grand Circle Tour

RVing gives us an opportunity to get closer to and experience the beauty of nature. Photo above is Capitol Reef National Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
RVing gives us an opportunity to get closer to and experience the beauty of nature. Photo above is Capitol Reef National Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The American Southwest is famous for incredible scenery, red rock pinnacles and formations, brilliant sunsets and deep canyons. Some of America’s most diverse scenery can be found within the Grand Circle—1,500 miles of the most scenic highways in the country.

You will visit six national parks—Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyonlands, and Grand Canyon; three national monuments—Cedar Breaks, Natural Bridges, and Grand Staircase-Escalante; one Navajo tribal park—Monument Valley; and pass by several state parks and other points of interest. Bold splashes of color, fascinating geologic shapes and the mysterious remnants of cultures await you at every turn.

Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway provides spectacular mountain and valley vistas, quiet pastoral scenes, sparkling waterfalls, and colorful flower and foliage displays as it extends through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and North Carolina.

Connecting two national parks—Shenandoah in Virginia with the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina—the Blue Ridge Parkway traverses 469 miles through blue-misted Appalachian highlands. Take in forest-blanketed mountain vistas, ripe for fauna (look for bear, deer, and beaver) and flora viewing (interesting factoid: the parkway’s namesake “blue” haze is attributed to the hydrocarbon release from the some 130 tree species).

Anyone who has listened to John Denver sing about country roads and the Blue Ridge Mountains can easily imagine the transcendent beauty of Shenandoah National Park.
Anyone who has listened to John Denver sing about country roads and the Blue Ridge Mountains can easily imagine the transcendent beauty of Shenandoah National Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Come in late spring for wildflower blooms (rhododendron, azalea); or, in fall (especially around mid-October) for Technicolor foliage displays.

Worth Pondering…

History, although sometimes made up of the few acts of the great, is more often shaped by the many acts of the small.

—Mark Yost

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Utah: Five Spectacular National Parks

Utah’s five national parks have it all.

A highlight for most visitors to Capitol Reef is the scenic drive from the visitors center. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A highlight for most visitors to Capitol Reef is the scenic drive from the visitors center. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You’ll see unique soaring spires, towering pinnacles, sandstone canyons, and intricately eroded arches of sculptured stone for starters.

Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park splashes color for 100 miles from its northern to southern boundaries.

The central geologic feature, the Waterpocket Fold, is a bulging uplift of rainbow-hued sandstone “reefs” and canyons. Much of Capitol Reef is an inviting wilderness of sandstone formations such as Capitol Dome, Hickman Bridge, and Temple of the Sun and Moon in the backcountry of splendid Cathedral Valley.

Rock art petroglyphs are abundant in the midst of Capitol Reef’s red rocks and tell the story of the early indigenous people, the Fremont Culture. Close by are the large orchards of Fruita, an early pioneer settlement—and now headquarters for the park—where a variety of fruit may be picked in season.

The visitor center and campground are open year-round. Several easy hiking trails and a 25-mile scenic drive are found in this area. Cathedral Valley and other backcountry regions are reached by traveling on dirt roads, so make sure to inquire locally about current road conditions.

The park is 11 miles east of Torrey or 37 miles west of Hanksville on Utah Highway 24.

Continue reading →

Canyonlands National Park

The Island in the Sky region is a wide high plateau with commanding views across many miles of deep canyons in all directions. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Island in the Sky region of Canyonlands is a wide high plateau with commanding views across many miles of deep canyons in all directions. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Views thousands of feet down to the Green and Colorado Rivers, or thousands of feet up to red rock pinnacles, cliffs, and spires create the incredible beauty of Utah’s largest national park.

The rivers have sliced Canyonlands National Park into three districts, each named according to its distinctive landscape.

Island in the Sky is the northern section where visitors can look down to the Colorado River on the east and the Green River on the west. The southern tip overlooks the rivers’ confluence.

The Needles District is named for its profusion of red rock spires and sandstone fins.

The remote Maze District is Canyonlands’ most jumbled stone playground, requiring backcountry use permits year-round.

Major entrances to the park are accessible from U.S. Highway 191. Access to Island in the Sky is 35 miles northwest of Moab and access to the Needles District is 22 miles north of Monticello.

