Beach House’s 2017 Shake Down Cruise – Part One

After a long seven month absence from the boat, we needed to do a shake down cruise to all get re-acquainted. Beach House was on a monthly boat watch program while we were away chasing 70 degree weather but even with all the systems being run, we knew there would be some regular maintenance and perhaps a few opportunities to practice the 5 whys.

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This beautiful sunset was the reward for a windy, rainy day at the dock.

The five whys goes back to our first cruise on the Beach House in 2015…Why isn’t the Espar heater working, why are we out of water already, why is smoke pouring out of the Espar heating exhaust, why does is smell like an electrical fire in the galley, why aren’t the battery’s staying charged…Yep, that sure was a fun week. To be honest I called it the five “what the F@#k’s”. Little did I know at that point about the actual problem solving technique until a very smartie boating friend explained it to me. It’s great to cruise with an engineer and a high-tech quality control mechanic.

The 5 Whys is an iterative interrogative technique used to explore the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a particular problem. The primary goal of the technique is to determine the root cause of a defect or problem by repeating the question “Why?” Each answer forms the basis of the next question.

Even knowing the five whys might be deployed, we were uber excited to get out of the marina and back in the San Juan Islands. Despite the severe weather warning for Thursdays, we got under way early on Wednesday for Sucia Island where we would be joined later by friends.

Leaving the marina we had a fitful start when an air bubble in the hydraulic steering system cause us to lose steerage just out of the fairway. Wally and I wear these geeky headsets when we are leaving or docking the boat so we can communicate about what’s going on as we are on opposite ends of the boat. I am usually handing the whaler and making sure it is behaving as he backs the boat out of the slip. We were out of the slip, headed down the fairway and the boat seems to be handling oddly, so I ask Captain Wally what’s going on. The Captain Wally calmly says in my ear…I think we have a steerage issue. Me: what type of issue. Him: well I don’t think we have any steerage. Me: don’t think or don’t have…as we are floating towards the marina wall. YIKES!!! Luckily, we were able to get safely over to an outside dock and the air bubble was cleared. I gotta say it was a bit of a heart racing experience that left me wanting to pop a beer despite the fact it was only 9:30 am. Okay, that was the first what the F@*K, oops I mean why!

Once out on the water, it was calm, no wind and the cruise to Sucia Island was uneventful..like boating on a pond. The sky was dark and moody when we cruised out of the marina but there was blue skies in the horizon. Bentley and Sucia did great on the cruise over. By lunch time we were tied on the dock and they were both laying in sun spots in the enclosed cockpit area. Yes, there was a beer consumed at lunch!

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I love Sucia Island State Park and yes, Kitty Sucia is named after the Island. Among the northernmost of the San Juan Islands, this horseshoe-shaped island is accessible only by watercraft. Boaters venturing into its coves and harbors quickly discover why Sucia Island is considered the crown jewel in the state marine park system and a boating destination that’s world class.

The main island, surrounded by picturesque rocks and smaller islands, gave pause to the Spanish explorers who navigated its waters in 1791. They called it “sucia” or “foul,” a nautical term describing navigational obstacles such as the rocks around the island. Ha-Ha, our kitty is foul!! The island and its waters are, in fact, pristine, and the satellite rocks make for interesting diving, kayaking and fishing.

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A view of Sucia Island from the top of  Mt. Constitution on nearby Orcas Island.

On April 10, 2012, part of a femur bone from a theropod dinosaur was discovered in a rock on the island. (Theropods are a group of meat-eating, two-legged dinosaurs, including T. rex and Velociraptor.) The 80 million-year-old fossil was spotted and excavated by paleontologists at the Burke Museum. Fossil collecting is strictly prohibited in this and all Washington state parks so leave your excavation tools at home!

Known for its emerald waters and forested trails, its magnificent sunsets and sandstone formations, Sucia Island is prized by locals for its off-season beauty and solitude. We have been here often in the off-season only to have the entire island to ourselves. Since I now possess a Washington State Drivers License, does that make me a local?

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Mushroom Rock in Shallow Bay…we have pictures of all of our dogs there.

The entire island is a state park boasting a 564-acre marine park with 77,700 feet of shoreline, abundant camping and moorage. The main island and several smaller islands comprise the “Sucia group.” There are no services on Sucia Island, but there is potable water, composting toilets and over 10 miles of excellent hiking trails with stunning water views. For a mere $190 we purchase an annual moorage/parks pass, which gives us unlimited usage of all the state marine parks in the San Juan Islands. What a dealsky!!

