Our Trip to Utah and Arizona

April 17 to April 24, 2012


Hi all,

 We are embarking on a trip with some of our long time friends from the Ramblin’ Recs, the RV group from my previous church, the Escondido First United Methodist Church.

 The original plan was to go to the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada, about 50 miles north of Las Vegas for 3 nights, then to Kanab, Utah for 3 nights, then to BLM land to dry camp near the Paria Plateau, again for 3 nights, then on to Page, AZ for 4 nights before heading home.  The trip was originally planned by Floyd, and our wagon masters for the trip were Floyd and Doug (I won’t use last names in this report for privacy reasons.)

 We ran into a couple of complications shortly before the scheduled trip.  Floyd took ill and was later admitted to the hospital for several days.  After several days of insisting he would join us as soon as he was released, he was finally convinced that he would not be able to participate in this trip.  This was a major disappointment to him, as he has been planning this trip since 2008, and it was also a major disappointment for us!.  We miss you Floyd and Ruthie!  This is your trip and we are taking it without you.

The other glitch was that in talking to the rangers at Valley of Fire, it seemed that we had a 0 percent chance of getting into the park when scheduled.  The park is a first come first served park and is very busy at this time of the year, especially since it is Spring Break for Utah and Nevada students.  After Floyd insisted that we go ahead with the trip as planned, Doug took over the sole wagon master slot.  We then decided to just cancel the Valley of Fire portion and to start the trip 3 days later so the balance of the trip would continue on schedule.  The Escondido members drove to a campground in Las Vegas to stay overnight and then continued on their way to Kanab Monday.  Rosemarie and I left Prescott on Monday morning and met the group in our campground in Kanab.

 Sorry to take so long to tell you that 4 coaches from Escondido and we (from Prescott) are starting about a 10 day trip in Kanab.  This is pretty much a “plan as we go” trip, so timing and even destinations could change before we are done.

On this trip are Doug and Janet, Ray and Kathy, Tom and Marilyn, Dick and Alice along with their daughter Suzanne, and Rosemarie and Dick (that’s me), and their 5 rigs.

Monday April 17, 2012

We left home at about 8:30 passing through Flagstaff and Page AZ prior to reaching Kanab.  We arrived about 3:00 after remembering that Utah is an hour ahead of AZ this time of year.  We were sure we would be last, as we had about 100 miles farther to drive today than the others.  About 4:45 they all arrived and parked in the 4 sites down from us.  They had stopped in St. George and talked to the BLM officials about our dry camping plans, and managed to spend almost 3 hours in St. George.  It was a day for an early bedtime and we made it by about 8:30.  (This was 7:30 AZ time!)

These are our rigs at our Kanab RV park.

Tuesday April 18

This morning we all went over to the local Visitor’s Center and got maps and information on area attractions and nearby points of interest.  From there we went to a movie museum which had a number of actual sets from movies on display.  There were a lot of movies, mostly westerns, shot in the Kanab area, and many of the sets had been moved to their property.  They also showed where other sets could be found nearby, including the set from the TV show Gunsmoke.  Unfortunately, many of these sets are on private land and the owners appear to have no interest in keeping them up, so they are continuously deteriorating and the owners will not let people in to see them.  As we would only be able to see them from a public road some distance away, and they are in poor shape, we skipped that one.  What we did see was very interesting.

The sets at the movie museum were all actual sets used to film movies.  Most of the buildings had a tag identifying the movie and the major stars.
movie set
This is the jail, one of several adobe buildings.  When I asked the lady inside how they moved these buildings, she said to look closely.  The "adobe" was really a siding.  When I looked around the door where some calking had come out, I could see that it was about 1/8 thick and looked almost like paper mache.  You can never tell by appearances.

After arriving back at camp, one of the couples mentioned having reservations to take a tour of an animal sanctuary nearby.  It included a 90 minute narrated bus ride around their facilities.  It sounded interesting, so they called and were able to make reservations for the rest of us.

