Fall is a great time to travel, and the open road is calling our name. We are eager to take the motor home out for a week or so and see how we like it. We took a look in our travel library and decided on a trip to Zion National Park in Utah. Zion is a beautiful place, especially in the fall and although we have been there several times it is still a treat.

We plan to make several stops along the way to relax and enjoy this journey and bond with the motor home. The Bonita Campground, just north of Flagstaff, is the perfect first night stop over. We enjoy this National Forest Campground, there are several pull thru sites, perfect for an overnight stay. It is a nice place to walk Zoe and it doesn’t hurt that it is half price with the Golden Age Card. We remember when it was $7 a night, but like the price of gas, it is a little higher now.

We headed out in the morning and made our way across the Colorado River on the Navajo Bridge at Marble Canyon. The destination is Lee’s Ferry, a new stop for us. I don’t know why we haven’t been here before, it is really beautiful. There are historic buildings still standing and a nature trail that over looks the old steam boat that sank in the river in 1921. The history of the area is interesting, and you can see some of the old trails the settlers and miners used approaching the Colorado River. There weren’t many places to cross the Colorado and this ferry crossing was popular.

Colorado River, Lee’s Ferry

When we are out enjoying this rugged country, we never cease to be amazed at the thought of wagon trains crossing the country and the hardships the people must have endured. Imagine the settlers from Utah spreading out into areas of Arizona only to stumble upon the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon is, well, the grandest, but there are hundreds of other canyons in Utah, equally as daunting to cross with a team of oxen and wagon. I love the historical novels of the era and don’t forget the musical “Paint Your Wagon” with Lee Marvin. I loved that guy, he lived in Tucson for many years.

We enjoyed Lee’s Ferry, the river is lovely there and I can understand why it is a popular fly fishing spot. The campground is located on a rise and the setting sun is beautiful on the cliffs and the river. This was the first time we ever used an automated park and pay system at a park. Seems like a pretty out of the way place for a giant ATM type system but it worked fine.

We took the jeep and drove around the area and headed up past the small town of Marble Canyon and the Vermillion Cliffs, toward the Grand Canyon. When we were at the Birds of Prey Center in Boise, Idaho, we learned about California Condors. These incredible birds can have a wingspan of nine and a half feet and weigh up to twenty-five pounds. The condor almost became extinct in 1987 but the Center has been re-introducing them into California and the Vermillion Cliffs of Arizona.

Vermillion Cliffs

Several years ago we took the camper and ATV up the winding road to the top of cliffs to ride and hike. We found a good camp spot and took off for an afternoon ride on the ATV. We headed over to the cliff area hoping to see a condor, but apparently they were napping. We found a nice shady place to park the ATV and walked toward the cliffs. We didn’t think we were far from the edge but in this canyon country we are accustomed to, what we refer to as a false summit. It was actually another block or so to the edge. That block before the abrupt drop off of the cliffs was a maze of tangled sandstone, sagebrush, pinion trees and cactus. It took us awhile to zig zag our way thru the shallow canyons and water run offs to finally reach the edge. We spent some time sitting on the rocks and enjoying the view over the valley. When we got ready to head back to the ATV we couldn’t locate the darn thing. It was the strangest thing, we searched and searched, trying to identify familiar landscape. Actually it all looked familiar, a problem in this country, we finally started looking for our foot prints in the sandy places on the rocks. It must have taken us an hour to find where we tucked that machine under the trees. That was the only time we ever walked away from the ATV and couldn’t immediately locate it again on the return. We gotta start bringing those bread crumbs.

We drove thru Page, Arizona, remember this is the take off point for the Antelope Canyon tour we took in 2005 . We headed for the Lone Rock Campground on Lake Powell. This is another interesting place where you can select your site, either up on the bluff, overlooking the lake and lone rock, or down on the beach to play in the water. Since we aren’t going to play in the water, and certainly don’t want a wet dog in the motorhome, we opted for the bluff. It was a great place with lots of room for Zoe to take a run, and run she did. Oh, my gosh, we have never seen a dog run so fast or so far. I don’t know what got into her but she was flying over the hills, down in the gullies and up the next hill until we were afraid she was going to run off one of the hills and hurt herself. It was an awesome sight and she loved it.