Fishing, crabbing , clamming and shrimping can all be done in this area of the San Juan’s depending on the season. We came with a full freezer and refrigerator so we weren’t doing any foraging on this trip. Instead, our plan was to get re-acquainted  with the boat and try to remember where the heck we had stored everything. Our summer guest calendar is starting to fill up (it’s not too late if you have not made your reservations) so we are trying to get ship-shape for guests.

Beach combing is seriously awesome on Sucia and there are some great tidal pools to explore as well. We found some beautiful starfish on one of our expeditions and I was vindicated when I actually found a blue starfish …yes, it looks very much like the one I insisted we have on our boat lettering.

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What…is that a blue Starfish???

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Why yes it is!!!

Hiking is also great on Sucia and we all hit the trails everyday. We did a hike on a new section of trail that provides a loop trail between Shallow Bay and Fossil Bay. It was fun chatting with the hard-working group from Americorp who are building the trail and camping on the island. The total hike was about 3.5 miles, through the lower woodland area on a service road which takes you to Shallow Bay, then around the north point on the new section, where the trail hugs the waterline and returns you back to Fossil Bay. What a great addition to the existing trail system here, I think every point on the main island now has a trail. Click here for a trail map of Sucia.

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A big thanks to the gang from Americorp for this brand new trail.

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The first paws to hit this new trail. Mr. I  Don’t  Like to Hike Anymore had a great time too!

The whaler needed a good run as well, so we fired it up and ran the 5 nautical miles over to Matia Island. Another very cool, small marine park is on this island as well as a bird preserve. There is a short hike around the island but no pets are allowed so Mr. B had to stay home on this outing. For more info on Matia Island click here.

Our big bird excitement during our stay on Sucia was the discovery of a heron rookery and the big, bad juvenile eagle that was determined to have heron sushi for dinner. The strange clacking sounds and the constant presence of numerous herons on the small island just in front of our dock got me curious. We took the whaler, circumnavigated the island and using the binoculars we were finally able to spot not one but two fully occupied heron nests. They were so well camouflaged that even with the zoom lens on the camera, we couldn’t get any good pictures of the heron chicks.

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This juvenile bald eagle is likely to be 2-3 years old based on size a feather coloration. He is sitting just below the heron rookery.

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The heron nests are so well hidden in a gray, dead tree. The second one which you can’t see in this photo was buried deeper in the foliage to the left. 

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Check out the sentry watching over the nest which is occupied by an adult and chicks.

We had 6 great days on the dock at Sucia, enjoying time with friends and meeting some great new folks. A big thanks to Mike and Shannon on Pocket Change for the 4 dozen fresh shrimp they gifted us. The seafood paella was enjoyed by everyone and the special ingredient was not only the fresh spot shrimp but the shrimp broth I made with the heads and shells which gave the paella a deep, rich flavor.

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Spot shrimp just out of the ocean.

 

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Paella with shrimp, scallops and smoked oysters, so good!!!

Bentley gives Sucia Island a resounding four paw rating…running on the beaches, beach combing and riding in the whaler were some of his favorite activities when he wasn’t napping in the sun. Kitty Sucia agrees but preferred sun bathing on the boat, watching birds and the sparkly water.

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No sparkly water to watching this day…only sideways rain!

Good news, so far only one why…sweet! Stay tuned, the cruise isn’t over and we are headed to Stuart Island next.

 

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Back Home in Anacortes Washington

After 7 months on the road and a quick 10 day visit to Portland we pulled into Anacortes in the Road House and I immediately felt we had arrived home. Wally and I have been coming to Anacortes for over 15 years to go boating but in general, we didn’t often spend much time in town. Provision the boat, purchase fishing licenses at Ace Hardware, have dinner out coming or going and that’s about it. There has been the occasionally staycation on the boat in the marina but we have usually been anxious to get out on the water.

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Looking across inner Fildago Bay at Anacortes 

I have always felt a calm sense of peace when we drive over the bridge on Hwy 20 and Fildago Bay majestically appears. This time when we rolled into town in the Road House, I felt that same sense of calm peace but this time I felt like we had come home. It was great visiting Portland, spending time with friends and visiting some of our favorite haunts but it doesn’t feel like home anymore so I was truly ready to head north to a smaller town with a less hectic pace. Over the years we have made quite a few friends boating so we are also looking forward to reconnecting with those folks, either in town or on the water.