 The tour was for Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.  It was a wonderful tour describing a truly amazing operation.  The sanctuary is the largest in the country and covers 3700 acres that it owns and another 33,000 acres leased from the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  They have many, many buildings, all of which are for specialized functions.  Just in the dog section, they have buildings for young puppies (Puppy Preschool), for injured dogs, for special needs dogs.  They have building for socializing dogs, for medical care of dogs, and of course many for just housing dogs.  They have similar facilities for cats, smaller ones for bunnies, burros, goats and pot bellied pigs.  They have many horses and even some Guinea Pigs.

 The non-profit organization is dedicated to no-kill care for life if the animals are not adopted, or if an adoption doesn’t work out.  They adopt out about 75 % of their cats and dogs.  In all they have about 17,000 animals at any given time.  It runs on a 40 million dollar budget per year.  Most of the money is raised by contributions, with most of them being less than $50 each.  It is an amazing facility and was an amazing tour.

As we were on the bus tour at Best Friends, we saw a number of horses, some with physical or mental problems.
At the entrance to the dog area we passed by this gate which was made by one of their volunteer artists.  At first glance is is some interesting leaves, but as you look at it, you can see a number of dog heads.  It's too bad the background is so busy, as it makes it hard to see some of the heads.

The dog area was massive with a great many buildings, most of which were octaginal, as they decided this was the most efficient.  They have 8 pens around a central area, and all can be checked from this area.  They appear to keep 2 or 3 dogs in each pen, sometimes in their crates.

All these buildings are surrounded by dog runs for the dogs to get their exercise and sunshine.
Marilyn, Janet and Doug are looking at one of the rooms in one of the 13 cat buildings.  All buildings have many places for the cats to climb and snuggle.  Every room has cat doors to let the cats out the their outer pens. cat house

After we left the gift shop at Best Friends, we went about a mile down the road to the Moqui Cave.  The cave was bought in 1951 by Garth Chamberlain and his wife who undid the damage of years of neglect and misuse.  It now houses a museum of many Indian artifacts and the largest collection of fossils and minerals which fluoresce.  In the days during prohibition, there was a fully functioning tavern in the back “cool room, where the prohibitionists could not find it.  The bar and stools are still there.  There was also a gift shop in the cave.  It was very interesting.

cave museum Here we see Kathy, Ray, Janet, Rosemarie, Marilyn, Doug, and Tom looking at artifacts.  Dick is behind the camera.

The cave contains a couple of rooms in the back.  This is the museum containing Indian artifacts, dinosaur foot print fossils, and other relics of the area.

In another back room was a massive display of minerals which
fluoresce.  That room was so dark with just the glowing rocks, that I was unable to get any pictures other than  color smears.

The museum room contains the prohibition era tavern.  You can see one of the bars and the stools near the center of the picture.  The other bar is just out of the picture to the lower right, but you can see several of the stools.

cave tavern

This evening the 8 of us went out to dinner.  The place we had picked turned out to be open Thursday through Monday.  This was Tuesday.  We went about a block down the street and had a wonderful dinner at Houston’s Trails End.

Wednesday, April 18

Today most of us loaded into 3 cars and headed for the Coral Pink Sands State Park, which is only about 20 miles from Kanab.  The sand dunes consist of very fine coral colored sand.  If you pick up a handful of sand and let it out slowly, it almost looks like a mist.  This is a Utah state park and consists of about 1200 acres.  About 90% of the park is open to OHV (off highway vehicles consisting mostly of 4 wheel ATV’s and dune buggies).  They have a very nice campground with a special exit road for OHV access to the dunes.  There is a beautiful observation platform which is elevated above the desert floor and has a set of bleachers and a sun/wind barrier.  It was a most beautiful and interesting stop.

sand dune viewing
A number of our group are on the observation deck viewing the dunes at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.
The dunes are a bright salmon color and extend almost as far as you can see to each side. sand dunes
bleachers The observation deck is amazing.  There is a very sturdy aluminum railing all the way up the path and around the deck.  This set of bleachers with its protective screen was nothing I would expect.
The sand is interesting to walk on.  There is just some extra resistance on level areas, but on slopes your feet sink in and slide down some.  It almost feels like they will be burried in the sand. walking the dunes

From there we traveled about 30 miles, including a couple stretches of dirt road to the Pipe Spring National Monument.  Here early Mormon settlers were directed by Brigham Young to build a fort to protect from Indian raids.  They build a fort called Windsor Castle directly over the main spring to ensure the continued availability of the water.

