Southwest Spring 2018 Road Trip (22 May to 7 June 2018)
“Tomorrow is a good day to do everything”
I signed up to do the Bryce Canyon 100 mile run in early 2018, along with my friend Roger. Since the run was at high elevation (7000 to 9500 feet), I wanted to go down to the Southwest early to acclimate to high elevation, sunny days and cold nights. Brenda was the only one of my friends crazy enough to want to do this. They did some initial planning in March, but decided they would be flexible and would try to explore places they hadn’t seen going to and from the Southwest.
The theme of the trip came from an Andy Griffith show where Opie says: “Tomorrow is a good day to do everything.” This proved true from the start of the trip which was delayed by a day so I could get a temporary crown installed on a tooth that broke that weekend. We packed up Brenda’s new Subaru on 21 May and set out on the road the morning of 22 May. Brenda was the driver for the whole trip; John was the navigator. With one or two exceptions that worked out well. Brenda’s Subaru was a great road trip vehicle and she is now a master of all the new electronic systems – they worked well.
Our first stop was the Whitman Mission National Historic Site, just outside of Walla Walla, Washington. After a picnic lunch, we climbed up the hill to view the grave site of the missionaries who were massacred here. The view was spectacular. We thought a bit about what life must have been like here in the 1840s.
We camped the first night at Minam State Recreation Area campground, along the Wallowa River in northeast Oregon. It was a pleasant site and we enjoyed walking along the river and seeing some wildflowers. We slept out in cots most of the night, except for a brief thunderstorm interruption. In the morning, I fired up the JetBoil stove for several cups of coffee… we did this every day. After all, we don’t have a problem with coffee; we just have a problem without it.
Minam State Recreation Area and Wallowa River
We drove down along the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway into Elgin, Oregon. We had a nice breakfast at the Cowboys and Angels restaurant. We continued down to La Grande for a brief resupply. We talked to the local high school cross country coach who recommended visiting the Mt. Emily Recreation Area trails just outside of town. We headed southeast on Interstate 84 and after just a couple of miles, CRACK – a rock smashed into the windshield. It immediately started to crack. Luckily, the crack never crossed into the driver’s field of view.
Originally, we planned on visiting Craters of the Moon National Monument in central Idaho. We called ahead and asked about the weather. The ranger said 70% chance of thunderstorms that night. Uh oh, neither of us are fans of thunderstorms. We looked at some other possible sites in southern Idaho, it was even worse. So, time for some quick replanning; we decided to drive into Salt Lake City a day early. Brenda put the pedal to the medal, we cranked up some tunes on the CD player and I got on the phone to change our reservations at the Salt Lake City bed and breakfast. (By the way, that was the only planned reservation the entire trip). We arrived at the Ellerbeck Mansion B&B about 8 PM, where we met our hosts Tara and Scott. We found our rooms and then got in a nice walk of Temple Square, the Utah State capitol and Memory Grove Park, returning after dark.
Salt Lake City Evening Walk to State Capitol
In the morning, I got in a nice 5 mile run around downtown Salt Lake City; it’s quite peaceful at dawn. We had a great breakfast at the Ellerbeck B&B, and then packed up for the Grand Canyon area. After breakfast, we had another nice walk around the old section of Salt Lake City.
Morning walk around Salt Lake City
On Wednesday 24 May, we left Salt Lake City in the late morning so that we could avoid the traffic mess around this hectic metropolitan area. We drove on Interstate 15 for about 200 miles and then cut over to Highway 89 via Highway 20. On the way down, we decided that we’d do a Grand Canyon Rim to Rim hike, so we booked the Trans Canyon shuttle to get us back from the South Rim to the North Rim the following Monday. Brenda has become the master of the cruise control; her new nickname is Flicker Finger. We proceeded south until we reached Kanab, Utah where we stopped for a nice Mexican meal (and some Polygamy Porter) at Nedra’s Too restaurant, an old favorite of ours. We then headed towards the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
We drove out to the East Rim viewpoint of the Kaibab National Forest, along the Arizona Trail where we set up camp. This location was about 8 miles from the Grand Canyon National Park entrance. John had camped here previously. Our location was along the rim and about 0.4 miles roundtrip from the car and bathroom. We slept out on cots; it was cold and windy but very beautiful. There was no one else camped here. We kept our camp set up in this area for 5 nights.
We woke up early (and cold) on Friday 25 May. We decided that it was to be a no driving day so we explored the Arizona trail. We just had a mellow day hiking and relaxing while also getting used to life at 8900 feet elevation. Saw lots of flowers, deer and a Greater Short-horned Lizard.
