Grand Canyon Recap

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View from the North Rim

Length of Stay:

  • 2 days, 3 nights

High:

  • Canyon rim mule ride

Low:

  • Horrible parking situation and over-commercialized
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A cool burned tree I saw along my hike

Favorite Hike:

  • Point Imperial trail on the North Rim

Favorite Treat:

  • Hatch chiles: on sandwiches and in guacamole
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One Big Canyon

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“I hope you’re not scared of heights, cuz I’m going to assign you one of our tallest mules.”

“That’s fine. Will I be riding that one over there?”

“No, yours is in a separate corral. She needs to be isolated from the other mules.”

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Me on Cher, the “troublesome” mule

And that’s how my mule riding adventure at the Grand Canyon began (not the most comforting thought to be told you’ll be placing your life in the hands of an ornery animal who has social issues). Yet mule riding and the Grand Canyon go together like peanut butter and jelly, milk and cookies, and other food-related famous duos. How could I not ride on the back of one of these stubborn, sure-footed creatures overlooking one of the most famous canyons in the world?

My ride was fabulous. Cher ended up being a little bit of a handful, but didn’t launch me off the edge, so I was happy. Each turn along the trail brought another view of the canyon’s sheer expansiveness.

The Grand Canyon sure is big!

Zion Recap

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Length of Stay:

  • 3 days, 4 nights

Highs:

  • Unique hikes
  • Scenic drives
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The view from the top of Angel’s Landing hike

Lows:

  • Litter! (Tossing sunflower seeds, nut shells, and food scraps on the ground is rude and unacceptable. Yes, it may be biodegradable, but it’s not native to the desert environment, it’s an eyesore to your fellow hikers, and it will take a long time to decompose) #leavenotrace

Favorite Hike:

  • Angel’s Landing

Favorite Treat:

  • Fry sauce – apparently this is a Utah thing.
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Hanging gardens along the Virgin river

Full Circle

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Last November I visited Zion national park and was completely astounded at what I discovered. My eyes were opened up to a whole other world that existed beyond my day-to-day reality. Looking up at the cliffs, barely acknowledging the below-freezing weather, something inside of me shifted. A blatant desire was born – a passion to see more of the beauty in America hidden in plain sight within our national parks.

Thus, Zion has a special place in my heart. Returning to this park made me realize how far I’ve come on my journey – both geographically and experientially.

Many people see Zion as a sacred place. In fact, early pioneers named various features of the park in such a way as to describe a spiritual awareness. Angel’s Landing, Court of the Patriarchs, Temple, Great White Throne… all of these majestic places are truly awe-inspiring.

Despite the crowds, I enjoyed viewing parts of the park that I didn’t have a chance to during my first visit. The Narrows was an interesting hike. Wading through water along a slender canyon was an enjoyable challenge. It was slow-going; I was extremely cautious not to lose my footing on the slick rocks and plunge into the 49° water. The Museum of Human History was another place in the park that was fun to explore.

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The Narrows

I reveled in the feeling of coming full circle at Zion national park. Looking back at all of the adventures I’ve had fills me with a genuine sense of fulfillment. And now I look, once more, to the future. Ready to engage in more exploits and take on the world… one park at a time.

A Canyon That’s Not Really a Canyon

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Okay, so I know that it’s called Bryce Canyon, but technically it’s the top portion of a long eroded staircase that gradually descends all the way down into the state of Arizona. Natural amphitheaters – large circular hollows in the rock – are filled with strange and fascinating shapes called Hoodoos. The Native Americans tell stories of how these tall skinny spires of rock were once people, transformed by the trickster god due to disobedience. One cannot help but notice the strange, mysterious-like quality of this area. Hiking down into the amphitheater was striking; I felt dwarfed by the mammoth rock pinnacles that cast ominous shadows about me.

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Resting in a sunny spot in the “canyon”

 

From the top, I could only stare. Although it’s rather a small park, Bryce Canyon definitely has a uniqueness to in that draw tourists from all over the world.

And now, here’s a picture of me on an ATV.

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Great Basin Recap

Length of Stay:

  • 3 days, 3 nights
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Autumn in the mountains

Highs:

  • Touring Lehman caves and learning about the underground speakeasy during Prohibition
  • Exploring the ancient bristlecone pine grove (some of these trees are more than 5,000 years old)
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Beautiful in all its ancient grotesqueness…

Lows:

  • Wind storms (poor Clarence was being pelted with flying debris throughout the night)

Favorite Hike:

  • Timber Creek loop
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Making my way up the mountain on the Timber Creek trail

Favorite Treat:

  • Pine nuts! Visitors are allowed to gather pinyon tree pine nuts in the park. What a lovely, nutritious snack, right?
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Contemplating the mysteries of the universe