We toured Windsor Castle guided by a very knowledgeable Native American. 

This is the fort (Windsor Castle) from the outside.  The massive gates lead into the courtyard and the little structure on the top is the observation tower.
The members of our tour group are listening to the history of the fort as told by our guide.  The fort contained living quarters for quite a few people including a kitchen and a water cooled pantry.
wood stove
The kitchen included a beautiful wood stove, and a couple dining tables.
There were several bedrooms.  This one has gun ports along the top of the 18 inch thick walls, and a climb hole to the observation tower.  None of these were ever actually used as the Indian raids had pretty well quit by the time the fort was completed.

In the fields around the fort they built up a very large herd of cattle.  Texas Longhorns did very well in this area.
The fort was the location of the first telegraph station in the territory.  It was operated by a woman at this table.

The fort was originally thought to be in Utah, but a later survey showed it to be just inside the Arizona boundary.

Tonight we all participated in a pot luck dinner and no one left hungry!

Tomorrow we will leave this beautiful campground and head to some BLM land on House Rock Road in preparation to 4 wheel off road exploring the Paria Plateau.  We have decided that 2 nights here should be enough.  We will only do the back roads for one day.  We also decided to stay at Page for 3 nights, instead of 4 we had originally planned.

Thursday, April 19

We got up, ate a leisurely breakfast and got ready to leave.  We said our sad farewells to Dick, Alice, and Suzanne as they were heading for home this morning.  After several of us fueled up, we departed for our next stop near House Rock Road and US89A.  This is near where we will start our off road adventure on the Paria Plateau tomorrow.  As we approached the area, we all pulled off in a large scenic view parking area, un-hooked Doug’s Jeep, and the 4 of us guys went exploring for a good spot to stay.  There is a lot of BLM and forestry land around here and we can stay, within guidelines, almost anywhere that is flat and already disturbed.  We cannot be the first disturber.

We drove to a small flat area just off US89A where the ranger in the Forestry office had suggested.  It contained a sign "No Overnight Parking".  We assumed the sign trumped the ranger.  We found a site that could work, but was not ideal, right along 89A.  We then drove up House Rock Road, a fairly major unpaved road which extends from US89 in Utah down to US89A in Arizona.  It is from this road that our route will start.  We were told we could park anywhere along this road, past the initial ranch, using the same guidelines.  Unfortunately, there was absolutely no place where the shoulder and brush would allow an RV to park, and there were no pre-disturbed areas.

Doug and Janet had made notes of appropriate camping places as we had been approaching, so we picked up our RV’s and backtracked to a very nice place among the Pine trees at about 7500 foot elevation where a couple of forest roads joined US89A.

The site we found was in the pines and was beautiful.  At 7500 feet, the nights were below freezing.

Friday, April 20

This morning Ray came over and told me that he and Kathy were heading to Page shortly, as he was having an electrical problem and they were having some problem with the altitude.  We will meet them there tomorrow.

About 8:30 the remaining 6 of us left camp in our 4x4 vehicles.  Doug discovered that one of the roads leaving our “camping clearing” connected with House Rock Road somewhat north of our turnoff, so we went that route.  Our plan was to follow forest and BLM roads to the top of the Paria Plateau and out to the end.  There are some tremendous views from the end.  The drive, once we reach the junction of House Rock Road and the entrance to the Plateau is about 30 miles in and another 30 miles back out over the same route.  As we drove through the forests and down to the junction was about another 15 miles of dirt roads, and after we returned, it was about 10 miles down to US89A.  We drove about 85 miles on unpaved roads today on a route that took us a little over 8 hours.  I think we all felt the results when we returned to our rigs!

