RV Travels: Weekly Wanderings #54 – Zion/On the Road
We have begun our final ascent north to Portland. (Say it isn't so!) The weather from now until February 1st looks good along our route so we are hoping for the best and taking advantage of the window we've been provided.
But first, our week.
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Last Friday we escaped the inclement weather in the Zion area and headed to Page, Arizona to visit Antelope Canyon on the Navajo Nation reservation. We had toured the upper canyon in 2012 and wanted to check out the lower canyon.
We signed up for the photographer's tour (like we did last time). Winter is a whole other experience! No dust in the canyons with a lot fewer people going through. There were still a couple of tour busloads, but they were spread out really well and hardly noticeable.
Also, photographers get priority (it's part of the reason you pay more). There were only three of us. Mr. Misadventures and I plus a lovely francophile originally from Chicago but now living in San Francisco. She was really fun, along with our guide Justin.
She took this shot of me.
Afterward, we drove home through the Mt. Carmel road on the “other side ” of Zion National Park. At the junction of 89 North and SR-9 we stopped at Thunderbird Diner, home of the ho-made pies.
We've passed this place at least 5-6 times in the last five years and I always wanted to try their pie. I picked up a freshly baked, still warm, apple pie which we enjoyed for several days. Finally!
Pie in hand we headed up SR-9. It was still snowing as we climbed into the mountains and it was so pretty. There's a bison farm close to the national park and we stopped to check out these glorious beasts. Ever since Yellowstone, I'm in love with these guys! It's pretty cool to see them in the snow, but it was snowing so hard we couldn't get a photograph. Mr. Misadventures' lens kept getting wet!
We got home, dropped the pie, made some hot drinks, and headed to Kolob Canyon for sunset. Once we got there it was freezing, with a wind chill of something like minus a thousand!
That would be the last time we could visit this part of Zion National Park. The remaining days we stayed in the area it was closed due to snow.
But the good news was the rockslide on the canyon road, in the main part of the park, was open. We went nearly every day between Saturday and Tuesday to watch the snow accumulate on the mountain. The trails were too icy, so we just enjoyed the pristine beauty of the snow.
On Tuesday we drove back to Page, Mr. Misadventures wanted to redo the Antelope Canyon tour with bluer skies. The weather predicted sunny skies for that day so off we went, mostly in the snow. It was tough going at 5:30 in the morning when the plows hadn't hit Highway 89 yet, but there's a certain spot where the elevation changes, and poof! No more snow.
But when we got to the tour office we were told the canyons were flooded due to the several days of rain that had gotten and there would be no tours until late afternoon which we couldn't do.
Instead, we explored some BLM backgrounds nearby and found some mini-balanced rocks, not quite hoodoos or toadstools, but fun just the same. These mushroom-looking rocks were on the ridge above Stud Horse Rock (top image) and would be perfect in the spring for a Milky Way shot.
Looks sunny, but it was a freezing 37 degrees, colder with the 30-40 mph winds which prevented us from going to the edge. The rocks were icy and we didn't want to be blown off! We took some fun shots (coming soon) and enjoyed the view of Lake Powell on the other side. You never know where adventures will take you when things don't go as planned.
We left Hurricane and the Zion area on Wednesday and made our way to Ely, Nevada. We chose to drive back towards Las Vegas to catch Highway 93 there instead of towards Salt Lake City to avoid snow for as long as possible. The route along Highway 93 was beautiful. Right before we got into the mountains there were tons and tons of yucca and Joshua trees. No need to go to Joshua Tree National Park (but it is pretty cool if you do want to go!).
As we were descending into a plateau of the Oak Springs Mountain we came upon an unusual sight. We had the highway pretty much to ourselves (they call US 50 on the other side of Ely “The Loneliest Road in America,” but it sure seemed like we were already on it) when we came upon the “American cowboy”. A rancher and his dog herding cattle, not through his fields but rather the highway! He was driving them in the middle of the road until we came along. I guess you can't blame him for wanting to use the cleared road!