Horseshoe Bend, Colorado River

We took a side trip to see Horseshoe Bend just outside of Page. Another new spot for us. There is a well traveled dirt path from the parking lot to the Horseshoe overlook. The Colorado River takes an unusual turn in this location, thus the name Horseshoe Bend. There were several boats far below, drifting along the river, the people were waving up at the spectators on the cliffs. There are no railings or fences along the edge, it is just wide open sandstone rock up to the absolute edge of the cliffs. Kind of scary, really.

We stopped at a BLM visitor center that advertised dinosaur displays and they lived up to the billing starting with a great dinosaur sculpture welcoming visitors. Inside they had a huge diorama depicting the different dinosaurs that roamed this area. The docent that day was a fossil hunter and showed us the pictures of the dinosaur bones he found just two miles from the visitor center. The bones he found were from a type of dinosaur that had not been identified in the area previously. He was excited about his find and eager to share his story.

Zoe Waiting for Dad

In an interesting side light, we overheard the docent telling visitors not to count on their GPS for directions in this area of Utah. It just might not be accurate. We thought that was odd until we remembered a couple asking us directions to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon on our little sojourn from Lee’s Ferry. They were using a GPS that directed them up a dirt road to the North Rim. For goodness sakes the road is a paved highway to the North Rim not a little dirt four wheel road! YIKES the GPS failure is good to know!!

In the past, we have driven by the signs for the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park many times, but this time we decided to check it out. The Park has a lovely, recently renovated, campground with about twenty-five spaces. There is a nature walk out on to the dunes, and you can rent ATVs or opt for a guided tour out on the dunes. I’m sure the Europeans who visit this area love the opportunity to rip and tear around the dunes. There weren’t too many people out this day but we could see some  ATVs out there in the distance. The riding area is off to the side of the main viewing area.

Years ago we made a couple of trips out to the sand dunes near Yuma. Monty built a cool sand rail for the two of us and we went out there with other sand rail enthusiasts and rode. The buggy was  built low to the ground and was incredibly fast and agile, we flew across the dunes and circled down into several deep witches eyes, it was breath taking. Right until the moment I threw up in my helmet. Well, what can I say, the ground was going by so fast and the motion of swooping, etc. was more than my tummy could handle. It was grim. There I was with Monty and three other guys trying to be polite while I lost my breakfast, these are dunes, there is nowhere to hide. You know what they say, it’s all fun and games until the puking starts. I don’t think we did much dune riding after that. I decided to stick to exploring on the ATV. These are all great memories, some good some…. not so much.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

We entered Zion through the little town of Springdale. The main road into the park has a long narrow tunnel and RV’s have to request a traffic coordinator to hold traffic because RV’s have to use the center of the tunnel. There is an additional charge for this service and it seems unnecessary if you simply go around. So we came in from the other entrance and it was fine. We were extremely lucky to have snagged a recent cancellation in the park campground so he we had a nice spot. This was the first time we had to actually back the motor home into a camp site. We were a little nervous but Monty nailed it on the first try, just like a pro.

Zion is a beautiful park, when we were here many years ago we hiked quite a bit. At that time there was a serious traffic problem though. In the intervening years they have switched to a shuttle system and it worked great. Just jump on and jump off when you want. We throughly enjoyed it and did some small hikes but no major hiking. We enjoyed the visitor center displays and met an older couple from San Francisco. The fellow was a dentist who graduated from the University of California Dental School where Monty earned his degree. They were real supporters of the school and encouraged Monty to come to reunions, etc. She wanted to know all about RV travel and how we did it, I don’t think they even owned a car, just lived in the City. We love meeting these interesting people.

The Creek Through Zion

We took the opportunity to drive over to Kolob Canyons in the Northwest region of Zion Park. It is a beautiful area similar to Bryce Canyon, with red sandstone spires. Some of the Aspens were turning bright yellow and it made for some beautiful pictures. We enjoyed a couple of trips into Springdale, the small town just outside the park. The fellow who runs one of the rock shops has spent time in Tucson at the Gem and Mineral Show and wanted to talk about restaurants he remembered. We found a small restaurant with a lovely outdoor patio and good food. There are many artsy places along main street, and many had beautiful sculptured whirligigs. Maybe one day Monty will have time to make us one!

Another good trip, the weather was magnificent. Fall is the perfect time to see Zion. Temperatures in the summer are often in the 100’s and snow is not unusual in the winter so it is a popular destination in the Fall.

The motor home is quickly becoming our favorite mode of travel. No trouble with anything and we love the comfort.

Creek in Zion

Beautiful Quakies in Zion

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