The roads ranged, as Doug put it from “super highways” to "not so good".  There was a lot of sand along the route, much more than the reports had indicated.  Early on, I thought I had experienced a mechanical failure when the car made a loud thump and then would just barely move at full throttle.  It turned out that I was in deep sand, and had apparently hit or dropped off a rock as I hit the deep sand.  Once I plowed my way for about 20 or 30 feet all was well, and I began to suspect that it had just been the drag of the sand.  I later confirmed all of this.

Starting out
The forestry road out of our "campground" was quite nice.  It was about a 15 mile drive to our starting point on House Rock Road.
We have just reached our turn off onto the plateau and are starting toward the overlook at the end.
On the plateau
Rough road
The road varied greatly.  We found a number of places where the rock strata was projecting out of the sand. 

I am following Tom and Marilyn for the first half as we head out.
This road was no better.
Rougher road
Even rougher road
Sometimes it got downright horrible!
About two miles from the end, we reached the overlook to Marble Canyon.  It was just gorgeous!
Marble Canyon view
Sand and weeds
As we approached the end of the plateau we were getting more and more excited.
OH NO!  About a half mile from the end, we came to barricades and this sign.

What a disappointment!
Paria Needle
From the end of our road, we could see the Paria Needle.  We had hoped to drive around to the other side of this for a panoramic view of the Page - Lake Powell area.
Instead, we had a picnic!


We then turned around and started for home.  Things were going well until about a third of the way back I approached Doug, who had been out of sight for a bit.  He was stopped half way up a sandy slope.  He was stuck!  Tom and I helped him dig sand out from under his tires, put rocks, buried in the sand under his front wheels, put mats under his rear wheels, and after several false starts, with the aid of Tom and me pushing, he eased his way up to harder ground.

Next it was my turn.  I backed up from where I stopped and tried going up.  I just mushed slower and slower until I could not move – forward or backward.  We dug sand from behind my wheels and with a little push I was able to back down to solid ground.  I backed up even further then, giving it everything my Jeep has, I hit the sand at a high speed and bounced my way to the top with no problem.  Tom did pretty much the same thing and made it to the top.  Whew!  We didn’t need to “air down” our tires or have to tow each other, although we were prepared to do either.

The rest of the trip was uneventful, but I now had a lot of respect for the uphill sections of sand!

Following Doug
After our experience getting stuck in the sand, we didn't have any more problems.  Here I am following Doug and Janet over a relatively flat section of sandy road.
A lot more of the road was sand than had been reported in the information we researched prior to the trip.
ore sand
Even more sand
And yet more sand!
At last we reach the Rock House Freeway!  This is a well maintained gravel road.  In the distance you can see the dust cloud from Doug's car as we head for highway 89A and smooth blacktop the rest of the way back!
Rock House freeway
Our campsite
We were very happy to see that our rigs were just as we left them at our camp site.  This picture shows the large clearing which is the transition to two different forest roads.
Upon reaching our campsite, most of the thick layer of dust had blown off the rear of my Jeep.  It could still use a car wash.
Jeep Dust

Saturday, April 21

We had a leisurely get-up and breakfast this morning.  I worked on this report and my photos some.  The others went exploring to see if they could see House Rock.  There is a forestry road across the highway that is supposed to have a view of it.  After a while we secured everything and proceeded to Page.  I wanted to get into an Urgent Care center and see if I could get a Cortisone shot for my shoulder, which has been acting up.

It was only about 75 miles to Page.  We pulled into the park and were given the space which backed up to Ray and Kathy.  After I returned from getting my shot, Tom & Marilyn and Doug & Janet were in the spots next to our two rigs.

The campground was very nice and we all were parked together.  Our rig and Doug and Janets are on this row.  Ray and Kathy's and Tom and Marilyn's are in the row behind us and are harder to see from here.

This evening we all went into town and had a great Mexican dinner!

