Dramatic Canyons, Famous Valleys, and Crimson Spires.

We are wrapping up our time in Moab and still exploring this fascinating area. It’s quite a small town but I actually found a little local grocery store that carries all my favorite organic food brands that I regularly enjoy back home in Seattle.

Canyonlands National Park

Next on the list is Canyonlands and I will confess that I almost skipped this park in favor of something else. But, I am really glad I did not skip it. The park is really off the beaten path and I think that is what made it a special experience. I really enjoyed being here and it was nearly deserted so Lily got to explore some of the areas where dogs were not allowed.

The Shaffer Canyon Overlook.

And here’s a quick video of Lily trekking down the overlook trail.

First stop upon passing the visitor center was Mesa Arch. The little hike to the Arch was short and sweet and there were only a few other people on the trail. I spent about an hour there sitting on a ledge overlooking the expanse.

Just through the arch is a sheer cliff drop-off into the canyon below. Here’s a video of the dramatic situation.

After Mesa Arch, I headed over to the Green River Overlook and took a hike down into the canyon and literally descended 1400 feet down the side of the sandstone cliffs.

View from the trailhead just before descending down the canyon walls.
View of the Green River as it joins with the Colorado River.

After the hike, I woke Lily up from her nap in the truck and we sat on a sandstone ledge overlooking the canyon I had just conquered.

It was a great afternoon in Canyonlands and I truly appreciated the lack of people everywhere in this off-the-beaten-path National Park. With that, it was time to wrap up our stay in Moab and hit the road to the next amazing destination.

Monument Valley

Just down the road from Moab is the film famous Monument Valley. For this adventure, we drove deep into Navajo Nation Land to experience the incredible scenery and camp in a pretty unique spot.

This is the spot where Forest Gump stopped running. Everyone stands in the middle of the road to take pics of the famous film location.
Parked in space 34 at Gouldings Lodge Campground.

I signed up for a guided tour into the Valley Tribal Park and it was a great decision. Since there are about 10 families that actually live in the valley it was worth it to be taken behind the fences of the residents by a Navajo guide and see things I would miss if I drove in alone.

Natural Bridges National Monument

This was a fun afternoon excursion. We set out north on The Trail of the Ancients which is Utah State Route 261 from Monument Valley to Natural Bridges. Three miles of the journey included traversing the Moki Dugway which is an unpaved road literally carved into the side of a cliff with steep switchbacks ascending/descending.

The Moki Dugout warning sign as you approach the cliff.
View of the switchbacks from the top.

We didn’t have much time in Natural Bridges so we quickly did the 9 mile drive around the park and stopped at the last bridge to take a quick hike and some photos. I would like to come back someday and hike down into the canyons to see the bridges up close.

Owachomo Bridge.

Video of the quick hike to the Owachomo Bridge viewpoint. The trails in National Parks and National Monuments are so cool.

Valley of the Gods

On our last day in the area we took the 17 miles scenic off-road drive thru Valley of the Gods and explored more sandstone formations which also included quick stopovers at Goosenecks State Park and Mexican Hat.

Parked for a little break in Valley of the Gods.
Strange solitary sandstone statue in Valley of the Gods.
Goosenecks State Park.
Mexican Hat.

And that completes our time in Monument Valley but before we leave I had to capture some of the incredible sunsets to take with us. The evening sky is phenomenal here as it lights up the sandstone mesas with heavenly colors of red, then orange, some yellow, and finally purple. It was marvelous.

Kanab, UT (again)

We have come full circle and are parked back at the amazing Dark Sky RV Campground for one last excursion. So far, this is the only place we have stayed at more than once on this journey. And here’s why …

The sunsets are spectacular and the campground is setup perfectly.
It was the weekend for Balloons and Tunes so this is what we woke up to each morning.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Finally, it’s time for Bryce. TBH, I almost skipped this park because the campgrounds near it were closed for the winter but I’m glad I came back to Kanab and kept it on the list. Bryce was like nothing I had ever seen before. I couldn’t wait to get parked and hit the Queens Garden and Navajo Loop Trails. Unfortunately, Wall Street was closed due to snow.

The amphitheater lit up by the mid-day sun.
Queens Garden Trail with a few tunnels for the queens goblins to pass thru.
The famous switchbacks at the end, or the beginning depending on which way you go, of the Navajo Loop Trail.
View from the top of the switchbacks.
One last look at the amphitheater from the Bryce Viewpoint.

And that’s it, our time in Utah is complete. We spent nearly an entire month exploring the strange landscapes and mighty national parks. It’s such an amazing place and I’m sure we will be back again soon.

With only about two weeks of travel remaining on our West Coast trip, Lily and I head west into Nevada for some fire and drought.

Majestic Rock Faces and Natures Architecture.