Canyonlands is world-renowned for its four-wheel-drive vehicle and mountain bike routes, and its whitewater rafting. Visitor centers are open year-round.

Continue reading →

Arches National Park
Arches National Park has about 2,000 windowed arches, towering spires, harrowing hoodoos, and precarious pinnacles on display—such as Balanced Rock, Skyline Arch, and Courthouse Towers.

Delicate Arch, perhaps Utah’s most iconic feature is a must-hike destination in the park. Arches contain 73,000 acres of varied landscapes, with a paved 40-mile scenic drive from the park entrance to the campground at Devil’s Garden.

There are numerous parking areas for trail access and scenic overlooks. Two trails, and a viewpoint accessible by car, offer different views of Delicate Arch, the park’s most famous geologic feature.

Arches is renown for an awe-inspiring combination of arches, cliffs, stone spires, and other dramatic rock formations. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Arches is renown for an awe-inspiring combination of arches, cliffs, stone spires, and other dramatic rock formations. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Road guides and hiking brochures are available at the visitor center and the park entrance, located five miles north of Moab via U.S. Highway 191.

Arches National Park is open year-round, as is the campground. Water is only available seasonally.

Continue reading →

Come visit Utah. Come and live Life Elevated®! 

Note: This is Part 2 of a 2-part series

Part 1: Utah: The Ultimate Road Trip

Worth Pondering…

The West is color. Its colors are animal rather than vegetable, the colors of earth and sunlight and ripeness.

—Jessamyn West

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Utah: The Ultimate Road Trip

Utah is a place of unfathomable natural beauty—with its unique natural formations, colorful history, and culture, and exciting recreation opportunities—it is a state that contains the best elements of the great Mountain West and the Desert Southwest, from red rock splendor to mountain peaks with The Greatest Snow on Earth®, Utah is a four-season world-class travel destination.

Home to five national parks, Utah is the perfect place for your next family road trip.

The majesty that is Zion © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The majesty that is Zion © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Utah’s five spectacular national parks stretch across the southern half of the state. Each park offers the traveler unique, world-class scenic vistas, and geological phenomena. In fact, Utah’s National Parks feature some of the most astonishing landscapes in the world.

Each park shows off a completely different scenic view of the state’s natural beauty.

These national parks are perfect for camping, mountain biking, hiking, climbing, rafting, kayaking, and even golf.

Before you start packing the RV and inflating the mountain bike tires, let’s take a closer look at what you can expect at each of Utah’s breathtaking national parks.

Zion National Park
The soaring towers and massive monoliths of Zion offer a spectacular grandeur. Recently celebrating its 101st year as a national park, it is also Utah’s most popular park, welcoming nearly 2.6 million visitors in 2010.

A multi-passenger shuttle system is the only motorized transportation allowed in the main canyon during peak season. The open-air shuttles allow visitors to enjoy Zion’s lofty formations such as the Great White Throne, Angels Landing, and Weeping Rock. It also includes a “town loop” that stops in the town of Springdale at the park’s south entrance.

Visitors can still use private vehicles to tour the park on Utah Highway 9, but RV and other over-sized vehicles are subject to restrictions and a fee charged for escort through a mountain tunnel.

Hiking and photography are two favorite activities at Zion National Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Hiking and photography are two favorite activities at Zion National Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are numerous easy, self-guided trails in Zion, including Gateway to the Narrows, which is suitable for strollers and wheelchairs with assistance. More adventurous or strenuous hikes are also found in the park such as The Subway, Angels Landing, and The Narrows.

Two entrances to Zion are 33 miles east of I-15 or 12 miles west of U.S. Highway 89, both on Utah Highway 9. The northern Kolob Canyons section is accessible off I-15, 18 miles south of Cedar City.

Visitor centers, campgrounds, and the historic Zion Lodge are open year-round.

Continue reading →

Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park is actually less of a canyon than it is a series of natural amphitheaters sunk into pink cliffs and filled with delicate red rock “hoodoos.”

Millions of years of wind, water, and geologic forces have shaped and etched the surreal landscape. The most brilliant hues of the park come alive with the rising and setting of the sun. Bryce is an unforgettable experience.

