Friday, 24 May 2013

The Duke, The Sombrero and The Mighty Colorado

Craig Writes;

The drive from Vegas was uneventful. A quick stop in Mesquite for some fairly decent Mexican for lunch and onward to The Driftwood Lodge in Springdale Utah, just a mile or so out of the Zion National Park. 
Thank you Los Lupes

The mountains look like Mother Nature wanted to make herself a giant sandstone Rueben sandwich. A few layers of pink/ reddish pastrami, a layer of creamy cheese, more pastrami more cheese more cheese more pastrami and on and on . It's a beautiful and tasty looking piece of landscape. 

Time to play Where's The Wally
Looks like a big mound of pate with a little parsley garnish

Native Americans had the place to themselves for nearly 8000 years till a couple of Spanish padres dropped in around the 1760's, then left.  One hundred years later the Mormons came through, settled and stayed.

We took two hikes today. One to the lower, middle and upper Emerald Pools but the falls that fill them weren't falling very much so it was more a case of the Emerald Puddles. But, the mountain side was spectacular. The Canyon Overlook hike which we did later in the day was a jaw dropper. I don't have the words to do these mountains justice. I'll let the pictures tell the story.

We're such tiny creatures arent we?. Emerald Pools.
Gods own country, The Canyon Overlook

Part Two
Just feet from certain death, we couldn't be happier
The Canyon  Overlook at Zion
The Driftwood Lodge in Springdale is run by a delightful French fella and is a wonderful place to base yourself to hike the numerous outstanding trails this region has to offer.  Springdale is a quaint little town with some great restaurants and a couple of really good galleries, The Bit and Spur is a stand out place to eat. The gallery next to it is has some crazy door gongs. Sam Nelson, I believe the Dali Lama buys all his gongs from here. It would have been good to have spent more than two nights here but, places to go, places to see.

20/05/13 Bryce Canyon. We stayed at a Best Western called Ruby's Inn. We got an upgrade to two bedrooms which was the first time in a couple of weeks we had a room to ourselves and a door we could shut. If only they hadn't put us under the stairwell. Oh well can't have everything.

Way out west
The canyons, wow. Once again it's hard to put into words. The erosional force of wind, frost - wedging and pounding rain over the millenniums has shaped these mountains into a bizarre collection of slotted canyons, gigantic windows and towering spirals called Hoodoo's.  Quite breathtaking. 
The stunning Hoodoos of Bryce Canyon
The Hoodoos in panorama
21/05/13 We took the Highway 12 Scenic route, designated an All American Road, which goes through the canyons of Bryce and up to Capital Reef. Some of the most amazing views yet from the small scenic stop off points along the way. 

A little something we passed on our way to somewhere else

Just a small roadside ditch we passed along the way 
We ended up at the Chuck Wagon Lodge in Torrey. A very cute and very affordable little lodge in downtown Torrey, Wayne County, Utah. 
I don't think the name does it justice. 
We ate at the Saddliery that night. A huge red brick barn of a place that inside, is all cowboy. From the 2400lb stuffed bronking bull in the reception area to the swiveling leather saddles at the bar, to the massive Elk antler chandelier hanging over the middle of the bar, this was bull ropin, horse ridin', big hat wearin' cowboy country. It was a lot of fun, and great food. Our bar man was telling us that the town relies on tourism to the canyons and when that dries up in the winter the town pretty well closes down. He goes out and works construction 'til the season opens again in the Spring.  Construction in winter here would be a pretty tough gig.

22/05/13 Long drive today through Capitol Reef National Park on what must have been the    longest stretch of straight road I've ever been on. Highway 128, same highway where the Kurt Russell thriller, Abducted, was filmed.

On the road to....
Fortunately the scenery is so spectacular that combined with bashing my head against the back of my head rest and chewing on thin strips of dried road kill we'd passed along the way, it was just enough to stop me nodding off. 

....Capitol Reef

It's the clouds I like in this shot
Time to spot the Wallies again, yes there's three of us somewhere up there
Callum contemplating his own small monument to Mother Nature at Capitol Reef
After several hours we arrived at the Red Cliff Lodge, 16 miles out of the small town of Moab.  It's one of the more expensive places we've stayed at but hey if it's good enough for John Wayne it's good enough for the CVW'S. 
Red Cliff Lodge.. durr.
Where long horns go to rest.
Watching the Colorado flow under the gaze of the Rockies while eating a big hunk of beef. Bliss.
Yes, this very ranch/ lodge, the magnificent surrounding Rocky Mountains and the Colorado River have been the scene for many a Hollywood movie and dozens of TV ads. The "Duke" made several movies at this ranch and in the surrounding red cliffs, Rio Grande, Hondo, The Conqueror and The Commancheros. 
Nah, he's definitely not movin, good shot John.
Spielberg was here for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Cruise for Mission Impossible II, Thelma and Louise, City Slickers II, The Hulk-2003 version, and many more.  It's a real slice of cowboy country here with all the mod cons throw in including a  good size gym and a pool with the Red Cliffs towering all around you.

I'd swim here in the early mornings, just me..and the pool guy.
They have this dusty kitschy movie museum in the basement. No real memorabilia apart from a few battered old film scripts and the dummy of Thelma they used in the scene when her and Louise took that one way dive over the cliff. I guest they must have patched it up because that looked like a long drop.

The next day we took a rafting trip down the Colorado River. No major rapids, a couple of class three at best but enough for a bit of hootin' and hollerin'.
We were heavily in-vest-ed in this trip...sorry for that.
Megan, our young Mormon totin' river guide was fantastic. The river flows at  a reasonable pass, about 7000 cubic feet per second but she still let anyone who wanted to too tighten their life jackets and jump in for a swim. Well off course we did. Jesus Christ, it was freezing. Light muddy brown, fast flowing and freaking freezing. It was fantastic. With the warm wind blowing we were all dry within ten minutes of being hauled back on board. 
Those looks of cheer were literally frozen on our faces
The lunch was typical American BBQ. Not real different from ours really. Lots of big burgers, hot dogs, and condiments, lots of condiments. If they do anything well here it's condiments.  Sauces, spreads, pickles and that many assorted relishes and salads you don't really need the meat and bun. 
With Megs, our intrepid river guide
There was a great gym and a descent size pool. We left happy campers.

24/05/13: Yes, we left happy campers alright, until ...The Mexican Hat. The Hat itself is quite a sight. It's a 60 foot wide 12 foot thick inverted Sombrero on a skyscraper high rock totem. 
The Mexican Hat, apparently they couldn't spell Sombrero
The town of Mexican Hat is something else. Dusty and broken down, it's like coming across an abandon car on the highway and you wonder why no one has come and just towed it away to the dump. Shops are vacant or open but not doing business. We went in to a "diner" that advertised breakfast, lunch and dinner and were met by Zed from Pulp Fiction. "We don't do breakfast, go down the road to ..." we didnt hear the rest, we were out the door. The hotel we stayed in was hopeless. The receptionist sold us milk to put in the fridge we didn't have. No tea and coffee maker, no microwave, no water in the cistern after you'd flushed it once and no ice in the ice machine down the hall. No way we'd be staying a second longer than we had too. 
This view out our bathroom was the best thing about the room
 Fortunatley we had the recent memory of earlier that day, after leaving Red Cliff Lodge, driving through the amazing Arches National Park. It is 76,000 acres of over 2000 amazing natural sandstone arches, spires, balanced rocks and sandstone fins. Like so much else here, totally breathtaking. 

Surely, just one good stiff breeze..

Isn't Mother Nature incredible?

You feel so insignificant amongst it all
I think that's us

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