Category Archives: Utah

Rafting – Gates of Lodore

August 20-25, 2021

I’m still savoring the memory of the rafting trip I took a couple months ago with seven friends, and friends of friends. It was my first post-covid plane ride and my first multi-day rafting trip. We were all fully vaccinated and I wore an N95 mask in the airport and on the plane. We traveled with 14 others, plus six guides, down the Green River in Dinosaur National Monument, which straddles Colorado and Utah. We traveled through five canyons, each with its unique red rock formations. It was an awesome trip; I loved almost every minute of it. When I got home, I became consumed with packing and preparing to sell my home of 40 years, hence the delay in this post.


August 20 – Getting There

Beth gave Ginny and me a ride to the airport, and we flew to Salt Lake City where we were picked up by Lynn and Sue who were already there, having spent a couple days visiting friends. The five us crammed into a Jeep Cherokee; our gear barely fit and it was crowded in the back seat. It took about three hours to reach the Microtel Inn in Naples, right next to Vernal in the northeast quadrant of Utah. There we connected with our East Bay contingency: Amy, Brenda, Sheila, and Glenne. They took two days to drive out in Glenne’s spacious van. We collected dry bags from our guide, Miles, then headed out to dinner. The only place in town with outside dining was booked, so we got take-out food and ate in a park, Mexican food for some of us, pizza for the rest. We also made a stop at a liquor store after learning that there would be an ice chest for our use on the river. 

Aug 21 (Day 1) – Canyon of Lodore

When we went to bed, Beth was worried because her pet sitter had not been able to get Bella, one of her cats inside. By morning, Bella was still missing, so Beth cancelled her trip and found a ride back to the Salt Lake airport. The rest of us boarded a van and road about two and a half hours to the put in, above the Gates of Lodore. They put the eight of us onto two rafts; I road with Sheila, Amy, and Brenda. It was uncomfortable sitting four abreast in a raft filled with gear. 

The Green River was brown and cooler than anticipated, but I was comfortable in my lightweight sunblock attire. We floated through several Class II rapids, Whinny, Unnamed, Upper and Lower Disaster Falls, named by Powell when one of his long wooden boat crashed at this spot in 1869. I got splashed and was ready for more. Along the way we stopped for lunch – Caesar salad warp with hummus. “Special” meals served first (gluten and nightshade-free for me, vegetarian for Ginny and a couple others). We reached Pot Camp around 4:00 and set up tents – mine was the tallest and hard to put up, especially with no stakes. Miles gave us an intro to the “groovers”, the portable toilets we used in camp, named for an earlier version the left grooves in rearends. 

We took a walk up to a ridge with a view of the river, then had our own happy hour circle. Lynn and I had vodka tonics. Ginny, Sue, and I all sketched a bit while enjoying avocado toast with mango salsa. Dinner finally ready around 8:00 – yummy salmon, my favorite meal of the trip. I was one of first to bed. There was a storm during the night with waves of rain, wind, thunder, and lightening. The crickets quieted before each rainfall, then returneds in full force afterwards. Some people had leaks, but my floppy tent kept me dry.

Aug 22 (Day 2) 

We came on this trip expecting to actually be paddling, but instead the rafts were all equipped with large oars that enabled them to be controlled by one guide. (I’ve since learned that there are paddle, oar, and hybrid trips, so confirm ahead of time which type you are getting). When we complained to Miles that we were too crowed on the first day, and expressed an interest in paddling, he moved all the gear out of his raft, gave us paddles, and let all eight of us ride in his boat. We didn’t paddle all that much but is was much more fun. I rode up front with Amy and got splashed regularly. I tried to take a video during our biggest rapid, officially a class IV, but more like 3.5. The video didn’t work, so you won’t get to hear Amy’s screams. 

We had another­­ late lunch at 1:30. I skipped the bread and rolled up pieces of deli meat and cheese. After lunch, we took a hike to Rippling Brook, where many took turns standing under a trickling tall waterfall. After another hour or so on the river, we reached Limestone Camp around 4:00 pm, set up tents, then went on another hike. It was quite steep with loose gravel, so I turned back about half way up. 