Bryce Canyon's limestone has eroded into rock fins and spectacularly-shaped spires called hoodoos. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Bryce Canyon’s limestone has eroded into rock fins and spectacularly-shaped spires called hoodoos. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located 24 miles southeast of the town of Panguitch, the park is open year-round and the area is popular with the cross-country skiing and snowshoeing crowd in the winter months. Summertime offers a myriad of walking and hiking trails along the rim and toward the bottom of the canyon. Many visitors think it’s even better seen from horseback.

The 37-mile scenic drive will also get you to key overlooks and vistas, such as Sunrise, Sunset, Rainbow, Yovimpa, and Inspiration Points.

The visitor center is open year-round. Bryce Canyon Lodge, a National Historic Landmark, is open April through November.

Continue reading →

Come visit Utah. Come and live Life Elevated®! 

Note: This is Part 1 of a 2-part series

Part 2: Utah: Five Spectacular National Parks

Worth Pondering…

Afoot and light-hearted, I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me, leading wherever I choose.”
—Walt Whitman, Song for the Open Road

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Chill-out on Utah’s Patchwork Parkway

Weather alert: “A heat warning for daily high temperatures above 100 degrees has been extended for all desert areas.”

At an elevation of 10,350 feet above sea level, Cedar Breaks National Monument is the highest national park in Utah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sweltering heat is typical for the Southwest desert region this time of year. With triple digit temperatures the Southwestern standard, how do you deal with this incessant heat?

Load up the recreational vehicle and escape the scorching summer temperatures with a road trip to the cool mountain air of southwestern Utah.

Utah’s Patchwork Parkway (Scenic Byway 143) beckons travelers to enjoy a change of scenery and a drop in temperature. This scenic byway serves as the western gateway from the arid Great Basin of western Utah to a breathtaking route across Utah’s high plateaus, connecting to Heritage Highway 89 and Scenic Byway 12, Utah’s first All American Road.

This dramatic 55-mile scenic course links the historic pioneer communities of Parowan and Panguitch where early Mormon pioneer settlement and culture abound and follows a course over the Markagunt Plateau. The entire original Panguitch town site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

This byway weaves through a patchwork of geologic formations, forests, streams, lakes, cultural sites, beautiful meadows, and diverse wildlife. Nearby major attractions include Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park.

The historic community of Parowan is situated just off Interstate 15 and is the western gateway to access Patchwork Parkway. A charming small town with big history, Parowan is southwestern Utah’s oldest settlement and offers historic museums and markers related to the Native American and pioneer inhabitants of the region. Pioneer museums, an historic cemetery, and numerous historic sites are available for visitors.

High on the western slope of the Patchwork Parkway you’ll find the resort community of Brian Head. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

High on the western slope of the Patchwork Parkway you’ll find the resort community of Brian Head. At 9,600 feet this is Utah’s highest community.

Enjoy the scenic 20 minute Sky Lift at Brian Head Resort. Take in breath-taking views from the lift as you glide to the top of Giant Steps. From there one can bike, hike, sit down, relax, and take in the views at 10,000 feet. The clear vantage point at the top presents stunning vistas of several mountain ranges, red rock, and clear mountain air. New in 2011 is a self-guided interpretive and activity course along the Dixie National Forest’s scenic Vista hiking trail.

The Markagunt Plateau is a broad expanse of forest and open spaces. Alpine meadows offer astounding displays of wildflowers from early July until late summer.

On the topmost edge of this plateau you’ll find Cedar Breaks National Monument.

The 2,000-foot-deep Cedar Breaks amphitheater with its vibrant hues of pink, orange, red, and other coral colors is carved from the Claron Formation and spans three miles. Colored by the presence of iron and manganese oxide, this limestone Clarion formation is made up of intricate ridges, pinnacles, and buttresses. From sunrise to sunset, in blazing sun or cloudy periods, the rocks of Cedar Breaks display a rainbow of warm hues.

Very few routes in the U.S. exhibit a 4,500-foot elevation change that crosses six major life zones in 51 miles. On the east slope of the plateau, the route skirts lava flows only a few thousand years old before passing Panguitch Lake, a spectacular, large mountain lake renowned for its excellent fishing. The word Panguitch actually means ‘big fish’ in the Paiute language.