Sunrise and Sunset on our East Rim camp
On Saturday 26 May, we headed over to the North Rim area. Along the way in, we saw a bison herd in the meadow. We parked at the campground store and then walked the Transept Trail over to the lodge for breakfast.
Hiking the Transept trail beats driving
American Bison in Grand Canyon meadow
Afterwards, we hiked back and then spent several hours hanging out at the porch of the store while John organized his gear for the upcoming race. We met Gunter from Austria, who was quite an adventurer. He once rode a bike from Tibet to Austria; he was also going rim to rim the same day as us. We talked to a couple of bicyclists, Bill and his wife from Tucson. They were in their early 70s and gave us some tips about staying fit. Bill recommends Elete Electrolyte Drops and Vitacost ROOT2 BioCell Collagen Hyaluronic Acid for joint health.
After another walk of the Transept trail, we came back to the campground and met a nice couple from Russia who we traveling the world in their car. John was able to use a bit of his rusty Russian to say hello. They had many adventures as they traveled through Iran, Pakistan, Australia and lots of other places. They were heading south to Mexico.
Here is their YouTube channel Mirvmeste (It’s in Russian) https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmEgTvZv_JE7rFAt82dU2Wg
New friends from Russia, they are world travelers
On Sunday morning 28 May, we were up very early for our rim to rim hike. We drove in to the North Kaibab trail head about 4 AM to get a good parking space. On the way in, the temperature was about 25 degrees. We arrived at the trail head, had coffee and breakfast and took a little rest. We left around 7 AM and head down the familiar North Kaibab trail. We stopped at Coconino Overlook, Redwall Bridge, and Roaring Springs for a while. We made a longer stop at the Manzanita rest area where we met a three generation hiker family from Georgia (72 year old grandfather, father, and 17 year old grandson.) The grandfather told us he hikes Rim to Rim, takes a 3 day break at a lodge and then hikes back Rim to Rim. While we were talking a rock squirrel almost chewed a hole in my pack to get at our peanut butter!
Coconino Overlook, on our way rim to rim
Kaibab Agave Agave utahensis ssp. kaibabensis a favorite plant of mine
Brenda at Roaring Springs junction
We continued journeying toward the Colorado River. We took a several hour siesta at Cottonwood campground, where we found some nice shade from the 92 degree afternoon heat. We had a great conversation with four young people from India who were in the US studying computer science. They were very interested to hear Brenda’s impressions of traveling around India. We were fascinated to hear their opinions of the USA. We also met some young Americans from the Midwest. They were pretty surprised to hear that we were doing a one day rim to rim hike. While we rested, we both consumed quite a bit of electrolytes. We used the Tailwind and Nuun brands of electrolytes on this hike.
Desert Spiny Lizard Sceloporus magister
We left Cottonwood about 5 PM and sauntered down to Phantom Ranch. It was hot, but tolerable. It was us and lots of lizards on the trail. We made it down to Phantom Ranch just after dark. While fine dining was happening at the restaurant, we had a feast of peanut butter sandwiches – we even gave one away to a fellow hungry hiker. We fired up the stove and had some hot coffee and cocoa. We rested a bit and left Phantom about 10 PM, using John’s bright headlamps. We encountered a couple of ring tail cats and a weird hiker; we sent him the opposite direction from us. We crossed the silver bridge and walked along the moonlit Colorado River. We started upward and had a nice rest as we climbed out of the basement layer of rock.
Our night time route finding went fairly well with one exception. We hit an area of high grass or reeds in the area of Pipe Creek. We lost the trail for a few minutes and had to scout around to regain it; more excitement than we cared for at 2 AM! Having a paper map and a GPS helped. We reached Indian Garden about 3 AM and had a nice long rest along with some food and electrolytes. It was about 60 degrees here. The entire walk out we never had to add extra layers. We left Indian Garden about 4 AM and walked the rest of the way up the South Rim, with 15 minute rest breaks at 3 Mile and 1.5 Mile rest houses. We reached the South Rim about 7 AM
View from South Rim Looking back to North Rim
As always, it’s a little disconcerting to walk out of the canyon into the crowds. We headed to the Bright Angel Lodge to cleanup and have breakfast, which was delicious (and reasonably priced). We walked over to the Backcountry Office to ask the rangers a few questions and then rode the shuttle around the South Rim complex (Grand Canyon Land). We rejuvenated ourselves with some large ice cream cones and then made our way over to Bright Angel Lodge to wait for the Trans Canyon Shuttle back to North Rim. I did some napping on the 4.5 hour shuttle ride, having been awake for about 36 hours… perhaps with a little shut eye during rest breaks. We got back to our East Rim camp in the early evening, tired but happy.