Glenne was not feeling well; she slept through happy hour and missed the best appetizer: caprese on tasty gluten-free crackers; I skipped the tomatoes. I enjoyed watching the light changing on the cliffs and did another sketch. We carried our chairs back and rejoined the main group for dinner (pasta w/chicken, salad, strawberries for dessert). I asked Miles if we could go around the circle and hear everyone’s name, so he promptly asked me to start. It was interesting to learn a bit about everyone, from experienced rafters to newbies. It’s a good thing we were on an adults only trip because one camper told some pretty risqué stories. 

Aug 23 (Day 3) 

I was one of the first up as usual, around 5:45 a.m. We road in the paddle boat again and had an awesome day, exiting Lodore Canyon, passing through appropriately named Echo Canyon, into Whirlpool Canyon. There were jaw dropping red stone vistas at every bend. Clouds threatened rain a few times, but the drops only fell at our lunch stop when we sheltered under an overhang on a tall cliff. Amy and I took a turn in one of the duckies, rubber kayaks that flex and bend over rapids. We floated past bighorn sheep and eagles. 

Our hike of the day, after reaching Jones Hole camp, took us to two waterfalls and pictograms. A few people had fun sitting in the stream and blocking the flow to Elk Creek Falls, then releasing it in a burst onto whoever stood below. Once again, we formed our own happy hour circle near our tents. Another camper stopped by to let us know we could use their solar shower; Amy and I both jumped at the chance. It felt great; I’ll have to bring one on my next rafting trip. We finished just in time for dinner, undercooked steak (I took mine back for extra grilling). I enjoyed a bit of after dinner chat, took a final trip to the groover, and retired to my tent. The moon was close to full and I considered getting out my tripod and heading down to the river, but I was too tired to venture back out. The crickets seemed louder and more hurried than previous nights. I slept through the night, missing the skunks that wandered through camp. 

Aug 24 (Day 4) 

We covered 19 miles today, our longest day on the river. It was gorgeous at every turn. Once again, we road in the paddle boat, occasionally using our paddles. When I asked Miles if the others minded our using this boat again, he assured me they were happy because it gave them more room in the other rafts. The first several miles were quite calm and our guides got a good workout with their oars. Lynn and Sue got tired of paddling in their kayak during this section and hitched a ride on another raft, rejoining us at lunch. After that there were quite a few class II rapids. 

We ate lunch on a tiny beach in direct sun. The surprise receipt of a cold Le Croix was most welcome. We continued down river, getting out near the end of Split Mountain Canyon. From there it was a short van ride to the Dinosaur National Monument. We arrived just in time to catch the last shuttle to Quarry Exhibit Hall where more a thousand dinosaur bones are embedded in the rock wall.  A few more minutes in the van and we were back at the Microtel, and relived to receive notice that Beth’s cat came home shortly after she returned. We took quick showers and went to dinner at Vernal Tavern, the only place in town that serves outdoors. (I made reservations before we got on the river). 

Aug 25 – Getting home

Lynn, Sue, Ginny, and I headed to Salt Lake City for our flight back to SFO, while the other four headed south for a couple days in Moab before beginning their long drive home. With only two in the back seat, it was a more comfortable ride than when we arrived. Not wanting to eat indoors at an airport restaurant, Ginny and I picked up Vietnamese veggie spring rolls; I ate mine in the car. We found a sparsely populated section of the airport to wait in, and were rewarded with wonderful piano music, provided by an airline employee on a layover. We clapped and a woman near us asked “Am I at an airport or a concert hall?”.  Our flight home was uneventful. Since Ginny and I were neighbors, before I moved, we shared a cab ride back to city. 

I’m now beginning to research other rafting trips, since all of us want to go again. When we asked Miles what he would recommend next, he said it was a challenge to come up with one since we started with the best. 

Southern Utah

I’m on the road again, heading to Colorado with Sage, my almost two-year-old Border Collie, and my friend Annie. After driving though Yosemite and Nevada, we reached Utah, where we spent a few days enjoying red rock country. Annie and I are both early birds who like to hike and take pictures, so we traveled well together.

