Monthly Archives: August 2018

Bryce and Zion

After Switzerland, I told myself that I would stay home and not travel for a while, but when Anne invited me to visit Bryce and Zion, I couldn’t resist. Though I’d been to both of these places, I‘ve been craving a return to red rock country. It was Anne’s first visit to both national parks and my first use of my Senior Parks Pass. Though I’m not quite ready to consider myself a senior, it saved us $30 per park. I’m glad to say that Anne was just as enamored of these colorful parks as I am.

Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017 – Getting to Bryce

We met at the airport and flew to Las Vegas, where we picked up and upgraded (from economy, which should be called sub-compact, to compact) our rental car; I’m the designated driver. It was overcast. We stopped in Mesquite for lunch; I ate my packed salad outside a fast food joint. We overshot the Bryce turnoff and ended up seeing a slice of Cedar Breaks on an alternate route. We got to park in time for a scenic stroll from Sunset to Sunrise Point before the sun set.

From there, it was a 15-20 minute drive to Tropic. We stayed at a place called Bryce Valley Lodging, best described as a collection of cabinettes lined up on a gravel parking lot, reminiscent at drive-in movie theaters (remember those?). We walked across the street to Hustler’s, where I consumed BBQ chicken, sweet potato fries, and soggy vegetables. 

Thursday, Oct 19 – Peep-a-Boo Loop

The sound of rain before dawn caused me to turn off the alarm, there wouldn’t be a sunrise today, at least not a colorful one. Fortunately, the rain didn’t last long, and we were able to do our planned hike (the one I took four years ago with no card in my camera).  The Queens Garden – Peep-a-Boo – Navajo loop is about seven miles; it took us five hours, mostly because we kept stopping to gawk and take pictures of the fantastical hoodoos.

We were tired afterwards, no longer acclimatized to hiking in the 8000-9000’ range (2400-2700 meters), so we found coffee for Anne at the general store, not the lodge as we first guessed. We skipped stopping at vista points and headed back to Tropic for an early dinner at Hustler’s. Afterwards a couple cats followed me around while I photographed sunset; there’s a nice view of the Grand Staircase out back.

Friday, Oct 20 – Bryce Sunrise to Zion Canyon

After convincing one of the cats that it couldn’t stay in our cabin, we drove back into Bryce to view the sunrise from Sunset Point. We stopped at Ruby’s Inn for breakfast after exiting the park, arriving early enough to beat the line. I ate everything I usually avoid: eggs, toast, and bacon. It’s been decades since I’ve ordered bacon!

We headed back east for a few minutes and reentered the park to hike appropriately named Mossy Cave. There were some nice red rocks and a small waterfall.

I skipped stopping at Checkboard Mesa after we entered Zion, regretting it when a herd of Bighorn Sheep walked by.

We found parking shortly before the tunnel and walked along the road to the Canyon Rim trailhead. I’ve done this three-mile hike many times over the years and still enjoy it. I’ve come to associate this trail with lizards, and sure enough I saw one this time too.

A long stretch of highway towards the end of Springdale is currently one-way, due to repaving or something. After a short wait we reached our hotel, where we parked and left if for the rest of the day. There is a free shuttle that runs through town, up to the park entrance. The stop near us, #7, was closed due to the construction so we walked to #6 and then kept on walking all the way to the park. Along the way, we stopped at a market to pick up breakfast and snack food, ate lunch at an outdoor table, and sampled beers at the Zion Canyon Brewing Company, licensed as a restaurant, not a bar. (There are no bars in Springdale). This meant that we could not order alcohol without food, so though not hungry we ordered an appetizer of hummus with veggies, with I promptly consumed. In Utah, draft beer can only be 4% (bottled beers can be stronger). We tried three, purchasing six-ounce samples since free ones aren’t allowed; they ranged from undrinkably bitter to “just right”.

We took the shuttle back to stop #6 and walked to the Quality Inn with a room bigger than our cabin in Tropic. I was too full to join Anne for dinner so she headed out on her own, returning quickly to report that the place across the street was too fancy and expensive; instead she snacked on munchies we’d picked up at the market.