Sunday, April 22

I had made reservations for 6 of us  (Ray and Kathy couldn't go) to take a rafting trip on the Colorado River from the Glen Canyon Dam down about 15 miles to Lee's Ferry.

We drove to the tour company's office and boarded a bus.  We drove a couple of miles toward the dam, but turned off well before reaching it.  We went through an electric gate and drove down a road to a tunnel.  The tunnel is 2 miles long and drops at an 8% grade.  It was created during the dam construction to allow vehicles to get down to the base of the dam.  Every 1/4 mile or so there is a side tunnel to the left out the cliff.  This provides a little light and some ventilation.  At the end of the tunnel we were almost down to the river level, and directly under the 700 foot high bridge across the canyon.  Because we were under the bridge, we were required to wear hard hats.

We walked down a ramp to the boat dock where we turned in our hard hats and boarded a raft.  The rafts consist of 4 rubber pontoons about 3 feet in diameter and 18 feet long.  They are strapped together, 2 on each side with a box type structure in between.  There are padded seats around the edges of this box and the pilot's console in the rear.  There is a tread-plate front for boarding.  It has a powerful outboard motor to move the raft when it is not drifting with the current. The inner pontoons are located under the seats of the box, so you can slide outward from the seat to the top of the outer pontoon to ride.  We stayed inside.

The trip was wonderful!  We sometimes putted slowly, sometimes just floated with the engine off, and sometimes went quite fast, on a full plane. Enroute we were under cliffs that started at about 700 feet high.  As we progressed, the cliffs got higher and higher, reaching over 1500 feet.  The cliffs had the typical desert varnish that so typifies the Lake Powell region.

I'll let the pictures tell the rest of the story:

We rode a large tour type bus from the downtown office to the base of the dam.
The 2 mile long tunnel is really dark inside!  The camera is seeing the tunnel much better than my eyes did.

When we boarded the raft we said "This is Floyd's trip, we wish he were here!" so we clicked our heels 3 times and repeated "We want Floyd, We want Floyd, We want Floyd", we looked up and there were Floyd and Ruthie!

(Actually this is a picture from our October 2000 trip.  Floyd and Ruth were with us on our current trip only in our hearts.)
Floyd and Ruth
Our guide
Our boat driver / guide was a college student who is doing this part time.  She was very good.
Looking forward on the raft we can see Janet, Doug, and Marilyn.
To the left are Rosemarie and Tom.
From a distance, the dam and bridge don't look quite as imposing as they do close up.
dam from distance
During our 15 mile trip, we saw several kayaks.  Here you can just see one of the campers on the ledge above the shore.  We also saw several power boats and several personal rafts.
About half way, we beached the rafts and got off.  Most people hiked up the trail and ate their lunches here.
At the end of about a 1/4 mile trail is a wall with a number of petroglyphs.  Here Janet, Marilyn, and Doug are enjoying it.
As it was quite hot, our guide placed a bucket of lake water on the raft behind where I was sitting.  People could dunk their hats in the water to cool off.  Actually, I dunked most of the hats for them.

Here at the beach, people had the opportunity to dunk as much as they wanted.  Several people waded well out into the water.  Our guide submersed herself.  The water here is 42 degrees year round!
Lee's Ferry
As we approached Lee's Ferry, our surroundings went from high rock walls to much lower desert terrain.
We are just pulling into the dock at Lee's Ferry.  We were happy to get on the air conditioned bus that was waiting to take us home.
Lee's Ferry2

When we returned to camp, Ray and Kathy were gone.  I had not realized they were moving on to their next stop today. (The others were aware of it.)  I am sorry we did not get to say our proper goodbye's!

Monday, April 23

Today, we have reservations to take a Navajo led tour of the gorgeous Antelope Canyon.  This is a "slot canyon", cut through the rock by the action of the occasional flood waters which result from distant thunderstorms.  They flood several times a year, for maybe a total of 2 hours a year on the average.  This has resulted in a very deep cut of approximately the same width for its entire depth.  The Grand Canyon was cut as a slot canyon. The river etched its way down as a constant width cut.  It was the action of the elements which then started eroding the sides above the water level.  Landslides, grinding of the walls by airborne grit particles, and the effects of rain and freezing all contributed to the gradual failures of sections of the side walls resulting in the very wide, very beautiful Grand Canyon.

