A quest to see the sunset at Bryce Canyon National Park

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The trip happened in late August, but the idea started months before.  The year 2017 started with a new challenge – hike every week for the entire year.  The hiking started locally in Dallas, Texas near home base and would branch out occasionally as variety was needed.  Some would call it a travel bug, others just an itch for adventure, either way a bigger, more spectacular trip was needed to satiate the outdoor cravings.  The search for flights began and included many great destinations such as Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Denver, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, and others cities near scenic public lands with great hiking.  The search for the perfect flight continued over the span of a few weeks and the destinations were whittled away as prices increased, departures didn’t work, or arrivals were too late.  Vacation days were thin, sick days needed to be saved just in case, and work was about to ramp up to the busy season anyway so the flight and timing had to be just right.  One day, it clicked and a flight to Salt Lake City was perfectly timed with an arrival on Friday night and a departure late on Sunday for a reasonable price from Dallas.  The flight was not purchased, but was tracked and discussed for another few weeks.  The price increased and it seemed hope for an adventure would be lost.  The disappointment was accepted and the promise of other, future trips was made internally as the tracking of the flight prices was canceled.  Fast forward about two weeks, the urge to adventure still burning, prices were checked again.  With much surprise, and delight, it was discovered that the price was back to what it was on the very first search.  Second guesses weren’t allowed, the flight was booked and it was written in permanent marker on the calendar in the office.  News was shared with a dear friend, and it was decided the spontaneity of this trip was to their liking and they also booked a flight from their airport to meet up for the ambitious weekend adventure.

Trip planning commenced, and there were 100 things to fit in to less than 48 full hours in Utah.  Having visited Utah in the past, there were things that were only enjoyed briefly that deserved a revisit.  Arches, an obvious attraction, had been thoroughly investigated so it was off the list.  Zion would be a bit too far south, as would Bears Ears for this trip.  So, a route was planned from Salt Lake City through Capitol Reef National Park to Devil’s Backbone and back out to Bryce Canyon National Park for the Saturday portion.  It was a lot of miles to cover in one day and proved to be a real challenge to visit everything.  The main objective of the trip was obviously to hike, with a side aspiration to see the sunset over Bryce Canyon and sunrise at Cedar Breaks.  Hiking in Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Cedar Breaks was determined to be the most important with any other hikes being a welcomed addition.  A short hike in Capitol Reef in the morning sun led to driving miles with scenic views of storms on the horizon to the arrival at Bryce Canyon in the late afternoon.  The road to Rainbow Point, the end of the park, was longer than anticipated with many necessary stops to admire the views.  Once to the point, a hike on the Bristlecone Loop was taken while the sun was still pretty high in the sky.  Making the drive back to the entrance, the plan was to hike at Inspiration Point for the sunset.  Stops at a few small loops such as Natural Bridge and Piracy Point along the way allowed the sun to sink down a bit more and the views to be taken in a bit longer.  The arrival at Bryce Point prompted a race to the edge to peer out at the darkening hoodoos, as the sun was suddenly almost gone.  A quick drive to Inspiration point led to a view of the cherry red sunset in the distant clouds as it faded away.  The mission was complete, the sunset was viewed in Bryce Canyon National Park and it added more magic to the hoodoo views than could have been expected.

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This post was written in one hour for the first #NatureWritingChallenge.

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Seeing can mean believing.

**Seeing can mean believing… more of my opinions on inclusiveness in the parks.**

I know some people who have gone to National Parks.  They have seen the majestic beauty, right along side me, and have proclaimed how beautiful it was aloud.  These same friends, they don’t really go to National Parks that often or at all anymore which is okay.  These people saw the beauty, believe in the beauty, and will remember the beauty of these wonderful places forever.  THIS IS IMPORTANT.

A National Park may not be their family vacation destination every time, but they may return someday.  These people understand the importance, value, and impact these places have on the general population.  They get it – because they’ve been there.  Because these people have been there, they get why it’s important to protect and fund these places.  These people then connect National Parks and the preservation ideals to other natural areas that need preservation.  It can build.

Visiting a National Park, once or twice, has left an impression on these people.  Will they return? Maybe.  Will they remember the good times there and what those parks stand for? Definitely.  It just takes one time, even if nature isn’t their thing, for someone to fall in love with the idea of National Parks, Monuments, Forests, etc.

Plant the seed and see what grows.  We need to continue to get people of all areas of life/status/etc to these place to see for themselves – maybe only once.  Maybe it isn’t their thing, but maybe it is.  Even if it isn’t their thing, they’ll remember the trip and could see how important these places are for our country.

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Vivid Memories.