The past 3 ½ weeks have been spent getting moved on to the Beach House and getting the Road House tucked away in a storage lot in Anacortes. It has been an interesting process as the boat has always been set up  for short cruises. Load groceries, clothes some wine of course and off we would go for a few days or a week at most. This time it is a bit different as we were re-evaluating everything we have onboard and trying to make room for more “stuff” that we will need as live aboards for the next 4-5 months. Just storing pet food for extended cruises takes some creativity not to mention the 4-5 cases of wine we have to squirrel away too.

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Sorting, re-organizing and moving SOME of this stuff onto the Beach House. Bentley is worried…

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Yikes, what a mess

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Zen out after all that chaos…Sunset at the marina

Even though the Beach House is moored in a covered slip there was plenty of winter grime to wash away and a long list of annual maintenance chores that we need to do. With two diesel engines, a water maker, a diesel heating system and a generator to keep all of our systems going, Captain Wally has plenty of chores to do. In addition, we tow a 13 foot Boston Whaler as our tender (think of it as our car on the water once we anchor somewhere) so we had to wash, wax and maintenance it as well, then get it into the water.

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Captain Wally launching the ‘Whaler”…our water taxi is ready to take us anywhere.

Happily, we all seem to have transitioned to the boat with little difficulty. Bentley and Sucia are totally enjoying the morning sun in the enclosed cockpit. Wally and I had a great time at our recent annual marina picnic. The Beach House passed it’s annual Power Squadron Vessel Safety check which is a free service provided every year at the picnic.

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Sucia Kitty enjoying the morning sun and bird watching

Anacortes is a great town for walking and biking, so despite the long chore list we have also been out enjoying walking or biking everyday. One of our favorite after dinner walks takes us west along the shoreline where the sunsets can be utterly amazing.

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This photo captured the true sunset colors, not one bit of enhancement was made. The colors lasted about 3 minutes before fading away. What a spectacular view looking into the San Juan Islands. 

Heck, we can even walk into Old Town, grab a beer and burger at The Brown Lantern Tavern, fondly know as “The Brown”.

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The Tommy Thompson multi-use trail which crosses over Fildago Bay

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“The Brown”

Anacortes has some nice restaurants and A Town Bistro offers a killer, made to order Clam Chowder that I love. Made with local clams from Taylor Shellfish cooked in the shell with house cured bacon, cream, fumet, celery, onions, potatoes and black pepper served with warm focaccia – OMG, to die for.

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A Town Chowder….so good. This is what beckons me into town

Oh, and the great Farmers Market on Saturdays…I am really lovin life in Anacortes, in case you hadn’t caught that yet!

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A delicious dinner with bounty from the Farmers Market and arugula from our friends the Millers. The frittata was made with fresh farm eggs and morel mushrooms with carmelized onions on the bottom.

As much as I am loving being in Anacortes, the call of the water beckons and we have been looking forward to our first shake-down cruise. So stay tuned, we are off the dock and having a ball at Sucia Island State Park.

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Beach House on the dock at Sucia Island State Park

A Winolicious Week in Walla Walla

 

Walla Walla Washington is a bucolic farm town, home to some of the finest wines in the country, three colleges and has a special place in our hearts. Wally spent his college years at Walla Walla University getting his engineering degree (and mostly staying out of trouble) so it is always a walk down memory lane for him when we roll into town.

We celebrated Wally’s 50th birthday in Walla Walla eight years ago so it seemed like a fine place to celebrate our 25th Anniversary and spend time with friends during the Spring Wine Release Weekend. The Road House was parked at the Blue Valley RV Park, an easy bike ride into downtown Walla Walla which boasts over 30 wine tasting rooms. Downtown is small and quaint so plan some time shopping and strolling along Main Street.

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Downtown Walla Walla in the winter is quite festive too.

This farming community has really evolved over the last 25 years but the look and feel are still small town. No traffic jams, no road rage and a slower pace of living make it really attractive as a potential future place to live. But for now, we are in town to enjoy seeing friends, taste some great wines and celebrate our 25 years of mostly wedded bliss.

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The view from the patio at Garrison Creek Cellars

Walla Walla has long been known as one of the most fertile agricultural areas in the nation, producing such crops as wheat, asparagus, strawberries and the famous Walla Walla sweet onions. However, it’s as wine country that Walla Walla is most celebrated. With more than 120 wineries representing a wide range of varietals, we just keep coming back to see what’s new year after year.

