Thursday, October 3, 2013

Utah Rocks!

We have visited Utah a number of times in our life together, but we never really got around to visiting any of the National Parks, and Utah has some really great ones!  So, true to my promise to myself to see as many National & State Parks as we can this year, we decided to see as many as we have time to, in Utah.

Coming down from Washington and Idaho, we started at the top of the state and (finely) visited the Great Salt Lake!  We'd been to Salt Lake City before and visited the area around it, but had never gone over to the Salt Lake.  We weren't sure what we would find, as all I had ever heard about it was that it "had a lot of salt".  Big deal.  I was a bit hesitant to actually see it, as many years ago, Jack and I took a drive out to see the Salton Sea in California...and it was awful.  The "lake" was barely one, low, smelly, very windy and all the signs of an idea to build, gone bad.  We could see why; not any place I would ever want to live, no matter how cheap!

So, with that experience in mind, we set out to Antelope Island State Park, where access to the Salt Lake is.  What a wonderful surprise!  The island and the lake were lovely, and big!  The whole island is pretty much the State Park and so, maintained well.  They have a herd of bison along with mule deer, big horn sheep and other various animals that go along with the environment.  All we saw was one bison and a few of the deer.  That was ok since we didn't come for the animals.  The lake was so big you couldn't see the other side, and a beautiful clear blue.  After visiting the Visitor Center and filled with maps and postcards we set out to drive around the lake and walk into the beaches where we could.  The day was lovely and not many visitors, so we had no problems parking.  The beach was made up of fine gravel rocks along with larger rock shards vs sand & shells.  I stuck my toes into the water, just to say that I had, and it was cold, clear and really no (salt) smell.  In the past, there have been efforts to have a fancy hotel along the shore, but repeatedly had problems with fire & flood, so the last attempted building is now only being used as a summer entertainment location.  Beautiful building tho.

Moving down the state, we ventured on to Zion.  We took two full days to see the Park.  They only allow their shuttle bus inside the scenic drive, but one comes about every 5-10 minutes, so it was fine.  The "spots" were great and allowed you to see the general cliffs and canyons, which were beautiful, of course.  But, the images that we've all seen, with the swirling rocks of the slot canyons, well, that you have to hike to.  Not just a little hike, no, hikes that were 10, 15, etc miles.  Sorry, to much for us, so no "cool slot pictures".  Darn, that was disappointing.  Weather was beautiful, clear and not to hot (as long as we brought plenty of water!).  We had been forewarned to bring our own water bottles, as they don't sell them in the park, but have "water stations" to refill yours at almost every stop.  Zion's Mount Carmel Highway route (on your own) was the best, we thought.  This area of the Park offered more water features, bridges, small hikes and even better scenery, we thought.  We took a full day to really enjoy this side of the Park, stopping and enjoying each of the pull-outs, hence my 125 pictures!

From Zion, it was on to Bryce.  We had viewed some of Bryce's Hoodoos from driving past it and doing a short stop at Cedar Breaks, but hadn't made it to the "inside" yet.  As all the pictures out there show, it's full of fun Hoodoos and sculpted cliffs and canyons.  As with Zion, the colors of reds, yellows, oranges never stop to awe you.  As with the others, we started at the Visitor Center and loaded up.  It's a self-driving option, which we chose, and a one way in/one way out 18 mile scenic drive.  The drive is along the edge of the Park, which is all along the east side, so you basically drive through without really stopping, then when you reach the end, you turn around and visit all the pull-outs along the way out!  Even though you don't do much walking through the Park, looking at or down on all the Hoodoos, canyons & cliffs, I think I liked it better than Zion.  It just boggles the mind & imagination how each one is different and fascinating!  Beautiful.

From Bryce we continued to travel south & east to Capitol Reef.  Capitol Reef is less known than the other two, but we found it was well worth the trip!  Like the other two, it has the same colored rocks, cliffs & canyons, but with the addition of purple, green & gray.  This Park is focused on a waterpocket fold, but it's so much more than that.  We saw some of the most unusual shapes & color combinations that we've ever seen.  There is a small scenic drive area that's part of the Park, but we continued on "out the other end" before turning around and coming back, affording us some additional sights.  Additionally, they have some historic houses and barns from the early Mormons, including one that they have added a bakery to that made a great afternoon snack-stop for a small pie or ice cream, yum!  

I had hoped to finish off the NP "tour" with Arches, but it's not going to work out on this trip, which is ok, because that gives us a reason to come back!  Utah has been a wonderful state to explore with lots of great sights that are so very different than any other state's.  We came into the state after Labor Day, so the crowds have been less and the weather has been pretty great over all (somewhat hot at the beginning and brrr cold at the end). 
We will be leaving the state with a short visit with some long-time friends that live in Parowan, which is the best way to end the journey!

Salt Lake, Antelope Island Utah
Marie at Salt Lake, Angelope Island Utah
Looking at Antelope Island, Salt Lake, Utah
Jack & Marie at Weeping Rock, Zion National Park, Utah
Court of the Patriarchs, Zion National Park, Utah

Mount Carmel Highway, Zion National Park, Utah
Bryce Point (Elev 8300), Bryce Canyon NP, Utah
Bryce Point (Elev 8300), Bryce Canyon NP, Utah

Natural Bridge (Elev 8627), Bryce Canyon NP, Utah
Petroglyphs Capitol Gorge, Capitol Reef NP, Utah
Chinle Formation (Monitor Butte, Petrified Forest, & Owl Rock top), Capitol Reef NP, Utah
Wingate Sandstone capping, Capitol Reef NP, Utah

...kicking back in Utah,  Marie

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