It’s amazing to me that I can remember so much from such a brief visit to a National Park.  I was thinking back to my first trip to Death Valley National Park today and I can remember it all like we drove through yesterday.  I remember the Devil’s Golf Course, Badwater Basin, and Stovepipe Wells.  I remember hugging my first redwood just days prior up in Redwood National Park.  A year later, I was camping in Arches National Park after an edge-of-your-seat drive through a blizzard in the Rockies on the way there.  I remember the trails we hiked to go see the various arches and landscape views as well as the campsite and the view from the tent.  I remember it being something like 11 degrees and very windy with some icy spots on the trails – and a funny sign warning of falling on ice.  I remember the BLM land on the Loneliest Road in America – US 50 – and the campsite there with snow.  We pitched the tent, dug a trench to divert any melting snow, and made a fire.  That night, the sky was so clear and full of stars.  You could see US 50 for miles, and in that one night I only remember seeing two cars in the distance.

I remember something from each visit to Redwood National Park and I remember our brief drive through Olympic National Park.  I remember the moss growing on the old wood – making everything pop with green.  I can’t recall a more worthwhile hike than the one Delicate Arch, despite not really knowing much about where we were going.  I can still picture Bryce Canyon, covered in snow, from Inspiration Point.  The hoodoos poking through massive snow drifts below is a sight forever burned into my brain.  Snow melting, muddy trails, and the spray of waterfalls in Zion in the early spring only make me want to return.

I could go on, and on, about things I remember without even a picture to trigger it.  I have so many memories from trips to National Parks.  I’ve experienced visits as brief as a drive through with stops at scenic lookouts to camping overnight.  The experience doesn’t matter, as long as it happens.  If we get people that may not be able to or people that don’t really know too much about the parks to the parks, they may have these little memories to hold on to and may be more inclined to help preserve them.  If people can develop memories or find meaning in these places, they may be more willing to join the fight to fund, protect, and expand them.  We must continue to fight to get EVERYONE out to the parks.  We must continue to fight the current administration and their desire to shrink, drill in, and/or eliminate these places.  Together, through collective thoughts and actions we can make these parks accessible to all people and create new ones for the future while securing proper funding.  I believe it is possible, do you?

California Trip – June 2016

Wednesday, June 1 & Thursday, June 2

We departed Texas and started the boring part of the drive until nightfall.  I slept most of the way through the state and some of New Mexico.  I started driving at dark and we made our way through Arizona, and Southern California.  Light broke as we were getting to Bakersfield, no real treat there but at least we were in California.  Made our way through the boring parts of Cali – Central and the 5 – and then up towards the Golden Gate via a nice state road through golden hills.  We went through Silicon Valley and crossed the Golden Gate.  We took the 101 up, up and away.  Stopped for lunch in Santa Rosa and drove to Leggett and decided on a whim to go to a “drive through” tree park.  It was evening, it wasn’t busy, and it was our first taste of the trees and tourism of Northern California fort this trip.  Drove through a big redwood, took some pics, had our first encounter with big trees, and hit the road north to Arcata.  We arrived at the Red Roof Inn, a total dump, and checked in to our room.  I had to deal with a crazy man in the lobby, obnoxious smells in the hallway, and a generally worn down and unclean room.  We were exhausted, but hungry so we had to choose a place to eat.  We found a place in Arcata called Crush which featured local brews and food along with entertainment – it was trivia night when we happened upon the place.  With some research, we learned that Arcata passed an ordinance/zoning law allowing only a small portion of all restaurants to be chains – to encourage local growth.  Sleep felt so good after 33 hours in a car – even if the hotel was shit.

 

Friday, June 3

Woke up, hit up the Starbucks (in the neighboring town) and headed north.  We got up to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and stopped for a bit to see if we could see any elk.  We hiked down the Lost Man’s Creek trail for a bit, and continued our drive.  We hiked around the Big Tree and Chandelier trees, and just took a few other short trails.  Spent several hours driving and hiking around, and had lunch at the Harvest Café in Crescent City, CA.  It was a nice, clean place to eat with a variety of items.  We were pleased, and would go back.  After lunch, we loaded up and took off to do a scenic drive.  We found the Howland Hill Road, a narrow dirt road through a redwood grove for about 11 miles.  It was a very scenic, slow-paced, and relaxing little drive – even in a Chevy Cruze.  We wound our way through and eventually followed, then crossed, the Smith River and came out on US 199.  We decided to follow US 199 North and see where it took us.  The scenery along the Smith River was breathtaking, the roads were winding, and the trees were plenty.  The traffic moves quickly, so we turned out a lot as we were in no hurry to get anywhere.  Eventually, we ended up crossing into Oregon and found ourselves in Cave Junction, OR.  I had recently applied for a job there, and knew about the National Monument/Park called Oregon Caves, so we went the 17 miles east to the caves!  We did a cave tour with a nice Park Ranger that had a degree in geology.  Our group was okay, but there were some teenagers trying to prove something with their words.  Overall, the caves were amazing and cold.  It was a nice break and an unexpected destination that will be recommended to all of our friends.  The road up to the caves was a trip, and the scenery just amazing.  We made the trek back to Arcata, got some shitty fast food, and went to bed very early at 9:30.