On the east slope of the plateau, the route skirts lava flows only a few thousand years old before passing Panguitch Lake, a spectacular, large mountain lake renowned for its excellent fishing. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Panguitch town site is the eastern gateway to the Patchwork Parkway. During their first winter when pioneer settlers ran out of supplies, seven men were sent from Panguitch to Parowan for grain. They struggled to walk in the deep snows, but made better progress when they began to use their bedding, actual quilts, to walk on the snow. This event has been memorialized as the famous Quilt Walk and is the source of the name—The Patchwork Parkway. Such quilts are reminders of the patchwork of the byway’s unparalleled scenery, vibrant history, and natural beauty unequaled across the country.

Special Considerations

Parowan is at 5,990 feet; Brian Head Peak is 11,307 feet. The byway doesn’t climb quite that high, but it does climb to over 10,000 feet. Take precautions if you are not accustomed to high elevation.

Restrictions

Parts of the route have 13% grades and some sharp switchbacks. Large recreational vehicles are not recommended. In winter, the section of road from Parowan to Brian

Head Ski Resort is kept open; the rest is closed. Snow tires or chains are advised during winter months.

Best Time to Drive

Summer is the best time to drive the byway, since it is open in its entirety. Autumn allows travelers to experience historic sites in gateway communities and an astounding display of fall colors set against Cedar Breaks National Monument.

Worth Pondering…
The journey not the arrival matters.

—T. S. Eliot

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Trail of the Ancients: A Journey worth Taking, Part 2

From Natural Bridges National Monument where we ended the first part of our incredible journey of discovery, the Trail of the Ancient Scenic Byway turns south at the junction with Highways 95 and 261. Along this route you’ll find access to Grand Gulch Primitive Area and hiking trails on the mesa top.

The infamous Moki Dugway is a 3-mile stretch of gravel road that descends 1,000 feet down tight switchbacks from the edge of Cedar Mesa into the Valley of the Gods. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Prior to dropping off the Moki Dugway is County Road 274, a 5-mile remote dirt road leading to Muley Point which has been listed by National Geographic as one of the most outstanding views in America. From its magnificent overlook you’ll peer deep into the San Juan River Canyon and onto Monument Valley 25 miles or so in the distance.

The infamous Moki Dugway is a 3-mile stretch of gravel road that descends 1,000 feet down tight switchbacks from the edge of Cedar Mesa into the Valley of the Gods. The dugway itself is a historic part of the trail, built during the uranium boom to accommodate ore trucks that traveled from the mines on Cedar Mesa to the mill near the Navajo community of Halchita across the San Juan River from Mexican Hat. Never planned for public use, Moki Dugway is not recommended for RV travel.

From the bottom of the Dugway the route continues past the entrance to the little-known Valley of the Gods and onto the junction with Utah Highway 316 which leads to Goosenecks State Park.

Although Valley of the Gods is not listed as a site on the Trail, it is worth visiting. The 17-mile loop drive on a native surface road leads among sandstone monoliths which have been given fanciful names such as Seven Sailors, Southern Lady, Rooster Butte, and Battleship Butte. The valley allows a close-up look at towers and mesas of multicolored sandstone and other sedimentary rocks in subtle shades of pink, red, gold, orange, and purple. The sandstone monoliths here are reminiscent of Monument Valley. This route puts travelers on Highway 163, between Bluff and Mexican Hat.

Late afternoon light enhances the colors through the Valley of the Gods. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Goosenecks State Park is another adventure in geology revealing the skeleton of the earth in the layers formed by the San Juan River 1,000 feet below. The Goosenecks of the San Juan River is one of the most striking examples of an “entrenched river meander” in North America. Like a snake the river twists and turns and coils back on itself for a distance of over six miles while advancing only 1.5 miles west as it flows toward Lake Powell. Over 300 million years of geologic activity is revealed from Goosenecks State Park. Located at the end of Highway 316, Gooseneck is a wilderness park encompassing 10 acres.

Utah Highway 261 continues to the junction with U.S. Highway 163 and the town of Mexican Hat. At the junction turn right to enter Mexican Hat and on to Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park where sandstone buttes, mesas, and spires rise majestically from the desert floor.

Founded in the early part of the 20th century during an oil boom, Mexican Hat has a population of less than 100 and functions mostly as a stopover point for visitors on their way to Monument Valley or as a base for river expeditions.