At last, we arrive at the mightiest and most spectacular of the National Parks. This is probably the highlight of our West Coast trip and our first time camping inside a National Park. It was awesome in every sense of the word.

Zion National Park

What can one say about Zion except it is simply majestic. Literally, as you drive into the park from the east you start to get hints of the stunning landscape ahead. And then, you arrive and see it for the first time and almost drive off the road and crash.

We entered from the east on highway 9 which means we drove through The Zion Mt. Carmel Tunnel which is the longest vehicular tunnel in the National Park System. It was constructed in 1930 and is not quite big enough to accommodate two-way traffic with my Ford Super Duty pulling a 28′ Airstream. So, they closed down the tunnel and let me drive right down the center line for the mile long journey to the other side. Of course, there was a surcharge for this privilege. And it was worth it.

Once thru the tunnel, you start the winding road down to the canyon floor. The scenery was breathtaking (yup I used that word, breathtaking) and it was hard to drive and gawk out the windows at the same time. I had to pull over a few times to fully appreciate what I was experiencing on my first time in Zion.

After safely navigating the switchbacks and pullouts, we settled into the Watchman Campground which is in the heart of Zion and being off-season it was nearly empty the entire four days we were parked which was a nice reprieve from the nosey people always wanting to see inside the Airstream and chat about the RV lifestyle.

Amazing campground in the heart of Zion NP.

After getting setup and chasing Lily around (she was happy to be there too), I swiftly organized a National Park Happy Hour and began to settle in for the first night in this spectacular place.

Wine for the first night, then …
… switched to Gin for the rest of the stay.
Night shot from the campground as the stars were coming out.

We woke up the first morning and set out to explore the surroundings on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. It was truly amazing being in this grand place with hardly anyone else around. Zion is a lot more intimate than I expected – I think I was comparing it to Yosemite which is has a much larger canyon/valley area.

Morning sun illuminating The White Throne in the distance.

After getting the lay of the land, we ventured outside to the little town of Springdale which is just outside the south entrance. I found a great little coffee shop to fuel up on caffeine and a breakfast burrito. After eating, I was ready for the first hike which was the Canyon View Trail and it was really fun.

There was some pretty amazing scenery along the hike and I couldn’t stop taking pics.

After traversing natures staircases, I arrived at the top and experienced the glory of Zion. And let me once again say that it was really fantastic being there in the off-season without a million other people. It made the experience a lot more memorable and positive.

I was too scared to attempt the Angels Landing Hike which is supposed to be the epic Zion adventure. However, I did enjoy an afternoon of hiking around the Emerald Pools and despite some ice on the trails and ice cycles hanging overhead it was pretty spectacular. There are just no bad views from any trail when hiking in Zion.

Deadly ice cycles hanging directly over the trail at Lower Pool made this trek quite exciting.
Video view of the canyon from Middle Pool.
Video view of Upper Pool frozen solid with a snow cone on top.

Four days passed quickly and all too soon it was time to leave and head to the next amazing National Park. We packed up and settled in for the 5 hour drive across Utah to Moab which would be our home base for nearly a week.

Moab, UT

What a cool little town nestled around Jurassic sized red rock landscapes. This would be our jumping off point for the next few National Parks on the list. The Portal RV Resort was an awesome place to call home. The only bad thing about being here in February was most of the eateries I had earmarked for trying were closed for the season.

Arches National Park

After Zion, I did not think anything could impress me ever again but that changed when I entered Arches National Park. I spent all day hiking around and exploring the fascinating formations created by nature. The hike to Delicate Arch was the most cool – half of the hike was up the side of a massive granite rock dome and the final stretch was a path carved into the side of a sandstone cliff.

Trail marker on the granite dome.
Steps to the final stretch of trail.
Final stretch before the big reveal.

And then you arrive at the most interesting and fascinating formation by nature – Delicate Arch.

Being at Delicate Arch was the highlight of my day,
Video of the final stretch and big reveal at Delicate Arch.

Then is was off to Windows to check out more arches and let Lily out for a little adventure. Hiking in Arches was a little different than what I experienced in Zion, the trails were mostly marked by Cairns.

Lily got to enjoy some of the interesting hikes as well.
Trail up to Windows.
Windows Arch.
Double Arch.
View towards the Windows from inside Double Arch.

And finally, at the end of the day, we made our way back thru the park and stopped to check out Balanced Rock and Park Place.

Balanced Rock.
Park Place.

So that was the first half of what we experienced while positioned in Moab. There is just too much to do in this awesome place. Tons of off-roading and natural wonders to explore. Stay tuned for more!

Red Rocks and a Sandstone Wonderland.