On Tuesday 29 May, we broke camp at East Rim. While packing up, we met a mountain bike camper who was heading out for a couple of days along the Arizona Trail, this looked like a nice adventure. We headed back in to the North Rim for breakfast. On the way in and out of the park, we saw the bison herd, this time there were some newborn bison calves.
Baby bison calves, Grand Canyon meadow
We left Grand Canyon behind and headed towards Kanab, Utah. On the way, we stopped for several hours at the Jacob Lake Trading Post. We had quite a long conversation about sand paintings, Navajo rugs and creation myths with John Rich Jr. We wanted to go to John’s lecture that night but we were pretty tired when we got to Kanab.
Hand woven rugs, Jacob Lake Trading Post, Arizona
We stayed two days at the Purple Sage Inn, which was a hospitable bed and breakfast just one block from downtown Kanab. We had a nice dinner at Nedra’s Too restaurant and then had a walkabout through Kanab.
Purple Sage Inn Kanab, Utah and book shopping at the Thrift store
On Wednesday morning 30 May, we started with an hour long breakfast feet at the Purple Sage Inn. We spent the morning walking through downtown Kanab. One highlight was the Thrift store, we spent several hours shopping and talking to some interesting local people. I bought four interesting books for $7. We had a pleasant afternoon napping and hanging out on the back porch of our inn. Tory gave us some great insights into mountain lion behavior. We had an excellent dinner at Wild Thyme restaurant and then a nice long walk around Kanab, including a visit to the local library. That evening, we had a wide ranging conversation at our bed and breakfast with Cathy, Tory, John and Lavonne about politics, religion, travel to China, hunting, and hiking. The think I remember most came from Cathy: “Hands that help are holier than lips that pray.” While we all came at our conversation from different approaches, it was a pleasure to have an intelligent exchange of views.
Relaxing day exploring Kanab, Utah
On Thursday, we had another great breakfast at the Purple Sage Inn. We got an interesting view of immigration from Manny, a Korean- American who spent a lot of his childhood in Mexico. His view towards immigration was very conservative: “Stand in line.” We spent an hour after breakfast on some last explorations of Kanab. We visited the Best Friends Animal Shelter downtown info storefront. In a future trip, we both thought visiting the large Best Friends complex just outside of town would be worthwhile. We headed north to Hatch, Utah in the early afternoon. A few miles outside of Hatch was Proctor Canyon, the starting point of the Bryce Canyon 100. We set up our dusty camp and then met Roger and Linda, who had flown down from Seattle. We attended the pre-race meeting and went to bed early, anticipating the race start at 5 AM.
On Friday June 1 we were up at 345 AM; time for some coffee and a quick bite to eat and then off to the Bryce Canyon 100 mile race start at 5 AM. There’s a whole separate story about this run. I ran with Roger but his cold caught up with him at Mile 34. I went on to finish 80 miles; it was memorable.
Roger and John running near Bryce Canyon
Mile 80 was the end of the line for me!
Brenda and Linda were able to explore Bryce canyon National Park while Roger and I were out running around. The next morning (Saturday 2 June) I connected up with the gang at Mile 80. We headed up to Bryce Canyon General store and after a shower (I needed to use the handicapped shower) and some salad, ice cream and coffee I started feeling human again. We headed back and packed up our dusty camp at Proctor Canyon. After that, we headed into the Best Western in Cedar City, Utah for a couple of nights. The hot tub was AWESOME!
On Sunday 3 June, we all had a leisurely breakfast at the Best Western (and some of us hit the hot tub). Afterwards, Linda, Roger, Brenda and I got in some short hikes at Cedar Breaks National Monument.
Cedar Breaks National Monument
On Sunday afternoon, we cleaned up our gear and repacked Brenda’s Subaru. We could carry an impressive amount of gear in this car but it sure helped to have it organized. We had a nice dinner at Sizzler, the salad bar was a great deal and we ate copiously. We went for a nice walk after dinner through the Veterans Memorial park and on the trail along the river. The hot tub was a good end to a fun day.
Cedar City trails and Veterans Memorial
After breakfast the next morning, Roger and Linda headed back towards Seattle. Brenda and I spent a few extra hours in Cedar City, which is the home of Southern Utah University. We had some great coffee at the Grind Coffee House. In the early afternoon, we headed up to Great Basin National Park. The driving was on some out of the way roads, we saw quite a bit of open range cattle and some pronghorns. At one point, Brenda was racing a wild turkey! We stopped for nachos and beer at the Great Basin park café and the headed up to the Wheeler Peak campground at 9900 feet. After setting up camp, we hiked to the Bristlecone grove. We also determined that going to the summit of Wheeler Peak (13,060 feet) wasn’t going to be possible for us due to snow (we didn’t bring crampons).