Monument Valley offers the quintessential Western backdrop made famous in countless Western movies directed by John Ford. An unpaved, and at times rough, road loops through the park. Several overlooks offer spectacular views of the wonders of Monument Valley.

The Goulding Trading Post established in 1932 in Monument Valley is worth a visit. A full-service RV park is located nearby. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Monument Valley’s towers, which range in height from 400 to 1,000 feet, are made of de Chelly sandstone, which is 215 million years old, with a base of organ rock shale. The towers are the remnants of mesas, or flat-topped mountains. Mesas erode first into buttes like the Elephant, which typically are as high as they are wide, then into slender spires like the Three Sisters.

After exploring the wonders of Monument Valley retrace your route for 21 miles to Mexican Hat on U.S. Highway 163 and continue east to the pioneer-era town of Bluff on the edge of the Navajo Nation. Snuggled up against the San Juan River, the town was settled by the famous “Hole-In-The-Rock” expedition of Mormon pioneers in the 1880s.

Continue past Bluff and travel east on Utah Highway 262 towards the town of Aneth and follow the signs to Hovenweep National Monument at the end of our route.

Known for its square, oval, circular, and D-shaped towers, Hovenweep National Monument protects six prehistoric clusters of Native American ruins. Established in 1923, the villages date from the Pueblo period of the mid 13th century. They are spread over a 20-mile area along the Utah-Colorado border. Unlike the large ruins at Mesa Verde, these are approachable and the visitor can wander among the fallen walls and consider the people who built them.

On this note we end our fascinating discovery of an ancient land of incredible beauty.

Worth Pondering…
One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.

—Henry Miller

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Trail of the Ancients: A Journey worth Taking

Spring is here. No really, it is (don’t pay attention to the weather on this one). And that means that thoughts of a spring road trip are probably popping into the forefront of your mind.

Some of the most striking and recognizable landscapes of sandstone buttes, mesas, and spires in the entire Southwest are found in Monument Valley. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Far too often we see the roads we traverse purely as a means to get from point A to point B. Most spend far more hours in their cars commuting and running errands than truly enjoying what lies beyond the edge of the asphalt or concrete.

But once you hit the road in your recreational vehicle, why not get off the roads most traveled and take in the breath-taking splendor of America’s system of scenic byways?

The National Scenic Byways Program recognizes over 100 outstanding byways that celebrate the pride and diversity of our communities as well as the stunning landscapes that have shaped our lives.

Trail of the Ancients National Scenic Byway

This federally designated National Scenic Byway circles through the ancient Puebloan (Anasazi) Country of southeastern Utah, providing opportunity to view scenic landscapes, archaeological, cultural, and historic sites, as well as Natural Bridges and Hovenweep national monuments, Monument Valley, Edge of the Cedars State Park, and Manti La Sal National Forest. It’s a land filled with 250-million-year-old rock formations, mysterious Anasazi ruins, and remnants of long-ago Mormon pioneer families, all but undiscovered by crowds of tourists.

An extension of this route continues into Colorado, to Mesa Verde National Park and Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.

Take your time and savor the sights—and along much of the route…the silence.

A trail into the canyon underneath Owachomu Natural Bridge is a short distance from the overlook. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The byways program recommends a minimum of five days to explore the route. Shorter and longer trips can also be enjoyable.

Start at any point along the route.

The Trail of the Ancients National Scenic Byway enters Utah east of Monticello on U.S. Highway 491 and continues to the junction in Monticello with U.S. Highway 191.

Turn south onto U.S. 191 and travel to Blanding where you find Edge of the Cedars State Park and Museum, a good stop for an introduction to the Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) pre-history of the area. Visitors can walk the paths through the ruin and climb into the kiva via a ladder, just as the original residents did. Exceptionally rare and well-preserved artifacts are at the heart of the museum exhibits.

From Blanding the route follows U.S. Highway 191 south to the junction with Utah Highway 95 and continues west on Highway 95 to Utah Highway 261 passing Butler Wash Ruin, Mule Canyon Ruin, and Natural Bridges National Monument.

Butler Wash Ruins, about 10.5 miles west of Blanding, has cliff-type dwellings located under rocky overhangs in a lush green valley along the river. An easy half-mile hike allows closer views.