First order of business is always a trip to the Ice-Burg Drive In for a burger, fries and a chocolate shake – guaranteed to put you into a food coma but oh, so delicious!!! The “Burg” is an institution in Walla Walla and it is always fun to chat with people at the communal outdoor tables and hear about their childhood memories of eating there.

 

 

While we are on the subject of restaurants, I am so impressed with the culinary scene these days in Walla Walla. We had a great anniversary dinner at Brasserie Four which is a small intimate French Bistro serving simple, elegant but unpretentious food. Chef/Owner Hannah MacDonald herself is originally from Walla Walla, but she moved to Paris for her first year of college. She lived with a French family full of extraordinary cooks, who helped her develop her love of food. She then made her way back to the states, where she graduated from Western Culinary Institute in Portland, OR. She moved back to Walla Walla and opened Brasserie Four in 2008.

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Chef Hannah at work creating beautiful food.

Olive Market Place and Café is another great choice for lunch, whether you dine there in the old brick building or grab a box lunch to go and have a picnic at a local winery, you won’t be disappointed.

On our last night in Walla Walla the entire wine gang enjoyed a great meal at The Whitehouse Crawford which is an institution in Walla Walla. The building itself is a old brick warehouse that is listed on both the Washington Heritage Register and the National Register of Historic Places. I love the warehouse feel and the old mill equipment that still remains in the building.

We visited a lot of winery’s and drank some great wine, a few standouts for the week were Isenhower Cellars, Walla Walla Vintners, Maison Bleue and Garrison Creek Cellars which really is just the tip of the iceburg as far as great WW wineries. Dang, I guess we will just have to go back again!

 

Besides drinking great wine, Walla Walla has some great bicycling opportunities. Rural farm roads that meander through rolling wheat fields, Walla Walla is one of  Washington’s top road cycling destination. The nearby Blue Mountains offer experienced riders steep climbs and sharp turns to attack, while the flat lands and paved trails that run through Walla Walla’s historic neighborhoods and farmlands are perfect for when you just want to cruise. We opted for cruise mode taking an easy ride on the flat Mill Creek trail out to Bennington Lake which was an easy connection from the Blue Valley RV Park. This 7 mile ride was a small pre-emptive strike against the high calorie wine consumption day.

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The Mill Creek trail is a really pretty ride.

As usual, time flies when you are having fun. We had a great time with the wino gang which dates back to the late 90’s in Portland, Wally reconnected with two colleague buddies, plenty of great wine was consumed, tales were told, delicious meals eaten, there was only one minor head injury (not me, yay) and a general good time was had by all! Good-Bye for now Walla Walla.

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P.S….

Winolicious is really a word, one frequently used in my vocabulary especially when tasting wines but for those of you needing further confirmation – here ya go:

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forming adjectives denoting someone or something as delightful or extremely attractive. “Winolicious”

The rugged beauty of Zion National Park

It is believed the first people to explore what is now Zion National Park entered the canyon looking for food. Thousands of years later more than 4 million people come from around the world to feed more than their bodies. Most visitors today come to nourish their souls by some mystic power that these towering red rocks walls hold.

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A friend of mine asked if I was tired of looking at red rocks yet! Seriously, Utah is a spectacular state and no, I was not tired of looking at red rocks or majestic views. Here it is almost six weeks later and I am still struggling with how to capture in words the raw, rugged beauty I saw in Zion Canyon.

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Zion National Park and its 229 square miles of towering cliff walls, narrow canyons and absolutely stunning scenery lie about 300 miles from Salt Lake City and 160 miles from Las Vegas, making it an easy destination to reach from all over the world. The park was actually established in 1909 and named Mukuntuweap National Monument, Zion National Park was established in 1919; the Zion National Monument of the Kolob Canyons area was proclaimed in 1937 and added to the park’s boundaries in 1956. One could easily spend a weeks in this area, I wish we had stayed at least two weeks.

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When Zion National Park was still Mukuntuweap National Monument, 1,000 people visited in 1915 and in 2016 over 4 million people visited the park. This makes Zion is one of the most popular national parks in the country and while is was busy during our visit in late April, the summer months can see crushing numbers of visitors so my advice would be to go in the shoulder seasons.  The well organized shuttle system helps control the chaos that would ensue if visitors were still able to just drive in. The shuttle system operates seasonally each year from the spring through the fall.

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Get the most out of your time in Zion by doing some homework and figuring out what you wantb to see and do while visiting the park. Our first stop was at the Visitors Center where we chatted with a Park Ranger who was happy to answer our questions and generally delighted that we had a week to explore the area. Many people rush through these national parks in a day and truly don’t stop long enough to really absorb all the beautiful secrets they hold. Seriously, there is a sign at the visitors center explaining what to do if you only have three hours at Zion.