Ely is located at 6,400 feet in elevation so there was snow on the ground and it was cold. Really cold.
We arrived at our RV park for the night at 3:00 p.m. and the temperature was just in the teens. It was 44 inside the RV. We turned on our floor heating and fireplace which is what we usually do to heat up the inside of our place. But an hour later it was only 46 so we turned on our heating and A/C system. But after another hour, it was still just blowing cold air.
I made dinner and then we pulled out our sleeping bags to use under our duvets. I slept like a baby until I had to get out of bed to a 43-degree room! The pipes froze sometime in the night. So no toilet, no shower, no water in the sink.
Mr. Misadventures put the space heater we bought when the same thing happened to us in Bryce Canyon, into our wetbay to attempt to defrost our pipes. To pass the time while that was happening he found the manual for our heating system. Turns out that if it is colder than 35 degrees outside, the electric heat doesn't work and it automatically switches to propane. However we only turn our propane tank on to cook, so it was just blowing cold air from outside.
Once we turned the propane on it started to heat! Just another small (annoying) quirk about our RV. A single sentence in the manual (remember our manual situation) and we would have had heat the night before.
On the bright side, we found treasure! We chose to keep the back passenger slideout in to minimize the exposure to the cold, that's where the head of the bed is. Mr. Misadventures got down on the floor to check something and found a veritable cache of missing items! Apparently when we drive things fall out of our bedroom closet and find their way under the slideout, despite the fact it seems physically impossible!
What did we find besides a bottle of distilled vinegar? My brand new bike helmet! I bought it last January in San Diego. Along with our DustBuster that we thought the guy who worked on our RV in Orlando took by mistake. We searched and searched for my bike helmet for months before giving up. All the time it was under the bed, or the bed slideout!
Yesterday we spent a few hours thawing out and hit the road to West Wendover where we are staying to visit the Bonneville Salt Flats. On the way, we spotted a huge eagle sitting on a fence post. Would have loved to pull over to take a photo but there was no place for us to safely do so. One of the bummers of being in such a big motorhome.
It was a short trip, only two hours and we arrived to find out we are the only RV in the park!
West Wendover is a little casino town on the Nevada-Utah border. I don't see anything to do here in the winter (besides gamble), unless you are visiting the salt flats like us. I'm not even sure what visiting the salt flats in the winter is like. I'll let you know how that goes!
At least we've got heat tonight!
WillowWind RV Park, Hurricane, Utah.
Ely KOA, Ely, Nevada.
Wendover KOA, West Wendover, Nevada.
That was my week, how about yours?
So Antelope Canyon in winter it is! I’ve still yet to go there despite all the time I’ve spent in the Southwest. I think I’d prefer the off-season months where I could actually get my shots without of crowds of people, too!
@Kristin, whatever season you go, make sure you do the photographer’s tour. The tour time is double and they give photographer’s priority through the canyon. The non-photo-tour folks have to wait if a photographer is taking a shot. Having said that, off-season there were less people overall including the tour which normally has 8 photographers we had 2.5 (I hardly count!) which meant not worrying about where the guy next you’s tripod is!
We’re going to Zion in just a few months, and your pictures have made me even more excited for our trip! We’re going in early May, so I’m hoping the weather will be a bit warmer than what you experienced in this area (though, good thinking with the sleeping bag + duvet combo!). I’ve never been to this part of the U.S., so I wonder how crowded it will be then; we’re going several weeks before the major summer crowds start. I want some of those wide open vista pictures when we go, so hopefully, it won’t be too crowded!
@Natalie, I have a Zion post coming up. We visited in early May five years ago and it was okay, not too crazy yet. The biggest benefit of going off-season is that we could drive our own car. In regular season you are forced to use their shuttle system – good for the environment, bad for free-will 😉 If you have the opportunity you are 2 hours away from Bryce Canyon and 4 from Capitol Reef – both wonderful as well.
I love the smooth rocks, looks satisfying.
Oh my,the photo’s are so amazing thanks for sharing !