Saturday, April 26, 2014

Bryce and Red Canyons: Land of Hoodoos

Bryce Canyon National Park was named for Ebenezer Bryce, a cattleman who settled in this part of Utah in 1875.  This majestic place sits atop the Paunsaugunt Plateau and is framed by pine and aspen trees. The lush greenery ends abruptly at the rim of Bryce Canyon though, and there, before your eyes, is an astonishing dramatic 8,000 foot drop into a spectacular, beautiful, enormous, colorful canyon of red projectiles point upward. Those are the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon.
Hoodoos are eroded out of the limestone cliffs where rows of narrow walls form.
The thin walls of rock are called "fins".
When the cliff wall thins to the point where holes can be seen through them, they are called "windows".
As the "windows" grow larger, their tops collapse, leaving a column.
Rain further dissolves the pillars into the spires called "hoodoos".
Having been in the dry for several weeks, we had become weary of dust and very nearly didn't go to Bryce Canyon this trip. We had begun yearning for a place to shake out the dirt, vacuum the coach and wash the car.

But our campground in Glendale was so perfectly situated right there between Zion and Bryce it would not be good judgement to pass it up on this trip. So in the end, we did go to Bryce Canyon and it surely was one of our "good decisions".... with perfect weather, including a luscious blue sky. We spent the whole day and will never regret it.

Lexie, Ozzie and Mom (me). 
Bryce Canyon is cut from layers of limestone, eroded to form the rugged terrain. It took many years of ice and rainwater to create these spindly, pointed rock spires, thin walls and unusual stand-alone hoodoo formations.

Adding to the the interesting shapes is a display of rich natural pink and white limestone that's further stained by minerals that have created an array from light pink and yellow to deep reds and oranges. The sun's light, especially at sunrise and sunset, causes the colors to come to life and almost glow.

Hikers along the canyon trails.
Over 65 miles of hiking trails take visitors close to the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon and overnight back country hikes are not uncommon for those daring enough to try.  My brochure information states that 180 days each year, the temperature swings widely between freezing nights and warm afternoons. Hard to imagine being here on such a beautifully warm day.

So much of what we've seen in the natural wonders out here requires looking upward -- into the high cliffs. Here at Bryce Canyon, the view is downward, into what is called the Amphitheater.

There are at least six overlook locations into Bryce Amphitheater. We stopped at five of them and reached 8,296 feet in elevation at Bryce Point Overlook.

Leaving the high elevations of Bryce Canyon late in the afternoon, we returned down Scenic Byway 12, Utah's first All American Highway (designated in 2002) and stopped for still more stunning views. Hard as it is to imagine, Scenic Highway 12 was not even paved until 1985.

Red Canyon 
Reversing the view, we're now looking upward (not down as in the canyon) at the hoodoos.  This section of the roadway is much less crowded as most people are hurrying directly into Bryce Canyon, not noticing this gorgeous terrain. These views would be considered extraordinary if they were anywhere except here.  There are plenty of pull-outs for photo taking and one can easily walk right into the red rock for close-ups.  I loved being here.

More Red Canyon 

And still more of Red Canyon
But eventually, even Scenic Byway 12 would take us out of Bryce and Red Canyons and we'd return to our Glendale campground to wind up our last night in this beautiful area.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Little Hollywood: Frontier Movie Town in Kanab

The Kanab, Utah area has a long history in the movies beginning in 1924 when "Deadwood Coach" was filmed here.  The day of our Best Friends Animal Sanctuary tour, we stopped in here for a few minutes to take a look around.
Wayne standing in the doorway of a building used in the 1990 film "Desperate Hours"
Starring Mickey Rourke and Anthony Hopkins
Well over 100 movies were filmed around here and a few of the old sets are maintained at this museum that's part of a gift shop in the downtown Kanab area.

A local family, the Parrys, is responsible for Hollywood's interest in southern Utah.  They offered a guide service to visitors and courted the filmmakers until finally, someone listened. Later, the Parry family enlarged their lodge to accommodate the desires of Hollywood stars.

I saw somewhere that the famous director William Wellman was the first to refer to Kanab as Little Hollywood.

Jackie Rife was a stand-in and stuntwoman on many movie sets.
The set museum is set up behind the gift shop and made to look like a western town.
That's Wayne looking into the store window while Lexie and Ozzie stay tucked safely in the stroller. 

Barn used in "The Outlaw Josey Wales"

This is a single level modular unit. It was built here in Kanab, trucked to Paria and used in "The Attic Door".
In the film, the dwelling was two story house. The upper level was just a computer graphic. 
The windmill in the photograph below was used in Kiefer Sutherland's 1996 "Truth or Consequences New Mexico". It was used again in 2007 in "The Attic Door".  A personal note, thanking the owners for allowing the windmill to be used in his movie, is signed by Sutherland. 