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The small town of Springdale which is just outside the south entrance of the park is loaded with great restaurants and lodging choices. There is also a great city shuttle which gets people to the park visitors center from 6 different stops along Hwy 9. We stayed at the Virgin River RV park which is about 6 miles from the park entrance and out of the fray of visitors. Our site backed up to the roaring Virgin River and while it was one of the busier, tighter places we stayed, it was a great base camp for visiting the area. Bentley was not a fan of this RV Park but he did enjoy a few days at the near by Doggie Dude Ranch. He came home one day with dirt up has nose and was happily exhausted!!

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Our first order of business after stoppping at the visitors center was to take the 90 minute shuttle ride to the end of the canyon and back to get a feel for the area and what we wanted to do for the next week. Since we had friends joining us on this part of our adventure, we wanted to get the lay of the land so we could hit the ground running when they got there.

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The scenery is OMG gorgeous and it was really hard not to get off the bus and explore further that day but we did come up with a game plan for the next 5 day days. Petal to the metal once our friends arrived, we checked out the park museum and movie, hiked the Weeping Rock Trail, the Narrows Trail, Upper and Lower Emerald Pools, had beers at the Zion Lodge, walked in the meadow below the Court of the Patriarchs and did the lower Virgin River Walk.

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Another absolutely spectacular side trip is the ten-mile drive from the Zion entrance to Mt. Carmel, where it hooks up with Federal Hwy. 89. So glad we opted NOT to do this drive in the Road House when we came over from Bryce.  The twisting, hairpin roads, switchbacks, slickrock and sweeping views with seasonal waterfalls would not have been fully enjoyed by either the navigator or the driver.

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There are numerous spots where you can pull off the road in a smaller vehicle for a better view or to take a short hike which will give you a more up close experience with many of the highlights seen along this amazing stretch of road.

The man-made feature that draws attention is the 1.1-mile-long Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel, which was carved through a sandstone cliff as part of the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway project. Constructed between 1927 and 1930 to ease travel between Zion, Bryce and Grand Canyon national parks, a route known as the “Grand Circle Tour.”

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This area is a geological wonder, domes of slickrock, hoodoos along the way that look like giant mud people and the Checkerboard Mesa on the south side of the road at the eastern boundary of the park along Hwy. 9 will have you gaping in wonder. Eons of freezing and thawing created vertical cracks, while erosion by wind and rain accentuated the horizontal bedding planes of this distinctive petrified Navajo sandstone mountain so that over time a pattern of irregular crosshatches emerged, creating the checkerboard effect.

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Our week with friends flew, hiking the many trails inside the park, exploring Kolob Canyon in the northern part of the park, a day trip to Kanab and Bryce Canyon all kept us busy and happily exhausted at the end of each day.

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We are hoping to see more of Utah this fall when we make the migration south.

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The rugged beauty of Zion National Park

It is believed the first people to explore what is now Zion National Park entered the canyon looking for food. Thousands of years later more than 4 million people come from around the world to feed more than their bodies. Most visitors today come to nourish their souls by some mystic power that these towering red rocks walls hold.

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The beautiful walk along the Virgin River is a great way to soak in the beauty of the lower park of the park.

A friend of mine asked if I was tired of looking at red rocks yet! Seriously, Utah is a spectacular state and no, I was not tired of looking at red rocks or majestic views. Here it is almost six weeks later and I am still struggling with how to capture in words the raw, rugged beauty I saw in Zion Canyon.

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The warm, rich colors are almost sensory overload.

Zion National Park and its 229 square miles of towering cliff walls, narrow canyons and absolutely stunning scenery lie about 300 miles from Salt Lake City and 160 miles from Las Vegas, making it an easy destination to reach from all over the world. The park was actually established in 1909 and named Mukuntuweap National Monument, Zion National Park was established in 1919; the Zion National Monument of the Kolob Canyons area was proclaimed in 1937 and added to the park’s boundaries in 1956. One could easily spend a weeks in this area, I wish we had stayed at least two weeks.

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Our hike into Kolob Canyon which is in the northern, less visited section of the park was certainly a highlight of the week. My friend Tanya is a petite woman but wow, you could almost miss her in this picture.

