12.10.2012 - 22.10.2012
Way back a year ago we were thinking about where we wanted to go for our vacation in 2012. We knew we were going to visit someplace in America with a lot of natural beauty and we narrowed it down to Colorado and Utah. Utah won out because of its dominance in western movies, which Dave has seen quite a few of. He really wanted to see the red mountains and rocks of this area and after a quick Google image search of Utah I was sold. So away I went with the planning. This vacation was a little different for us because we did not go it alone as we normally do. We asked Dave's brother Jim and his wife/my friend Danielle to come along with us on this little adventure, and they accepted. It was a lot of fun sharing the experience with them.
Our gateway to Utah was Las Vegas, which is closer to the National Parks in Utah than Salt Lake City. It was fun to have a night in Vegas before heading off to so much nature. Although with the 3 hour time difference, it was hard not to want to go to bed at 7 o'clock, but I think we managed to stay up until at least 10. We ate at this place called Holstein's which came highly recommended and it didn't disappoint.
The next day we were off to Arches National Park in Utah. Danielle and I were excited when we saw some sister-wives at a gas station. I'm talking full prairie dresses with long hair in braids. I'm sure we saw Mormons everywhere, since we were in Utah, but it was kind of unexpected to see women in those dresses with that hair! Unfortunately, we don't have any photos for proof.
At Arches we stayed at this place called Red Cliffs Lodge which was about 15 miles from the town of Moab and Arches National Park. In our backyard was the Colorado River and these amazing red mountains.
At the Red Cliffs Lodge we shared a 2 bedroom cabin with Jim & Danielle. This is Jim and me behind the cabin next to the river.
Red mountain by our lodge.
Driving into Arches National Park makes you feel like you are on Mars. The formations, stone structures, and color are so unusual looking. The first arch we saw was the Delicate Arch and to see it up close you have to hike about 2 miles up. I think October might be the perfect time to visit Utah as we had the most perfect weather the entire time and perfect for hiking. The whole time we had clear blue skies with warm but not hot weather during the day and cool and sometimes cold weather at night.
Dave in front of some amazing scenery at Arches Canyon.
Here is a photo of Delicate Arch. There are some steep drop offs around Delicate Arch so it amazed me how many people brought their small children up there. One thing that is clear at these national parks is that it isn't Disney World, they are potentially dangerous. You can really get hurt or worse if you are not careful. There aren't handrails everywhere and you are truly responsible for your own safety.
Dave and me in front of Delicate Arch.
This is Dave and me under the arch. If this photo was a closeup you could see how uncomfortable we were. Both of us have some fear of height issues and there is a big drop off behind and in front of us.
More photos of Arches Canyon.
My favorite, Windows Arch
Balanced Rock. Look how blue the sky is!!! The sky was like this for our entire vacation!
Really cool photo of Balanced Rock that Dave took.
Everybody was ready to go home at about 4 except for me and I forced everyone into staying 2 more hours because I REALLY wanted to see the sunset because I had heard how beautiful it was. I think they all have forgiven me for my demanding ways.
Here is what the Devil's playground looks like at sunset.
And here is what the Delicate Arch looks like at sunset from the viewing area far away.
Danielle celebrated her birthday while we were at Arches. We all went out to dinner at the Red Cliffs Lodge to celebrate. Ahhhh, isn't this sweet!
This is the kind of scenery you would see just driving down the highway in Utah.
This photo is at a viewing point off the road while driving from Arches to Zion. My necklace came up and hit me right on the front tooth in this photo. I thought it chipped it for a moment but it didn't.
The gas stations along the way can sometimes be quite the experience. Case in point, this one has a few mounted heads for your viewing enjoyment.
Now on to Zion National Park. It was about a 5 hour drive from Arches to Zion but the drive like all drives in Utah was beautiful with rocks, hills, and mountains all around.
Driving into Zion National Park is breathtaking. I like Arches National Park but I love Zion. You drive through this mile long tunnel and on the other side are these incredible red cliffs and rocks everywhere you look. We stayed at this great hotel called The Desert Pearl Inn and if you ever go to Zion this is the place to stay. It is reasonably priced with huge rooms and windows so you can really take in the environment. It is also super close to the entrance of Zion Park.
A beautiful red rock at sunset at Zion. This was taken from the restaurant where we were eating dinner.
Another red rock photo at sunset at Zion.
Here's the whole gang in front of Zion National Park.
All of us hiked to Scout's Lookout on the Angel's Landing hike at Zion National Park. Angel's Landing is a very popular hike where the last half mile is terrifying if you are not afraid of heights and paralyzing if you are. Dave and I had decided ahead of time that we were only going to hike to Scout's Lookout which is the area right before it gets really scary. The last half mile of the Angel's Landing hike involves very narrow paths with drop offs on both sides as well as chains in areas that you have to hold on to because the trail is so narrow. Thousand's of people do this hike every year. I saw a couple with toddlers in those kid backpack things doing this portion! There is a sign at the beginning of this area that states how many people have died (fell off) just to make sure you know what you are getting into. Both Jim & Danielle were brave and hiked a bit into this portion. Jim saw the step of no return which according to him was so narrow that he couldn't believe anyone would keep going.
Here's me at Scout's Lookout on the Angel's Landing Trail.
Views from the Angel's Landing Trail.
The next day I decided to do a long hike up to Observation Point. This is one of the highest places in the park and the hike is 8 miles round trip. The views at Observation Point were breathtaking. The trail was well marked and easy to follow but there were some points at the top that were frightening due to how high up and exposed the trail was. The drops were over 1000 feet and although the trails were wide enough, I'm moderately afraid of heights so it was a challenge. One of the most challenging things I have ever done to be honest. I made it up and down by going slowly and giving myself positive reinforcements along the way. This wasn't a dangerous hike or anything and people don't fall of it like they do Angel's Landing but it is still a challenge if you are afraid of heights at all. It was worth it and I'm feel extremely proud of myself for accomplishing it.
Here are some of the views along the Observation Point Hike...
Me at the summit of Observation Point at 6508 feet. I could see the whole park from up here! This hike has an elevation gain of over 2100 feet in 4 miles, (which is a lot).
More views from the summit of Observation Point.
All along the Observation Point Hike were amazing views. Here are some of them.
The next day we drove the 2 hours to Bryce Canyon. This place truly looked like something from an alien planet. All of us hiked down into the canyon and back out.
Photos of Bryce Canyon.
Jim & Danielle hiking in Bryce Canyon.
The next day we were off to our final destination and grand daddy of national parks, the Grand Canyon. What can you say about the Grand Canyon? It is spectacular, overwhelming visually and impossible to fully appreciate. One thing I didn't think about was the altitude. We went to the South Rim which is about a mile high. As soon as we got out of the car I started feeling light headed and had a headache. I started drinking tons of water and taking advil which I read helps and the next day I felt a lot better. Dave, Jim & I walked part of the Rim Trail to take in the views, which were amazing.
Dave at the Grand Canyon National Park sign.
More Photos of the Grand Canyon.
Thank goodness for handrails! It is a loooong way down.
After the Grand Canyon we headed back to Las Vegas for a night before heading home the next day. Dave does not gamble which is good but I love to but hate to lose money so I don't gamble much. I did play roulette and blackjack which was fun and played for quite awhile on $20 before losing it all. There were no big winners amongst us although Danielle and I did see a girl win $325 on an electronic roulette board by betting her brother's favorite number, 28. But, that was as close as we came to anybody winning anything.
Celebrating a great trip at 9 Fine Irishmen in the New York New York hotel.
Till next time!