Eight miles further west along Highway 95 brings you to Mule Canyon Indian Ruins at milepost 101. Adjacent to the road, the site contains dwelling units, a reconstructed open kiva, and round tower—all made of stone.

Meandering streams cut through sandstone walls to create Kachina Bridge..© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Just a few more miles and you’re at Natural Bridges National Monument about 35 miles west of Blanding. Located atop a 5,500- to 6,500-foot mesa a nine-mile, one-way, paved loop road winds through the park, revealing spectacular views of deep pinyon-filled canyons with scattered ancient cliff dwellings and three of the world’s largest natural stone bridges. Bridges differ from arches in that they are created primarily by stream action; whereas arches are created primarily by rain and wind.

The bridges in this monument are all easily viewed from overlook areas along Bridge View Drive, or you can hike down into the canyon and walk under them. Interpretive signing is present at each overlook.

Horsecollar Ruin Overlook Trail is mostly level and leads over the mesa to the edge of White Canyon. The small cliff dwelling is unique in that it is still plastered. The doorways to the two granaries are shaped like the horsecollars used in harness equipment. The ruin also contains a kiva.

A small campground is limited to RVs less than 26 feet, but an overflow area on the edge of the park has plenty of room.

To be continued…

Worth Pondering…
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes.

—Marcel Proust, French novelist

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Campsites in Zion Narrows closed

Zion National Park reported Tuesday (March 1) that all of the campsites located in Zion Narrows are closed until further notice.

Plan your trip into the backcountry. By researching and planning your trip before you arrive at Zion you can avoid most surprises and spend more time enjoying your visit. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Twelve designated backcountry campsites were created in the Narrows in the early 1990s in an effort to concentrate visitor impacts at specific locations and create a more enjoyable trip for visitors.

In late December 2010, heavy rains caused extensive flooding on the North Fork of the Virgin River, including the Narrows. The flow rate for the river was measured at 6,000 cubic feet per second, the highest recorded rate since the campsites were created.

The Zion Narrows is closed to hikers each spring due to high water from snow melt. In an average year, the period of high water ends around the beginning of June.

The closed campsites will be evaluated for winter flooding damage as soon as water levels allow rangers to visit the area. Many of the campsites should be opened quickly, but some may have to be rehabilitated or relocated and may remain closed for several months.

Note: All overnight trips in the Narrows require a backcountry permit. In an average year, reservations for such trips are available two to three months ahead of time through the park website.

In 2011, reservations will not be available until an evaluation of the campsites is complete.

The Shuttle

The shuttle system was established to eliminate traffic and parking problems, protect vegetation, and restore tranquility to Zion Canyon. The Springdale Shuttle stops at six locations in Springdale. The Zion Canyon Shuttle loop stops at eight locations in the park. The transfer between loops is made at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center. You may get on and off as often as you like. Riding the shuttle is free. Avoid parking hassles. Parking is limited inside Zion. One may park in the town of Springdale and ride the town shuttle to the park. Look for the ''Shuttle Parking'' signs throughout town. The parking lot at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center commonly fills by mid morning. Tune your radio to 1610 AM for additional information. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion Canyon is closed to private motor vehicles, but there is adequate parking at the visitor center near the entrance and free shuttle busses to take you into the canyon. Free busses also depart from various locations in downtown Springdale to take you to the visitor’s center. From the visitor center the free shuttle busses depart every few minutes for the scenic loop tour through Zion Canyon. They stop at ten locations throughout the canyon to allow easy access to the various scenic vistas and hiking trails. During the summer, the busses operate from 5:45 a.m. until 11:00 p.m.

As with most national parks, the busy season is during the summer months of June, July, and August. To avoid the crowds, it is recommended that you plan your trip for late spring or early fall. Although the park is open during the winter months, cold weather, and snowfall limits the type of winter activity available.

Zion National Park

Zion is home to 207 species of birds. Bird checklists are available at the visitor centers. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Details

Operating Hours: Open year-round, 24 hours a day

Admission: $25/vehicle (good for 7 days); all federal lands passes accepted

Large RV tunnel escort fee: $15 in addition to entrance fee
Pets: Not allowed on any hiking trails or anywhere in the backcountry

Location: Just east of Springdale on Highway 9

Camping: $16-18/night

Reservations for campsites at Watchman Campground for camping from March 5, 2011 through November 13, 2011 may be made six months prior to your arrival date online at www.recreation.gov.