When Zion National Park was still Mukuntuweap National Monument, 1,000 people visited in 1915 and in 2016 over 4 million people visited the park. This makes Zion is one of the most popular national parks in the country and while is was busy during our visit in late April, the summer months can see crushing numbers of visitors so my advice would be to go in the shoulder seasons.  The well organized shuttle system helps control the chaos that would ensue if visitors were still able to just drive in. The shuttle system operates seasonally each year from the spring through the fall.

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The visitor center is architecturally beautiful and the educational component makes it well worth spending some time there.

Get the most out of your time in Zion by doing some homework and figuring out what you wantb to see and do while visiting the park. Our first stop was at the Visitors Center where we chatted with a Park Ranger who was happy to answer our questions and generally delighted that we had a week to explore the area. Many people rush through these national parks in a day and truly don’t stop long enough to really absorb all the beautiful secrets they hold. Seriously, there is a sign at the visitors center explaining what to do if you only have three hours at Zion.

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The beauty of Zion is hard for me to capture in words but is certainly etched in my mind.

The small town of Springdale which is just outside the south entrance of the park is loaded with great restaurants and lodging choices. There is also a great city shuttle which gets people to the park visitors center from 6 different stops along Hwy 9. We stayed at the Virgin River RV park which is about 6 miles from the park entrance and out of the fray of visitors. Our site backed up to the roaring Virgin River and while it was one of the busier, tighter places we stayed, it was a great base camp for visiting the area. Bentley was not a fan of this RV Park but he did enjoy a few days at the near by Doggie Dude Ranch. He came home one day with dirt up has nose and was happily exhausted!!

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The Road House all snugged in at the Virgin River RV Park.

Our first order of business after stoppping at the visitors center was to take the 90 minute shuttle ride to the end of the canyon and back to get a feel for the area and what we wanted to do for the next week. Since we had friends joining us on this part of our adventure, we wanted to get the lay of the land so we could hit the ground running when they got there.

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The Narrows, with the Virgin River flowing at full capacity. This area is actually hikeable in the summer months.

The scenery is OMG gorgeous and it was really hard not to get off the bus and explore further that day but we did come up with a game plan for the next 5 day days. Petal to the metal once our friends arrived, we checked out the park museum and movie, hiked the Weeping Rock Trail, the Narrows Trail, Upper and Lower Emerald Pools, had beers at the Zion Lodge, walked in the meadow below the Court of the Patriarchs and did the lower Virgin River Walk.

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Another absolutely spectacular side trip is the ten-mile drive from the Zion entrance to Mt. Carmel, where it hooks up with Federal Hwy. 89. So glad we opted NOT to do this drive in the Road House when we came over from Bryce.  The twisting, hairpin roads, switchbacks, slickrock and sweeping views with seasonal waterfalls would not have been fully enjoyed by either the navigator or the driver.

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Yikes, I would have lost my lunch if we had tried to do this in the Road House towing Ernie Equinox.

There are numerous spots where you can pull off the road in a smaller vehicle for a better view or to take a short hike which will give you a more up close experience with many of the highlights seen along this amazing stretch of road.

The man-made feature that draws attention is the 1.1-mile-long Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel, which was carved through a sandstone cliff as part of the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway project. Constructed between 1927 and 1930 to ease travel between Zion, Bryce and Grand Canyon national parks, a route known as the “Grand Circle Tour.”

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The mile long tunnel is an amazing peice of work done between 1927 – 1930 for a the cost of $503,000. Good grief, most houses costs that much or more now!

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I loved the peekaboo views through the arches that were carved into the sides of the tunnel.

This area is a geological wonder, domes of slickrock, hoodoos along the way that look like giant mud people and the Checkerboard Mesa on the south side of the road at the eastern boundary of the park along Hwy. 9 will have you gaping in wonder. Eons of freezing and thawing created vertical cracks, while erosion by wind and rain accentuated the horizontal bedding planes of this distinctive petrified Navajo sandstone mountain so that over time a pattern of irregular crosshatches emerged, creating the checkerboard effect.

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Checkerboard Mesa is just one of the stunning visual sites along the Hwy. 9 drive. The only disappointment for me was not seeing any Big Horn Sheep which are often spotted in this area.

Our week with friends flew, hiking the many trails inside the park, exploring Kolob Canyon in the northern part of the park, a day trip to Kanab and Bryce Canyon all kept us busy and happily exhausted at the end of each day.

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It’s easy to forget this is high desert and these beautiful wildflowers were just starting to make an appearance in the higher elevations of Kolab Caynon.

We are hoping to see more of Utah this fall when we make the migration south.

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See ya again soon Utah!!! XXOO….