Saturday, Oct 21 – Angels Landing

When we were planning this trip, I asked Anne if she’d be interested in hiking in The Narrows; she said absolutely not. I next suggested Angels Landing, while warning  her of the sheer drop offs. She surprised me and said yes. Both a little nervous after all the hype, we agreed to go and see how far we’d get.

We drove into park, parked at visitors center, and caught an 8:00 shuttle to The Grotto, our trailhead. We crossed the bridge and took the West Rim trail, zig-zagging up the cliff-side. It felt good to be hiking; I was refreshed and even Walter’s 21 wiggles didn’t seem difficult. From Scouts Landing (where Karen and I turned back four years ago) to the top was not as scary as it looked. Chains were installed in all difficult parts and we were early enough that peak crowds hadn’t yet arrived. The up and downhill climbers patiently waited for each other, passing in bunches. (Reminder for next time: avoid weekends). We spent a half hour at the top, which was larger than I expected, and though “only” 5,790 feet (1,760 m) the view is vast. By the time we returned to Scouts Landing for lunch, the stream of hikers arriving was backing up and they were starting to pass each other on the narrower, scary sections.

We considered taking the Riverwalk to the beginning of The Narrows, but were too tired to get off bus. Plus we didn’t want to risk having to stand for the 40-minute ride back to the Visitor Center, as could be the case with later buses. Instead we returned to Brew Pub and ordered a couple pints of Octoberfest, the beer we liked best yesterday. This time we split a salad (mixed greens, apples, cranberries, walnuts, cilantro dressing) – delicious! We walked back into the park to retrieve our car. After a rest and shower, we walked to Jacks Sport Bar for dinner – greasy sandwich and a bitter beer.

Sunday, Oct 22 – Weeping Rock

Anne joined me for sunrise. We again parked at the Visitor Center, this time catching a 7:15 shuttle to Canyon Junction, where we hung out for an hour watching the peaks around us light up. Back on the shuttle, we got off at Zion Lodge where we had breakfast (scrambled eggs and rye toast). Afterwards, we crossed the road and hiked to Lower, Middle, and Upper Emerald Pools. The lower, with water dripping over the rim, was my favorite. On our way back down, we turned onto Kayenata trail and walked above the river to The Grotto and then along the road to Weeping Rock. Only shuttle buses and bicyclists are allowed this far in the park, so we pretty much had it this scenic stretch to ourselves. We took the short walk up a paved path to Weeping Rock, where water seeps out of the sandstone and drips along a stretch of the cliff. We road the shuttle to the last stop, Temple of Sinawava, and once again considered taking the Riverwalk to the beginning of The Narrows, but we turned back in less than a mile, both too tired to want to walk further. My phone says we covered nine miles today, further than yesterday’s eight plus.

Back at the Brew Pub, we enjoyed our pints of Octoberfest and split the same salad as yesterday. This time it took 25 minutes to get through the construction backup. We rested at the hotel – I downloaded images, took a short nap, and showered, then risked the traffic and drove to The Spotted Dog for dinner. Fortunately, when we called earlier we were able to get reservations right after opening. It was the meal of this trip – red trout, veggies, and a flowerless chocolate dessert. Yum.

Monday, October 23 – Back Home

We ate the boring free breakfast and headed back to Las Vegas, detouring to the see more fascinating red rocks at Valley of Fire, Nevada’s oldest state park. It looks like the gods and goddesses have been playing with clay. Google got us to the off-off site car rental dealer from where we got a van ride to the off-site car rental center. Eventually reaching our terminal, we ate a late lunch before flying home, arriving a little, but not much, behind schedule.

Since my credit card was suspended, due to fraud detected while I was in Utah, I couldn’t use Lyft. Supershuttle had no shuttles so they sent me to Go Lorries. If you don’t mind being uncomfortably crammed in with others and wandering willy-nilly around the city for an hour or two, this is the way to go. I jumped out in the Castro and took a bus home from there. On the positive side, their vans are newer and don’t rattle like Supershuttle’s.