August 3 – Drive to Tonopah

I picked Annie up from an East Bay BART station around 7:30 am and we essentially spent the whole day driving to Tonopah Nevada, stopping along the way to take pictures, eat a picnic lunch, and play fetch with Sage. The car temp reached 99oF (37oC) so we were grateful for air conditioning.

August 4 – Drive to Escalante, Utah

We drove most of the day, with a few scenic stops along the way. In Rachel, a town of 50, they are anxiously awaiting the arrival of thousands of visitors seeking to get into Area 51, a gathering promoted as a hoax which they hope will not materialize. 

It started to rain a bit after we drove through Red Canyon, and on the way from Bryce to Escalante we saw many lightning bolts. My tire air pressure warning came on shortly before we reached Escalante. I was worried after experiencing a flat tire in Iceland, but it turned out to be low pressure in one tire. 

We checked into our tiny cabin with bunk beds – the only place available by the time Annie and I set dates for our trip. Fortunately, we didn’t see the grumpy women who checked us in after that evening; everyone else we encountered was friendly, especially the young women at the café with more energy than a Border Collie. She gave us great sightseeing tips. We went across the street and ate dinner at an outside patio; the rain and wind stayed away.

August 5 – Devils Garden

We ate breakfast at the tiny café adjacent to our cabins, then headed down Hole-in-the-Rock road within the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. This dirt road was in good shape considering the recent rains. It was 13 miles to Devils Garden. We had a whole hour to explore this awesome collection of sculpted rocks before anyone else arrived, and Annie earned the nickname “Panorama Queen”. On our way back, we considered a detour to Cedar Wash Arch, but the road wasn’t passable. 

Back on Highway 12, an incredible scenic road, we headed north to the Escalante Trailhead, stopping at numerous overlooks to ooh and ahh. We hiked/scrambled up to see petroglyphs, but skipped hiking to a rock bridge since it would have involved multiple crossings of a very muddy river, still dropping from the flood that came through yesterday.

As we were leaving, a young backpacker, April, emerged from the trail. We gave her a ride back to town. She had spent two nights out, including a whole day watching the river rise and fall.  We ate a late lunch at the café, where I enjoyed a tasty beer: Kiitos Brewing Amber Ale. (I later tried one called Juicy IPA which I enjoyed in spite of the fact that I don’t tike IPAs). We rested a bit at our cabinette, then drove to Escalante Petrified Forest State Park for a very refreshing swim in the reservoir. Sage chased balls and sticks into the lake and stopped when her belly touched the water. I carried her in a couple times just to confirm she could swim. She immediately headed to shore, grabbing her ball along the way.

August 6 – Hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls. 

It’s a good thing we got an early start on this scenic hike along the Escalante River; it was 90oF (33oC) by the time we returned to the trailhead shortly after noon. The official brochure says this hike is six miles, but according to our phones it was over seven. The trail was red sand and rock with nice views of red cliffs. The falls were beautiful. The chilly water felt great on my feet and Sage found several willing stick throwers. Along the way we saw a variety of lizards, including one chased by a snake – it got away. Between the heat and all her running back and forth, Sage was exhausted by the time we were done; I have never seen her this tired. The iced beverages that awaited us in the car helped revive us.

Next we drove to Torrey, along the way the temperature dropped twenty-five degrees, the skies darkened, and rain started. We checked into our hotel early, using a remote entry system. It was very basic, but clean and spacious compared to the cabin. We ate a late lunch at local burger joint and retired to our room early. I spent most of my leisure time downloading and organizing photos. 

August 7 – Capitol Reef

We got an early start so we could take a short tour of Capitol Reef National Park on our way to Colorado. Even under overcast skies it was beautiful. I could easily spend days exploring this colorful landscape, filled with red-hued striated mountains. On our way out we stopped at the Gifford Farmhouse for fresh pies, filled with fruit from nearby orchards; they were still warm.

After a few more scenic stops, we spent the rest of the day driving, mostly on I-70. Our conversations covered many topics. The skies remained cloudy with periods of rain. The speed limit dropped from 80 to 75 when we crossed the state line. Goodbye Utah, Hello Colorado.

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.