We are back in Arizona after a week in Albuquerque wrapping up errands. ABQ treated us well altho the temps dropped well below freezing every night. The truck is serviced, Amazon packages collected, Trader Joe’s stocked, and now we are ready to get back on the road and see more amazing stuff.

Petroglyph National Monument

Before leaving New Mexico, I wanted to check out the petroglyphs. It was a quick and interesting trek. The monument exists around some residential areas so it didn’t take long to hike around the rocks to see what the ancient humans left behind as evidence of their existence. This was probably the least interesting experience I’ve had so far but I made it a point to see before leaving ABQ.

Petrified Forest National Park

After crossing back into Arizona, we stopped here for a quick lunch and hike. It was pretty fascinating to see the ancient crystallized trees laying all over the desert landscape. Like an ancient battlefield from a different era.

Wandering around the Crystal Forest.

Sedona, AZ

This was the next big destination that I was looking so forward to visiting. Sedona looks like it should be a National Park and it’s amazing that it’s actually just a regular place where people live and you can shop at Whole Foods surrounded by a stunning landscape.

First scene as we were driving into Sedona.
The town from the Airport trail.
Just hiking around soaking up the sunshine and views.
Famous church of the holy cross.
Walkway to the church entrance.
And, inside the church.

I did a few hikes around the area but most of the popular trails were mobbed with likeminded people so I had to forfeit a few destinations.

After 4 amazing days at Rancho Sedona RV Park, it was time to leave and even as we were driving away I couldn’t stop looking at the scenery and taking one last photo out the truck window.

Grand Canyon National Park

As we were driving north, we did a quick side-trip to the Grand Canyon South Rim. It wasn’t on the itinerary but when I saw the signs pointing the way I took the exit and spent a few hours in the park. There were only two places that would accommodate parking the Airstream – the Visitor Center and The Watchtower. I did snag a pull-out spot right along the rim to stop and take a pic. It was super windy and super cold so I didn’t spend much time wandering around outside. I would like to come back sometime and explore the canyon hikes.

Lake Powell – Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

After the Grand Canyon side-trip, and just before sundown, we arrived at our next destination – Lake Powell. This place is just magical to me. I don’t know what it is, maybe the strange sandstone formations, or the fact that it’s like an alien landscape. The lake is really low, so low they claim it’s only 30% full and there is no real hope that it would ever reach 100% again.

These monoliths and formations have not been seen since the lake was filled.
You can clearly see the water line where the lake used to be.
Lake Powell slowly disappearing.
Our camping spot “F18” for 4 days of exploring this interesting area.

Upper Antelope Canyon

Wow, just wow! It’s stunning what thousands and thousands of years of wind and water can create when used against sandstone. The Navajo Nation operates the tours to the canyon because the land is owned by members of the Nation. And, they required us to wear masks at all times, even outdoors. But that did not take away from the awe I felt being inside the canyon. All the pics I took were with my iPhone 12 Pro Max using the Vivid Warm setting.

These are the trucks you ride in for the 4 mile drive to the canyon entrance.

Arriving at the canyon entrance was a bit like an Indian Jones scene. Here’s a video of the entrance,

Once inside, it’s all about getting the right photo angles to provide the most dramatic effect as the sun streams in and casts light on the sandstone canyon walls.

“The Candle”
“The Heart”
This is the “Arizona Sunset” shot looking up from the canyon floor to the sky. The shadows and the exposure setting gave my iPhone this mazing shot.

The place is very popular and I imagine makes a lot of money for the Navajo family that owns the land – my ticket cost $200. But, it was such an awesome experience to see and capture the once in a lifetime images.

Horseshoe Bend

Next stop on the list was Horseshoe Bend which is the famous meander in Marble Canyon the Colorado River takes as it leaves Lake Powell and makes its way towards the Grand Canyon.

I literally walked up to the edge and took this video looking over the cliff. I am scared of heights so this was a bit intense for me tbh.

Marble Canyon

Home to the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River which formed Lake Powell. I really wanted to take the Dam Tour but the damn tour and visitor center has been closed since stupid COVID. Best I could do was take these pics from the visitor center and the lookout. Pretty awesome nonetheless.

One last look at the bridge as we leave Arizona for Utah.

And that concludes our amazing time in Arizona. It was amazing. I love the state parks and the painted deserts. But now, we pack up and hit the road west towards Utah.

Kanab, UT

First stop in Utah is Kanab where we get ready to head into the splendor that Southern Utah has to offer. I found this perfect little boutique campground that had the best sunsets and nighttime start gazing.

Space 17 at Dark Sky RV Campground

So, that was a lot … we’ve been busy and there is much more to come as we cross our three month milestone of this Airstream Adventure. The upcoming weeks will be spent in the Utah National Parks marveling at God’s creation.

Next stop … Zion National Park.