My roommate, Linda, shared her food so I didn’t have to go to the market for dinner. I was especially grateful since I had only a few hours to pack for my next adventure.  The cats and I enjoyed company for one night.

Zermatt and Zürich

Ahh, my computer is finally functioning well enough to sort photos again (a long frustrating saga). Here’s my last entry for the trip I took to the Alps last summer. Eventually I’ll catch up on my other travels.

Last summer after hiking part of the Haute Route through the Alps, Lynne, Hennie, and I headed to Zermatt where we enjoyed a series of gorgeous day hikes without the burden of  heavy backpacks. Sibylle and Carmen joined us for a couple days and when Hennie headed home, Lynne and I joined our Swiss friends in Zürich.

2017, 31 July – Zermatt

We started our day with breakfast at our hotel in Sion – chocolate croissants, smoked salmon, and cheese, yum. It was a short walk to the train station where we caught the first of two trains to Zermatt, arriving before noon. Our hotel, Alphubel, was perfectly located near the center of town. We had lunch overlooking the main street, Bahnhofstrasse – carrot ginger soup and a half sandwich, then explored the town. The goats came through at 3:30 and the Lindt store had many more flavors than I’ve seen at home. Tables were being set up everywhere in preparation for Swiss National Day, lots of food and drink. We opted to buy food at the co-op grocery store and corner sausage stand, and ate dinner in our room, where we watched a thunderstorm and heard an accordion playing for hours.

1 August – Gornergrat

Our hotel breakfast included cook-your-own hard-boiled eggs in a contraption we hadn’t seen before, ours were underdone. By 8:00 we are on the Gornergrat train. It took about a half-hour to get the top, where we were rewarded with awesome views of the glacier and surrounding peaks before they became covered with clouds. It was windier with less snow and more haze than when I was last here, in September 2014. We hiked down to Riffleberg, ate lunch on the deck with great views, then continued down to Riffelalp, steeper and less scenic than the earlier portion. The Matterhorn tried on variety of different cloud caps before hiding entirely.

It was still mostly sunny when we reached town around 2:00. We stopped at the market and took a brief rest in our rooms (I shared one with Lynne, and Hennie had her own), then toured the Matterhorn Museum. There was an interesting new exhibit about the first ascent of this famous peak, in 1865, on which four climbers died, and a very beautiful movie. I picked up a mediocre crepe along the way. With our balcony door open, we heard more fireworks than the previous night, and the accordion again in between thunderstorms. We stayed up later there than usual, until about 10:30, to watch the main fireworks out our window.

2 August – Klein Matterhorn (a.k.a. Matterhorn Glacier Paradise)

It was Hennie’s turn to be sick today, so Lynne and I took the cable car up to Klein Matterhorn, the Little Matterhorn. I’m sure early climbers would be shocked to see a major cable car station up this high. It was windy and cold with lots of snow. People were skiing and suiting up with crampons to climb nearby peaks. We toured the ice cave then took the cable back down to Trockener and from there hiked to Schwarzee. The retreating glacier provided a lunar landscape; sadly I fear the Swiss glaciers will be gone in my lifetime. Clouds played with the shadows on the surrounding mountains. We found the perfect lunch spot, a red bench above Schwarzee, wow what a view! We enjoyed a beer at the restaurant, then caught the cable car back to town. After a shower and brief rest, we did a bit of souvenir shopping and picked up food for dinner. Hennie was well enough to join us on our small balcony.

3 August – Connected with Sibylle & Carmen

We puttered around town, then met Sibylle and Carmen arriving on the 11:13 train. Lynne and Hennie headed to the Schwarzee cable car for a hike up in the hills, while I went to lunch with my Swiss friends. Our destination turned out to be a couple miles uphill in Findeln, a lovely spot for a tasty meal. We took a longer, scenic route down, nice except for one steep rocky portion. I barely had time to get to my hotel and shower, before it was time to meet for dinner. My lamb ravioli with veggies was delicious, one of the best meals on this trip. (Carmen knows all the best spots to dine).

