Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Cities, like people, have personalities. A few are interesting, some unappealing, but most seem intent on being lost in the crowd. That was fine with me as I generally avoid cities when traveling, but there were two that I wanted to introduce my kids to. One was the flawed San Francisco and the other was the equally, although differently, flawed Las Vegas.
The temperature dropped to around freezing the night we stayed in Cedar Breaks, but we would never have known it inside our little camper. Even without a heater (another build item put off until later) we were cozy. Multiple warm bodies have an effect.
On a final walk around the campground while waiting for the sun I noticed a patch dandelions that I could drop a kid or two in for a photo. For the most part, though, the scenery was poor here as many of the Engleman Spruce Trees were logs on the ground or dieing where they stood. The culprit, as it turned out, was the Spruce Bark Beetle. It's a disappointment to have missed the Spruce forest as it will eventually be replaced by forests of Quaking Aspens and pines.
The night before we worked on the Cedar Breaks Junior Ranger books as a family. We wanted the kids to earn their badges, but a visit to the visitors center was required first. The books had to be checked and our little Junior Rangers had to be quizzed. Badges aren't just given away.
Once we were packed and ready to go we visited the visitors center. Getting in wasn't easy, though. We had to pass through a gauntlet of Ford Model Ts. There were half a dozen already parked and another half dozen in the midst of doing the same. Trey, being a lover of all things antique, was in heaven. Admittedly I was as well. First things being first though, we quickly made our way to the visitors center. I browsed their wares looking for items with reduced prices but found none. I did, however, snap a final pic of the amphitheater of hoodoos from the viewing window. Then behind me Elise nearly broke a coffee mug. She gave it a nasty chip so it appeared that we had something to purchase after all. While at the counter after receiving the badges we set the chipped mug on the counter. The chip caught the attention of the clerk and he gave us a "Do you want this one?" look. We explained what had happened after which he slipped the mug under his counter. Nice!
Back at the parking lot the Model Ts had multiplied. There must have been thirty of them at that point. Apparently the genesis of all this commotion was a gathering that had let out the day before. Most were fully restored and looked beautiful. One in particular, though, was not and appeared to be kept in a perpetual used state. It was my favorite as it looked more authentic to me. Trey was unable to pick a favorite. We milled around a while longer listening to them run. They sounded a bit like a Ford 8N tractor I used on my grandfather's farm. Still more Ts were arriving, drivers and passengers bundled in blankets. We realized parking was getting scarce and took it as a sign to get moving. On the way down the mountain we passed a handful more T's chugging their way up. It was a good start to the day.
As we descended the mountain we stopped at a couple of pull outs, one to check out a creek we had been shadowing and another to let the brakes cool. We stopped while in Cedar City Utah for lunch at a Mikky D's. Food, a play place with playmates and air conditioning was hard to resist.
Our next stop was Zion National Park. We took I-15 S., the first interstate we had been on in eight days, from Cedar City. We immediately missed our preferred smaller, slower roads. It wasn't long, though, before we were near Zion. We parked a little outside the park as the roads within the park were closed to private traffic in the summer. They open the roads to private use again in the winter. The buses they provide are free and clean, although not air conditioned. A/C would have been nice in the 100 plus degrees, but we were comfortable once the bus was under way. Comfort never entered the kids' minds. They were in a BUS!
Once near the gate we left our bus behind and entered the park. Ian was beside himself, but to his relief we were soon climbing the steps of another bus. This was one of the many buses the park used within the park itself. At anytime we could hop off, check things out, then catch the next bus. They all run the same circle. Along the way the bus played a running commentary of the sights. It was nice, although I never discerned how they kept it in sync with the view outside the window. On another bus the commentary was done by the driver and was more entertaining.
Zion is a beautiful valley carved by a small river. It benefited from a land slide in it's past that created a lake. Sediment built up at the bottom of the stilled water, and once the lake had drained, the sediment had created large fertile flat areas on the valley floor.
We eventually made our way to the "end" of the road where the buses turned around and made their way back to the entry gate. One of the things I wanted to look for was a log. Yea, a log. On my only other visit to Zion around 12 years ago I took a picture of a tree that had been recently felled by a beaver. At the time the tell tale wood chips were were scattered around the stump. Would it still be there? It was. I saw no beaver sign beyond the one log so I guess the park deemed the critter unacceptable as it's activities don't conform to their goal of keeping the park in a form of unnatural stasis.
The path we were on took us to a wading area in the river. The kids did their thing. I wanted to join them but my foot was still healing from the nail I had stepped on the night we left home. Also, I had worn my sneakers to protect that foot from the walking and having to don them with wet feet didn't appeal to me. I settled for picture taking.
One spot of interest was a European couple who were sunning themselves on a large rock. I say European because American women aren't prone to sunning themselves topless...unfortunately. Sorry,no pics. My distraction irritated Kat. Go figure. ;)
The children continued wading in the river, Kat guiding them upstream , away from the sun bathers. We joined another family with their own young waders and caught a "rock bug" before catching a bus and riding back to the van.
On another, later, visit we hope to explore the canyon a little deeper. Kat and I wouldn't trade the company of our children, but they tend to diminish the spectrum of possibilities. We watched a lot of hikers as we strolled along the river bank and rode the buses. We watched them return from trails we would never enjoy ourselves. Of course, some of the hikers were posers, hikers in clothing only. Others, though, were sweaty, had mud around their soles, and appeared happily exhausted. We envied them, but we suspect when our turn comes to exercise that kind of freedom we will only want to retrace the trip we had with our children in what would, then, be our youth. It's hard to exceed the joy of just sitting and watching our children explore a river in Zion with Europeans frolicking in the back ground.
We hit the interstate and began the final leg of the day's drive. It took us past some interesting architecture that so blended with the scenery that, from a distance, the neighborhood was lost to the landscape. And we continued through some of the most rugged landscape I've seen an interstate pushed through. It was during this part of the drive we began to see Joshua Trees. One of my goals on the trip was to visit Joshua Tree National Park for the trees it was named after.OK , U2 had an influence on that desire too. But, Joshua Tree was a long way out of our way and after seeing the trees on our way into Las Vegas the visit to Joshua Tree National Park seemed unnecessary. Thus, the Joshua Tree was scrubbed from our itinerary.
That left us with more time in Las Vegas, and as far as the children were concerned our visit in Vegas began with a drive down the strip. The sun was setting and the traffic heavy.
I was nervous navigating the unfamiliar city roads with our home in tow. The spectacle of Vegas had its impact on the children. Unfortunately the few pics we took were poor. I was hoping to post a couple of pics of Vegas as the city is a little known jewel. ;) Oh well, we managed to get a snippet of video.
With the children introduced to Vegas we left for a campground north-west of the city in the Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest. Once again we arrived in a mountainous campground in darkness. The site we chose was a pull through and convenient to drive into in the dark but it was not level and beyond our camper's ability to correct. We slept with our feet high that night.
Posted by polifrog at 10/20/2009 10:21:00 PM