For reasons I am unclear about, the slot canyons fail to start this erosion process on the side walls and remain basically parallel (on the average, but certainly not at any specific point).

Antelope Canyon is spectacularly beautiful, consisting of a slot about 120 feet deep with a width of typically 4 to 6 feet, with occasional spots at maybe several times that.  It is about 1/4 mile long.  The two ends of the canyon are sheer walls of stone, with the floor of the canyon about at the ground level, making entrance very easy.

Its walls meander and swirl with an amazing variety of colors and textures caused by the varying angles and amount of sunlight that penetrates the canyon, and the different flow patterns of water during the flood times. Areas of the canyon are almost totally dark with no visible sky, and sidewalls illuminated only way above you.  Other areas are very brightly lighted with several large patches of sky visible.

This canyon is unique among the many slot canyons in the area due to its flat floor.  It is a common trait of slot canyons to have large steps in the level as the water flows through.  Usually these steps are 10 feet or more of sheer drop, numerous places through the canyon.  The level floor here makes it accessible to us common folk.

We met at the tour office, were loaded onto seats in the back of an open truck, and driven out to the canyon.  The last part of the drive was over a large area of soft sand.  (Been there, done that!)

Our guide was great!  As he was describing the canyon and pointing out features, he would point his flashlight to a specific spot on the floor and say "Stand there, put your shoulder against here, point your camera there", and it would always be a great shot!

These pictures don't really do the canyon justice, but do show some of the beauty that we saw.  Once we get into the canyon I won't try to comment on each picture.

On our way out to the canyon, we drove right by our campground.
As we bounced our way over the sand, not unlike what we did on the Paria Plateau, Doug confessed it was a lot more fun when he was driving!

Sand2 The "road" to Antelope Canyon is really just a wide expanse of sand for about the last mile or so.
Our truck was full coming out.  Here we see just our group after disembarking.

Canyon 1
Canyon 2

Canyon 3
Canyon 4

Canyon 5
Canyon 6

Canyon 7
Canyon 8

Part way through the canyon, our guide picked up a handful of sand and tossed it onto this ledge.  He said he did this to show us how fine the sand is.  It poured down in this stream for about 30 seconds.

Canyon 9
Canyon 10

Canyon 11
Canyon 12

Canyon 13

When we had the exit of the canyon in sight the guide asked me for my camera.  He called out and asked people to move away from the opening, carefully aimed my camera and took this picture shaped like a bear.  (Hint, squint a little.)
Exiting Canyon
Marilyn and Rosemarie are walking out the end of the canyon.

When we finished our guided tour through the canyon, we lounged a little outside the end, then on our own walked back through to the entrance, and onto our truck.  The tour was about and hour and a half.  Afterwards we went to breakfast at a great little cafe in Page.  I then spent much of the rest of the day working on this report.

Tuesday, April 24

We got up and went to Denny's for breakfast.  This is the 2nd breakfast there since we got to Page.  For $2 I had a biscuit and gravy and hash browns.  It was just the right amount of food for me, and you can't beat the price.

We went back to camp, packed up the motorhome, said our goodbye's to Tom, Marilyn, Janet, and Doug and headed for home.  We were the last to pull out, but just out of town we passed Doug and Janet pulled over to take pictures.  A few miles later, we passed Tom and Marilyn on the highway.  I had promised Rosemarie that we could stop at the Cameron Trading Post on the way home.  Shortly after parking there, in pulled Tom and Marilyn.

The drive home was uneventful and we got here about mid afternoon.

It was a wonderful trip with wonderful friends.  We missed you Floyd and Ruth!


Sad Postscript:

On June 3, 2012, Floyd passed away.  We will miss you Floyd!



Dick Mason, Prescott, AZ  4/19/12