Trip Start Jun 05, 2010
68Trip End Aug 13, 2010
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We chose to drive through Zion NP on hwy 9. It is a small road but really scenic. At the entrance to the park the ranger sizes up your RV then tells you if you need to pay for an "escort" ($15). (note: actually it's not an escort. They call it that but what you are paying for is for them to block traffic at this narrow tunnel ahead.) I learned of this in advance from talking to other campers and it was no surprise that we would need to pay the fee because of the size of our trailer. I also looked at this road on Google Maps and saw, from the satelite view, that it was going to be a "white knuckler" for a few miles out of the canyon. The road (hwy 9) is under construction and riddled with switch backs for the first 4 miles. The road is beat because of the construction and I drove that stretch at around 15 mph. It was pretty nerve racking in some spots. Believe me. There is no shoulders, and just a straight cliff drop at some of the hairpin turns. The only lane dividers are these orange cones they place out for a center divide. Vonnie says, "Keep to the center and run over the cones if you have to. Just don't drop us over the cliff!" Needles to say, as long as there was no oncoming traffic, I was running over those cones pretty much the whole 4 miles as we climbed the 1000' or more out of the canyon. It gets better. At the 4 mile mark, way above the canyon floor, (really nice views) we reach the entrance of this 1.1 mile long tunnel that cuts through the wall of the canyon, real narrow and built in 1930. A ranger stops us, checks that we paid our $15 and proceeds to radio his partner, at the other end of the tunnel, to hold oncoming traffic to let us pass through. I, jokingly, asked him if he thought we would make it through and he said that if we don't then it would be a real mess and he will lose his job! Since the tunnel is an arch shape he directed me to straddle the center divide all the way through so as not to smash the top corners of the trailer on the ceiling! He assured us that the road was better at the other end and it was. It was about 20 more miles, on the hwy 9, of some really dramatic scenery. Really beautiful. The whole drive to Bryce Canyon only took a couple of hours.
We pulled into Ruby's RV park and they had some dry camping sites available for us for cheap. No hookup sites were available which is no surprise being it's a weekend and Summer time. The dry camping sites are spacious and pretty level with lots of pine trees. Among other things, they have a couple of swimming pools, a hot tub and wi-fi. We hung out that evening and explored and aclimated to the near 7000' elevation. In bed by 11:00 for a chilly nights sleep. I didn't realize it would get down into the low 30's so I never turned on the furnace. Damn!
This morning is Father's Day. We got up, had some coffee and called our Dad's. Vi gave me a really nice card and then they took me to breakfast at the local Lodge. I was anxious to check out Bryce Canyon so we packed up a few things and headed to the shuttle stop. This RV park is only a 1/2 mile from the Bryce Canyon NP entrance. Bryce Canyon has a shuttle that takes you into, and through, the park and that runs every 1/2 hour. We jumped on the shuttle and got off at the visitors center. We talked to the ranger there and decided to hike this one trail that was about a 3 mile loop. (It runs out of Sunset Point, for any of you that have been here before.) It took us about 2-1/2 hours and was pretty awsesome. This place kind of reminded us of a mini Grand Canyon but, with way crazier rock formation. The rock formations (called Hoodoos) almost look fake. The trail we took drops down over the rim of the canyon and you find yourself engulfed in these crazy looking rock towers. They really do look fake. We were snapping pics like mad so I'll let the photos speak for themselves because it's hard to describe.
After we got back to camp, we had a late lunch then drove east out hwy 12, for a ways, to check out the scenery. The hwy 12 winds down into this huge basin and you can get a different perspective of Bryce Canyon from there. I'm going to try to do a hike through this slot canyon down in that valley tomorrow morning so I wanted to stop in at the Grand Staircase visitors center to get some info about that. I guess you have to take this dirt road back in for a few miles to find the trail head. It's kind of off the beaten path but I saw some photos of this place and it looks cool. Hopefully I'll have some pics for you tomorrow.
We plan to peel out of here tomorrow afternoon toward Lake Powell.
Boring notes: We purchased the National Park anual pass for $80 and we're pretty happy about it. It allows the pass holder, plus 3 others, entry into the park. We've learned that, without a pass, it costs between $20 and $30 per vehicle, or around $12 a head if your walking in, to enter a NP. Since we plan on visiting several NP's along our way it will surely pay for itself and it's already close. These guys seem to really have their shit together too. If you own a pass you just flash it and you and family are on a shuttle for free....all through the park, as many times as you want.