I have lost my original email about out journey through Utah but will recount some of the adventures we had (it is now 6 years later as I prepare all these old emails for this website).
The Citadel Ruin in Road Canyon must be in one of the amazing locations of any ruin. On a narrow peninsula between the main canyon and a small side canyon, it sits under an overhang of a high knob. With a difficult to find down climb, one walks over a narrow isthmus with an old defensive wall, and then climbs up to the high knob at the end of the peninsula. Commanding views were available from the well-preserved ruin. Hovenweep, with all its rock towers along the rim of the small canyon, is a worthwhile visit. We went to all the different sites of the national monument.
Butler Wash has many ruins and petroglyph panels distributed along the long dirt road that parallels Comb Ridge. The east side of the ridge has a relatively gentle slope but the west side drops precipitously down to Comb Wash. The road was rough and as we ascended a steep bit, the eye bolts connecting the tie downs of the camper to the truck snapped on both sides. We were in danger of losing the entire camper! Campers are simply not made for much more than pavement. Getting to the top of the rise, we were able to drop the camper and drive into Blanding, buy new welded bolts and survive. Sometimes I feel as the trip is more about the camper adventures. We went to the Wolf Man Panel, Progression Panel at the top of Comb Ridge, Monarch Cave (a great ruin), Cold Springs Cave (lots of metates) and Fishmouth Cave over several days.
Moab and the surrounding area is one of my favorite places. We went on several day hikes. Fisher Towers, along the Colorado River east of town, are spectacularly eroded ‘mud’ towers that are a favorite with rock climbers. It is a great hike up through the towers. Negro Bill Canyon is another great day hike through a beautiful canyon with a nice arch at the end. We watched two people throw a rope over both sides of the arch and rappel in tandem from the top. Bowtie Arch, along the river past Potash, is a great hike over slick rock to a Corona/Bowtie Arch. The drive along the river has many petroglyph panels on the vertical cliff beside the road and rock climbers.
Yellow Rock in Cottonwood Wash has colors very similar to Coyote Buttes. This was my third hike here and one I am sure to repeat. Nearby is the Paria/Vermillion Cliffs Primitive Area and, what I believe, is the most beautiful place in the lower 48, Coyote Buttes. This place requires a permit obtained 6 months ahead of time or in lottery held at the Paria Ranger Station the day before. With 43 people in the draw, I got a permit but Barb didn’t, so we went anyway (don’t tell anyone). I have been here many times and know the routine. We did the usual, walked to the Wave and then climbed up onto Top Rock. We brought a harness and Barb appreciated being belayed up the steep bits on the north end of Top Rock. I showed Barb all the secret places – the wind room with it’s fantastic colors and the two arches with views to the east down to the teepees. There are many unusual erosional features and streaks of color coursing through the sandstone. After the down climb at the south end near the Notch, it is a special walk through some different and spectacular white and brown colored rock to the Upper Wave, and then back to Wire Pass and the parking lot.
We had met a fellow wandering around on Top Rock looking for the arches (which are not easy to find), and in exchange for directions, I asked if he knew any great places to go. He told us about a great canyon at Hildale, Utah near Colorado City. It is always a treat to drive through this haven of the polygamists, the huge houses, many partially finished to save taxes with their corrugated metal fences built to avoid the stares of the curious tourists. The grocery store is always interesting as ‘sisters’ dressed in their full gingham dresses buy groceries. Water Canyon near Hildale was nice – flowing water and rock walls. In Zion, we hired a shuttle to take us to Lava Dome for $80 from the parking lot of Angels Landing. Starting in foot deep snow, we walked the 19 miles along the West Rim. Views were stunning down into the right fork of North Creek. Amazingly we met a classmate from medical school on Scouts Landing and made arrangements to visit him in Las Vegas. Angels Landing is justly, the most popular hike in the park, and one never tires of the vertiginous views of the main canyon.
Leaving St George and Utah, we entered Nevada and all its sins. We spent 2 days in Valley of Fire State Park – great mounds of red boulders eroded into fantastic shapes, petroglyphs and the nicest campground we have stayed in. Las Vegas is the fastest growing city in the US with 5000 newcomers each month and a present population of 1.8 million. Downtown, we watched shows on the visatron, a 3 block long moving light show over Fremont Street. Then onto the Strip, the most over the top place in the world. We stayed up till 3:30 AM wandering in and out of all the hotels and casinos. We saw the incredible fountains at Bellagio three times and got lost in Caesar’s Place as it goes on for blocks. All of it is a very expensive place with the minimum Blackjack bet of $10. Food, rooms and everything else is not cheap compared to the old days. We went out to dinner with one of Ron’s medical school classmates who is an anesthetist in LV. To get to his house we had to pass a guardhouse and two locked gates. His 5200 square foot house was on the 18th hole of the Red Rock Country Club. The average retail value of the homes is $2.2 million. They were very gracious hosts.
We hiked for two days at Red Rock Canyon National Preserve – the highlight was Turtlehead Mountain. We then did the Bristlecone Trail at Mt. Charleston – very old trees. The truck had additional springs added. We were getting tired of everybody high-beaming us at night. The new springs raised the back 3 inches. If you ever need spring work in LV, I would highly recommend Skip’s Springs on Hacienda! While the truck was in the shop we toured Mandalay Bay (very expensive), the Luxor (illegally went up the guest elevators – dizzying views over the railing – and then a fun descent in the inside service stairway (urban hiking). The fake King Tut exhibit was not worth it. We then had the lunch buffet at the MGM. Ron felt like the vomiting man in Monty Pythons “Meaning of Life” and couldn’t stuff in one more thin little wafer after it was all over. Leaving Las Vegas, we had to stop at the last casino leaving the state and lose some money at blackjack (Ron not Barb). I will never learn.
In California we planned on seeing as much desert as possible. In Mohave, we climbed Teutonia Peak. The trail goes through the largest Joshua Tree forest in the world and ends up in a fantastic monzonite granite boulder field. That night our next camper adventure befell us – the propane regulator started to leak,a very dangerous explosion hazard. We had to drive almost to Los Angeles before we could find an RV dealer who could fix it. (The name of one lucky winner will be drawn from all the right answers for the question of what would go wrong next. The prize – being mentioned in our next email). Outside of Palm Springs is the largest wind farm we’ve ever seen – thousands of windmills in the valley.
In Joshua Tree National Park, we climbed Eureka Peak, the highest peak in the park at 5518’. A ten mile hike on very sandy trails, the views from the top were commanding with Palm Springs to the south and LA smog to the west. It was hilarious to find a motor home camped 200 yards from the top! The desert is so verdant. Barb now has seeds from almost every plant we passed (please don’t tell on me). As we approached the damned lake at Barker Dam, 6 desert bighorn sheep watched us from high on a rock outcrop. They posed dramatically so Ron could take pictures. In the trailhead parking lot we me the Delaselles, an older couple from Canmore who are KMC members and who Ron has known for many years. We saw lots of rock climbers in Joshua Tree. We were there over the Thanksgiving weekend, the biggest weekend of the year. The crowds were huge and all the campgrounds were full as Joshua Tree is so close to LA. We stayed at a few overlooks. On Monday we did the 9 mile hike to Lost Palm Oasis and Mastodon Peak. The oasis has the largest number of California fan palms in the national park (110). The hike was beautiful and on the way we met 2 couples from Canada (Banff and Ottawa). We love hiking in the desert. There is such a huge variety of plant life with many kinds of low bush (our favorite is cats claw or wait-a-minute tree), cactus and yucca. The monzogranite boulders are everywhere. It was interesting to see the Salton Sea, formed when the Colorado River breached its banks forming the lake.