Address: Springdale, Utah 84767

Contact: (435) 772-3256

Did You Know?
When dedicated on July 4, 1930, the 1.1 mile Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel was the longest tunnel in the United States.

Worth Pondering…
There is an eloquence to their forms which stirs the imagination with a singular power and kindles in the mind . . . a glowing response.
—Geologist Clarence E. Dutton, reflecting on his impressions of Zion, 1880

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Place in the Rocks: Canyon de Chelly National Monument, AZ, Part 2

Driving the canyon rims and viewing the canyon from the overlooks is an excellent introduction to Canyon de Chelly and gives you an idea of how else you might want to explore the canyon.

South Rim Drive

Offering panoramic views of the canyons, this drive is an excellent way to get the feel of the canyon. From the visitor center to the last overlook is about 16 miles one-way. There are seven overlooks from which to view Canyon de Chelly. Watch for changes in vegetation and geology as the elevation rises from 5,500 feet at the visitor center to 7,000 feet at Spider Rock.

Allow two to three hours for this drive—and considerably longer, if you’re a photographer.

Junction Overlook. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The third overlook, Junction, affords the first look at the canyon’s depth, and the signs warn that it’s a sheer drop of 600 feet to the bottom. Junction has views of Chinle Valley and the confluence of Canyon del Muerto and Canyon de Chelly.

The scenery elevates to spectacular at the Sliding Rock Overlook, about 700 feet above the canyon floor and site of ruins that once slipped off the canyon walls.

Face Rock Overlook is even higher and sort of a prelude to arguably the most magnificent of all—Spider Rock Overlook.

Spider Rock, the unofficial symbol of Canyon de Chelly, is a sandstone obelisk that rises more than 800 feet from the canyon floor at the junction of Canyon de Chelly and Monument Canyon. From here you can see the volcanic core of Black Rock Butte and the Chuska Mountains on the horizon.

Spider Rock Overlook. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to legend, Spider Woman taught the Navajo how to weave and now lives on top of the spire that is covered with white limestone. The legend says the white stuff is the bones of bad children who were carried off by Spider Woman.

North Rim Drive

Also worthwhile, but not quite as scenic, the North Rim Drive has only three overlooks from which to view Canyon del Muerto. Some of the most beautiful cliff dwellings are along this 34-mile route from start to finish.

Allow a minimum of two hours for this drive.

Antelope House Ruin is named for the illustrations of antelope attributed to Navajo artist Dibe Yazhi (Little Sheep) who lived here in the early 1800s.

White House Trail

Sharing the White House Trail with a Navajo family herding sheep. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This is a superb hike. For your efforts you’ll get an up-close look at White House ruins, mentioned in the Navajo Night Chant as “white house in between”. The trail begins at the White House Overlook and is a two- or three-mile round trip, depending on which signs you believe. Allow two to three hours to complete the trail. The drop from the rim to the canyon floor is 600 feet. Since the trail is considered moderately strenuous, hiking boots are recommended. Ensure you take plenty of drinking water, especially if you’re hiking in the summer’s heat. Pets are not allowed on the trail.

Camping

The campground, located in a shallow valley less than ¼-mile from the visitor center, was a wonderful surprise. The campground is large with approximately 100 spacious campsites, plus a large group camping area. We had no difficulty is finding a suitable site for our 40-foot motorhome.

Photo tips

Ask permission before taking photos of the Navajo people, their homes, or animals.

Although you’ll read in park brochure that lighting for photos is best on the North Rim in the morning, and on the South Rim in the afternoon, don’t believe it.

For the best photos of Spider Rock arrive at the overlook shortly after sunrise or in mid-afternoon, when the shadows are long and definitive.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Details

Operating Hours: Open year-round, 24 hours a day

Admission: Non-fee area; Navajo guide required to drive into the canyon bottom.

Pets: Not allowed on White House Trail

Elevation: 5,500 at the visitor center to over 7,000 feet

Location: From Highway 191at Chinle drive east 3 miles

Camping: Non-fee area

Address: PO Box 588, Chinle, AZ 86503

Contact: (928) 674-5500

Worth Pondering…

We didn’t inherit the earth; we are borrowing it from our children.

—Native American Proverb

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