Brenda racing a wild turkey; View of Wheeler Peak from our camp
On Tuesday 5 June, we were greeted at dawn by Wheeler Peak. After some coffee and breakfast, we hiked the Bristlecone and Rock Glacier trail on the upper slope of Wheeler Peak. We climbed up to near 11,000 feet on a sunny morning hike. We spent a little time exploring and did a glissade down a small slope. We had a great time among the bristlecone pines and exploring the upper reaches of Wheeler Peak.
Bristlecone Pine grove and Rock glacier, Wheeler Peak Nevada
We packed up camp and made the fairly short (80 mile) drive to Ely, Nevada. We stayed at the Hotel Nevada – a classic casino hotel. We had a very good Mexican dinner at Juanita and Chava’s Taco Shop. After dinner, we walked about downtown Ely, including a visit to the local library. Downtown Ely seems to be slowly shutting down but there are a couple museums that might be worth seeing on a future trip. We had a free frozen margarita at the hotel bar; they were worth what we paid for them.
On Wednesday morning 6 June, we had a last walk around Ely and then breakfast at the Denny’s restaurant in the Hotel Nevada. We drove north 140 miles on Highway 93 to Wells, Nevada where we explored the town a bit. We had a nice talk with Jessica, the librarian at the county library and walked a bit through town. When you get away from the main road facade, there’s a lot to learn in these small towns. After a nice break in Wells, we headed up to Twin Falls, Idaho.
At Twin Falls, we parked and walked into town across the Perrine Bridge, which spans the Snake River canyon. We watched base jumpers leaping from the bridge to land 470 feet below. After, we had a good Mexican dinner at La Fiesta restaurant, an old favorite. We than made the drive from Twin Falls over to Baker City, Oregon.
In the morning, we explored Baker City. The downtown area is somewhat revitalized. We were both impressed with the beautiful Baker County library; it was our favorite of the trip. We spent some time reading in the quiet room along the river. After some exploring, it was time to head homeward.
Baker County library branch in Baker City, Oregon
Our last stop on the way home was Ellensburg, Washington. We had a late lunch and walked around downtown, looking at some of the art… and visiting the local library.
Art in Ellensburg, Washington
Brenda put the pedal to the metal and we made it back to Seattle around 7 PM. We drove a bit over 2700 miles on our 17 day adventure. We had a great time but it was great to be back home!
|22 May 2018||Leave home||Seattle, Washington|
|22 May 2018||Whitman Mission National Historic Site||Walla Walla, Washington|
|22-23 May 2018||Minam State Recreation Area||Wallowa County, Oregon|
|23 May 2018||Hells Canyon Scenic Byway|
|23 May 2018||Cowboys and Angels restaurant||Elgin, Oregon|
|23 May 2018||La Grande, Oregon|
|23-24 May 2018||Ellerbeck Mansion B&B||Salt Lake City, Utah|
|24 May 2018||Nedra’s Too||Kanab, Utah|
|24-29 May 2018||East Rim Viewpoint camp||Kaibab National Forest, Arizona|
|25 May 2018||Hike Arizona trail||Kaibab National Forest, Arizona|
|26 May 2018||Hike Transept trail twice||Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona|
|27 May 2018||Hike North Kaibab Trail||Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona|
|28 May 2018||Hike Bright Angel Trail up to South Rim||Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona|
|29 May 2018||Jacob Lake trading post||Jacob Lake, Arizona|
|29-31 May 2018||Purple Sage Inn||Kanab, Utah|
|31 May – 2 June||Proctor Canyon camp||Hatch, Utah|
|1– 2 June 2018||Bryce Canyon 100||Hatch, Utah|
|2-4 June 2018||Best Western||Cedar City, Utah|
|3 June 2018||Cedar Breaks hiking||Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah|
|4-5 June 2018||Wheeler Peak campground||Great Basin National Park, Nevada|
|4-5 June 2018||Bristlecone and Rock Glacier trail (twice)||Great Basin National Park, Nevada|
|5-6 June 2018||Hotel Nevada||Ely, Nevada|
|6 June 2018||Explore||Wells, Nevada|
|6 June 2018||Explore||Twin Falls, Idaho|
|6-7 June 2018||Rodeway Inn||Baker City, Nevada|
|7 June 2018||Explore||Ellensburg, Washington|
|7 June 2018||Home|