The set in the next photo was built in Kanab for use in the Jodie Foster / James Garner Disney film "One Little Indian".  A barn that's currently being used at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, was also in the film. 

From "One Little Indian" 

Though it looks like I'm suspended mid-air, there's a metal seat under me.
The old farming equipment I'm sitting on in the picture above were props in "John Carter of Mars" -- Disney / Pixar movie of 2010. Filming took place all around this area meant to be a "decrepit western town". 
This photo is a backdrop built for a 1990 Kenny Loggins concert video shoot in the Grand Canyon. 
The next few photos are fiberglass structures built for "The Outlaw Josey Wales".

Inside the homestead of Clint Eastwood's "Outlaw Josey Wales" character 
Notice the crossed gunport in the window used in the final shoot-out! 

Wayne tried, without success, to order whiskey at the saloon. 

Lexie and Ozzie noticed a few "shady characters" hanging around.
Inside the "Made In The USA" gift shop, I snapped a picture of these Kachina dolls. They seem to be a popular souvenir item.

As always, the Native American work is beautiful... but too expensive for my accident-prone hands.
While Little Hollywood isn't a true "must see" attraction, it was a fun way to waste a quarter hour and the price was right... FREE.  If you're in the area, it's worth a stop, I think. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

Traveling out of Kanab on the way to our Glendale, Utah campground we had passed a sign bearing the familiar pet face logo of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.

Those who know me know of my passion for homeless, neglected, abused and unwanted animals. I've read and heard about Best Friends but I guess I had forgotten we'd be traveling into the backyard of this group of rescuers. Of course, there would have to be a tour of the facility.

Guest center, gift shop and tour registrations begin here
Wayne and I took Lexie and Ozzie along for an afternoon visit to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary on a ranch known as Angel Canyon. Visitors, volunteers and adopters are welcome here.

Our tour was scheduled for 2 p.m. Because someone ahead of us was touring with a dog, we would follow behind the tour van in our own car with a recording of the tour narration to play on our car system. This arrangement certainly worked in our favor because Lexie and Ozzie are so comfortable riding in our car and do not do well among strangers.  We were pleased

Best Friends is never without at least 1,500 animals in rescue. It is the largest shelter of its kind for domestic and wild animals.  Among the residents are horses, donkeys, pigs, dogs, cats, birds and just about any other homeless animal.  All are safe but need permanent homes so others can be saved.

An enormous plot of land has been set aside at the sanctuary for a pet cemetery and memory center called Angels Rest. Like everything else here, it's all about the animals.

The vast Angel Canyon property has some pretty spectacular scenery. They've been around saving animals for over 30 years.

The huge property of Best Friends contains specific areas with names like Dogtown, Catland, Feathered Friends, Piggy Paradise and Bunny House.

It's a gated community.

Our tour made stops to meet and greet dogs in one of the DogTown quads and then to meet some kitties at Catland.  Wayne went in to see the dogs but stayed in the car at the Catland stop.  
Looks like this guy made friends with these folks already! 

Volunteer on the left, our tour guide on the right.
This sweet setter mix has been adopted and will be shipping out soon.
She tried to play with everybody.

Loading the van for the next stop
Sometime after the April 2007 bust of Michael Vick's Bad Newz Kennels, twenty-two of the most traumatized and difficult dogs were placed in the care of Best Friends. They are referred to as the "Vicktory" dogs. I don't know if any of those dogs are still here but I was glad to know that they were rescued -- so many died it still makes me sick to think of it.

Pit Bulls have one of the toughest roads to travel because of their reputation. 

Welcome to one of the Cat Houses! 

Loved this little white one especially. 
A final thought: Every day, more than 9,000 animals are put to death in America's shelters because they don't have a safe place to call home.  Best Friends is working hard to change that and they need your help. For more information about this group, check 'em out at

Other fine groups are established all across the country too. Please do your part to help if you can.

Zion National Park, Kolob Canyons and Dixie National Forest

For the next few days, we're staying at Bauer's Campground in Glendale, Utah which we think is a pretty good base location for visits to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks. The north rim of the Grand Canyon won't be open until May 15th, we learned recently, so it's uncertain if we'll see it on this leg of our journey. As usual we didn't do any research before we came so everything is a surprise.

9:30 a.m. -- Just down the road from our campground.
The days are warm, but I wouldn't say they are "hot" -- and the nights... well the nights can get downright cold as is evidenced in the photo above.  Sprinklers make ice and it is a beautiful sight against the deep green of the fields here.

