Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Throwing Away The Schedule

A slow, rainy day in Boulder, Colorado and a chance to catch up.  Boulder is the crunchy granola/high tech capitol of the USA, and the hotel has WIFI along with a skylight and a toilet that offers half and full flush.

Death Valley Park Ranger Laura Lynn told us that when she gets time off, she likes to visit Ash Meadows in Nevada.   We had never heard of Ash Meadows, so we went there.

We left Death Valley at sunrise (we saw lots of sunrises on our trip) and drove for over an hour through the desert.  We saw one car the whole time, going the other way.  We knew when we crossed into Nevada:  in the middle of absolutely nothing was a large casino.

Ash Meadows
Crystal Spring at Ash Meadows
Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge is beautiful.  There is a long walk that goes along a stream up to its source, a spring with lots of crystal clear water, and lots of endangered pup fish.   We heard but did not see roadrunners.

Crystal Lake

On our way out of the refuge we came across some road workers who were burying cable.  The flagger stopped us, just to have someone to talk to.  The guest book at the visitor's center showed that we were the first to stop at the refuge in 2 days.

We drove for a few hours until we reached Pahrump.  There is nothing more to say about that place except that it took too long to get out. We took no photos.

Then more peaceful desert, and the highway passed through Las Vegas.  In the 4 years since we last saw this melanoma on the desert it has increased in size dramatically.  Surgery recommended.

Zion National Park.
Now you've seen it.
Sacred Datura.
Now you're seeing things.
We arrived in Springdale, Utah around dinner time, took the free shuttle to Zion National Park (this one was Planned), and then took the free shuttle around the park.  Since we went in after 6PM entrance to the park was free, although that doesn't matter to us, because we have our lifetime passes!

FREE entry to all Federal parks, monuments,
and amusement parks

Emerald Springs
The shuttle gave us a chance to see the cliffs and to pick out something to see.  The next morning we were there (at sunrise, before the park filled up with touri) and walked up to the Middle Emerald Springs.  By the time we walked down the park was crowded, and we had had our fill of tall red cliffs.  

Next morning we started tearing up The Plans for real, although we still headed towards Bryce Canyon for what we thought would be 2 nights.

Kolob Canyon
At the north end of Zion we stopped at the visitor center for Kolob Canyon just because, where we met the wonderful woman who set us off The Plan for good and sent us to places much more beautiful than any in the Name Brand Parks.

We had already decided to skip Arches and Canyonlands in favor of Dinosaur National Monument.  Now the nice lady at the Kolob visitor center told us that Bryce is only worth an hour or so, took out a map and a pink highlighter, and drew a line that brought us along the most beautiful scenery in the west.

She sent us over Utah Route 12.  All of it.

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