Saturday, June 4

Another morning and I was up early due to the early bedtime the night before.  I waited a while, eventually woke the partner up,  and we left for the Avenue of Giants.  We found the scenic route and some hiking spots along the way.  We stopped within the first 500 feet of the drive, to check out some trees and groves, and then stopped again at a nice loop known for berry picking later in the season. We managed to go down to the riverside and saw where the locals swam and partied, along the South Fork Eel River.  We then went to the Rockefeller grove and saw the trees.  Sat on a log by the river, listened to the stream flow by, and just took it all in.  We drove out to Ferndale, CA and saw the historic Victorian homes and quaint little town that it is.  We saw a neat cemetery on a hillside, the big park, and took a mountain road for a bit to enjoy some scenery.  We attempted the trek to the Lost Coast, but it was a bit too far and traffic was intense on that little road.  We ended the day with lunch-dinner at Lost Coast Brewing in Eureka, CA.  The beer was okay, all kind of mellow and low alcohol, and the food was tasty.  We went to bed VERY early, nearly 7:30 I think, and have zero regrets about that.

Sunday, June 5

Our intention was to wake up early, but we still managed to lay around for a bit.  Got up, and did leave before 8:00 to head south toward Leggett again.  In Leggett, we can take the California 1 (Shoreline Highway) west and south and follow the Pacific Ocean.  Had a nice jaunt through the mountains to the coast and we stopped at a little park near Fort Bragg.  I could immediately smell the ocean and feel the salty air when we exited the car.  It was amazing.  We go from redwoods to the ocean in minutes.  Soaked it in, got back in the car, and went on our way down the coast.  Plenty of little towns and quite a nice drive if you have the time – which we did – that follows the in and out of the rocky cliffs through groves of trees and cow pastures.  We only saw 3 free range cows near the road, but we did see plenty of other happy cows in fenced areas.  The further south we got on the California 1, the busier it got.  We hit Marin County and it was slammed with people and festivals and congestion.  We made our way down to the Golden Gate via the Point Reyes National Seashore.  We proceeded across and down to Campbell, CA where my friend currently resides.  We checked in to the Campbell Inn, a much nicer and quainter hotel with a nice pool and an excellent breakfast.  We met up with my friend, whom I haven’t seen in eight years, at a place called Orchard City Kitchen.  It’s a high quality, high priced place that I would recommend again – with caution.  I spent a lot of money there, because the food was good and the drinks were strong.  You could get away with a decent bill if you stick to a few things overall.  A bit of an elaborate experience overall, but very fun indeed for meeting old friends and getting a little tipsy.  They have a huge selection of booze – from the fancy to the fanciest to accompany any type of food.  We went back to the hotel, walked that is, and ordered pizza because we’re fat kids.  I regret the pizza, a lot.  To bed we went.

Monday, June 6

I woke up feeling like I was going to die at 3:00 due to all the excess of food, abundance of salt, and probably the alcohol consumption.  I proceeded to toss and turn for another six hours.  We finally got motivated and went to San Francisco around 10.  We went to the Golden Gate, explored the Marin Highlands on the north side of the 101, and then parked in Daly City and took the BART into the lower financial district.  Found some grub at Super Duper – a burger place – and then continued our exploration down to the waterfront.  We explored the market, saw Sur La Table, and wandered through the city streets.  This portion of the trip makes us want to revisit the city – and allocate enough time to enjoy the city.  From here, we took the BART to the car and headed back to Campbell.  We went city streets via Palo Alto, Mountain View, and other rich suburbs.  It was a nice drive, filled with Tesla dealerships and a fun game of spot the Tesla on the road.  We met up with my friend and walked to downtown Campbell for dinner and relaxing.  The town of Campbell is quaint and yuppie, which is perfect for visitors.  We settled on a place called Sushi Confidential for dinner with some ice cream nearby for dessert and some coffee after that.  Overall, it was a nice night to close our trip in California.  We headed back to the hotel, snuggled in and went to bed with intentions of leaving by 6:00 in the morning.

Tuesday, June 7 & Wednesday June 8

Well, 6:00 came and went and we hit the road about 9:00.  We opted to take the route skirting Los Angeles and going through Phoenix and Tucson on the way home instead of the way we came through Flagstaff and Bakersfield.  It was an interesting drive, with car fires in the desert hills and carpool lanes working to our advantage.  My favorite sign was when we hit the desert and it just said “other desert cities” as shown below. We got to Phoenix about sunset, and the rest was a dark history until morning came and we were still only in West Texas.  We made a detour to Granbury, TX to stop by an eye doctor and visit our friend’s new house quickly.  I got to sleep about 4:00 and slept for about 3 hours on top of the naps I took in the car.  Work was happening at 10, regardless if I wanted it to or not.

Happy Earth Day!

Everyday should be earth day – it is in my mind.  There has to be a balance, in life, between the good and evil.  In conservation and preservation, I feel the same concept can be applied.  Not everything done to preserve or showcase the earth is good for the earth, but not doing anything or regulating anything is far more harmful.  Allowing ridiculous projects to take place, without much regulation seems a bit absurd.  There are always ways to strike a balance – to find the happy place to ensure a planet of beauty exists beyond our years.