Our day trip to Zion National Park will not cover the entire park.  Here's why: From April through October, access to Upper Zion is available by shuttle bus only. Our campground  is too far away to leave the dogs in the coach at the campground and the car would get too hot to leave them in it while we shuttle to and fro. So we will be content to travel (with the dogs) in our car along scenic Zion Park Boulevard and then south to Springdale, Utah. We packed a lunch to eat along the way.

Zion celebrated its 100th year as a national park in 2009. 
Coming from Glendale, we'll be taking the road less traveled of Zion. It's an escape from the crowds.  The east gate of Zion is open all the time and we encountered no traffic backup into the park. 

Part of the Checkerboard Mesa. The horizontal lines, called cross bedding represent windblown sand that built up into sand dunes.  The dunes were then buried by the sand and the grains were "glued" together to become sandstone.
The vertical lines are less common and are actually shallow cracks caused by stress and erosion. 
We passed through two tunnels in Zion National Park. The first, in the picture below, was short and easy. The second, known as the Zion/Mt. Carmel Tunnel, was not an easy ride for me. It's a 1.1 mile stretch that was begun in the late 1920's and completed in 1930. At the time of it's completion, it was the longest tunnel of it's type in the United States.  It was built as part of the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway to create a direct access route to Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon from Zion National Park. 

Along about 1989, a study of the many accidents and near accidents in the tunnel uncovered a not-surprising fact that today's larger vehicles couldn't maneuver the curves while meeting oncoming traffic without high risk of collision.  Solution:  Traffic control and escort through the tunnel for large vehicles.  I would have gone directly into hyperventilation if we'd taken big Endie through it.  

Zion is the oldest and most visited of the national parks in Utah and has some pretty spectacular scenery. The brochure boasts "deep sandstone canyons, striking rock towers and high mesas and plateaus".  My photos below attest to that claim.  

These pictures were taken along the many "switchbacks" on Zion Park Boulevard. Even the roadways are picturesque in shades of red, just like the cliffs we're here to see.

Zion has 5,000 feet of vertical relief, is an endless playground, full of dramatic views and surprises at every turn. 

To our surprise, and dismay, upon reaching the southeastern gate to Zion, we found miles of cars lined up at the entry gate. Without a way to U-turn, we knew we too would be in the great line of visitors to be checked into this gate. We opted to take the large circular route that would lead us through several small towns, into another part of Zion National Park, through Dixie National Forest and back to Glendale.  It was a good decision as we found the best yet to come!

Taking Highway 9 out of Zion there were still plenty of beautiful sights to see. 
Route 9 would take us through Springdale, Rockville, Virgin and LaVerkin and Hurricane before we took I-15  north to Zion Kolob Canyons. 
"Kolob" is from Mormon scripture meaning "residence closest to heaven." 
Zion's Kolob is home to unique finger canyons, soaring cliffs of red Navajo sandstone and deep pocket canyons. The colors were even more intense than those we'd seen in the larger part of Zion National Park. The deep red roads continued here too.

Through the four mile drive into the Canyon we crossed a major fault line which, it is said, is responsible for the creation of the great plateau from which Zion was born. An enormous natural cutaway of the Markagunt Plateau, the spectacular "finger canyons" display the oldest and youngest rocks in Zion, as well as its tallest peak, Horse Ranch Mountain, at 8926' elevation.

Couldn't resist this nice photo op. 
Anasazi, meaning "ancient ones" were the first to inhabit the Kolob Canyon area. It's unknown why they disappeared but the Paiutes next settled here and they still consider this a sacred place.  

Kolob was explored by the Spanish but the Mormon pioneers settled the area in 1852. They harvested timber, raised livestock and prospected here.  In 1937, the Canyons were set aside for protection as a national monument. It was added to Zion National Park in 1956. 

Our route through Zion Kolob traversed a lovely ridge line and we climbed some 1,000 feet to the Timber Creek Overlook. From here, there's an absolutely breathtaking view of the Kolob Terrace. 

There are many hiking trails, some as much as 15 miles, through Kolob Canyon. We could see many of them from our perch along the roadway.  I couldn't help but wish we could take a nice long hike through this beautiful park.

But alas, the tour of Kolob Canyon ended and we returned to I-15 north to Cedar City.

From Cedar City, we took part three of our four part drive back to Glendale. This was Highway 14 through a part of Dixie National Forest, past Navajo Lake and through Duck Creek Village. The grades were severe and there was plenty of snow remaining for us to see. 

A view of  resort town, Duck Creek Village..  
It's near 70 degrees on the plains below us, yet this snow is more than a foot deep. 
We are considering a day trip to Bryce Canyon in the next day or so. Hope you'll come along if we go.