4 August – Five Lakes Hike to Fluhalp

Lynne joined Sibylle and Carmen on a longer ridge hike to Fluhalp, our destination hut, while Hennie and I took a somewhat easier route past five lakes. There were lots of ups and downs; it was hot when we were in the direct sun. The first two lakes, both manmade, were not as scenic as the others. We saw lots of marmots along the way. We ate lunch on the shore of Stellisee, our final lake, then Hennie headed down to the cable car to begin her trip home, while I headed up to Fluhalp where I enjoyed an Aperol Spritz while waiting for the other three to finish their beers up at Rothorn and join me.

5 August – Suspension Bridge

After breakfast, we headed off in two directions, with Sibylle and Carmen taking a longer route (of course). Lynne and I hiked down to Blauherd, stopping at Stellisee to admire the reflections in the lake. It was our clearest and hottest day yet. We took the cable car and funicular down to town, stopped at tourist information to buy train tickets, then picked up Sibylle and Carmen’s bags from their hotel. I was craving another sausage, but the vendor wasn’t open yet. We caught the train to Randa where we tried to open the wrong door and missed our stop. We hopped off at the next station and returned. We couldn’t find any luggage lockers, so we talked a proprietor of a hotel and café into holding them for us. Before setting off on our hike, I ordered a “chicken sandwich” which turned out to be a piece of processed ham on a slice of bread.

Our goal was to meet Carmen and Sibylle at the newly opened suspension bridge. It was a relentless hour and a half uphill, with many switchbacks. We walked back and forth across the bridge a couple times, but missed them. The hike down is a bit quicker. We regained cell reception back at the hotel/café and let them know where we were. They arrived just as we were finishing our draft beers.

The train ride to Zürich via Visp took about three hours. I ordered a salad on the train for dinner. We arrived about 8:00 pm, bought a 24-hour bus pass, and then went to pick up the key to “our” apartment. Sibylle’s friend, Anya, was staying at her friend’s house while recovering from hip surgery (where she could use an elevator rather than stairs), so she was kind enough to let us stay at her apartment while we were in Zürich. Thank you Anya!

I recognized the route from my prior visit as we walked back beneath an elevated roadway and crossed the river to our apartment, not far from where Sibylle lives. I was sweaty, wiped out, completely wilted by the time I showered and crashed into bed.

6 August – Spa Day

We enjoyed a nice slow morning, repacking our stuff, then walked over to Carmen and Sibylle’s for an outstanding brunch: eggs, rolls, yogurt, fruit, cheese. Then Lynne and I found our way to Thermalbad; next time I’ll know that it’s near Google. When I first told Lynne that I wanted to spend a half day at the spa, she almost chose not to join my, but she was hesitant to leave after three hours of steaming, scrubbing, soaking, and enjoying the rooftop view. I felt renewed!

We rejoined our friends and walked back to the spacious apartment where Anya is staying, in an industrial area that’s becoming residential. There we enjoyed a most memorable evening. Anya introduced me to watermelon and feta, with a light dressing and bit of mint, a delicious combination that I have since prepared at home. We ate, drank, talked, and laughed for hours. It was the most fun dinner of our trip.

7 August – Zürich

Sibylle took us by train up to an overlook above Zürich and were surprised to meet Carmen; she rode up on her bicycle. The Alps were hazy in the distance. Back in Zürich, Carmen’s sister Simon joined us for lunch. We did a bit of shopping and walked all over town, climbing up the steps in the church tower, touring the campus where Sibylle went to school. Carmen rejoined us for dinner, delicious wok dishes, up on a hill above their apartment. It was a beautiful way to spent our last evening together, watching the moon rise over the city.

8 August – Back to London

Lynne and I took our dirty sheets and towels up to their apartment, said goodbye to Carmen, then took a tram with Sibylle to the train station. She headed off to work and we headed to the airport, catching an EasyJet to London. The rest of our trip has already been covered in an earlier post. Thank you both for a wonderful time. I hope to see you again soon.