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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Great Southwest - Part One

Ok, before I start this blog, let me say that writing is by no means my area of expertise. Once I’m done I’m sure this will read like a 3rd grader’s story about their trip to the Bronx Zoo lol lol. But anyway here goes nothing. Please be easy on me. Moving on.

Last month Sue and I headed out west for a 9 day trip starting in Las Vegas, Nevada and ending in Moab, Utah. For us Vegas is our second home and hopefully our first someday. Not because of the lights, glitter and all the man-made mania but because of the desert and it's availability to all the outdoor playgrounds in the vicinity. Our trip was planned around two 1/2 marathons the first being in the Red Rock Canyon state park "one of my favorite places" and the second in Moab, Utah along the Colorado River. This trip like all of our trips out West, consisted of Running, hiking, photography and of course going to some great restaurants and shows in Vegas. I'd be lying if I said there was no shopping involved. How could there not be shopping? Sue was involved!!!

The Red Rock Canyon 1/2 Marathon was one of the greatest races I've experienced. The first 8 1/2 miles was all up hill gaining close to 2000 feet in elevation. From there it flattened out with some screaming downhill's!!! Although it wasn't my fastest time it was the strongest race I've ever run. I’ve been trying to figure out how this was possible given that the course was a difficult one. The only thing I can credit it to is the desert air, the red rocks and canyons. For me the desert has energy that makes me feel alive and pushes all my aches and pains away. If anyone has ever done some reading on the Southwest I'm sure you’ve heard of a place in Arizona called Sedona. Sedona is said to have special places within it called Vortex’s. A Vortex is where the earth’s energy comes up through the surface. This energy is what I believe is found in all natural things and is what an acupuncturist taps into when doing healing practices. It's what everything on this planet and in our universe is made up of. For me being in the desert puts me close to this energy and helps my body to heal and stay healthy both physically and mentally. One can call me crazy, but prove me wrong first. Anyway, Vegas was full of fun but can also be overwhelming. I feel that spending a couple of days on the strip is more than enough for one’s personality to handle. Being on the strip you can be engulfed in this overbearing man made playground where everyone and everything is trying to out do each other for egotistic status. Makes me wonder is this what life is really about? Does all this really matter in the grand scheme of things? Probably not. Anyway, after spending 3 days & 3 nights in the “Big City” we left Vegas behind and headed for what’s in my opinion one of the prettiest states Utah. The further we got from Vegas the more I felt all the pressures of society fall away. I knew at this point the only thing that really mattered was what’s the first side canyon that Sue and I will hike tomorrow and what time does the sun set tonight? When we arrived in Zion we found ourselves in a little bed and breakfast called Flannigan's that over looked one of the more famous rock formations in the park call West Temple. Looking up at this formation makes one realize that this is truly a place where you can connect spiritually with the planet we live on. We spent two days in Zion doing a couple of great hikes along the Virgin River and into different side canyons where the rock walls climbed thousands of feet above us on either side. The last day we were there we hiked into a canyon below the Court of the Patriarchs. About 2 miles in we found ourselves standing up against a canyon wall that stretched to the sky more than a thousand feet above us. Further up in the distance we were treated to a frozen water fall that was starting to thaw from the warm spring air making it’s way into Zion. Chunks of ice were falling off the falls that were so loud it echoed throughout the canyon like gun shots being fired. Our game plan when traveling is to get up as early as possible grab breakfast and head out on the trails. We usually hike until 3pm or so then head into town for some lunch, shopping and grab a drink while planning where we’ll head before dinner for sunset photo shoot. I never understood “sleeping in” when on vacation there’s so much to see and experience with so little time why spend it sleeping or on a beach chair? Our last day in Zion we headed out to an outdoor/adventure shop called the Zion Adventure Company and spoke to the owner, Shelly about a famous hike many talk about called the Zion Narrows. It’s basically a hike up the Virgin River and into some of the most amazing slot canyons in the area. To do this hike you need to have a wet suit and trekking poles. Sue and I are sure to do this next time we head to Zion.

Heading out of Zion we were on the road to Bryce Canyon, 80 or so miles up the road. We have never been to Bryce and couldn’t wait to get there. The documentaries and photos I’ve seen make this place look like a fantasy land. Just before getting to Bryce we went through a state park called Red Canyon, and let me tell you its name doesn’t do it justice!!! The rock formations are call hoodoos and are so red that they look like lava lamps turned on. Being much higher in elevation the temperature was much colder and the snow levels were at least 4 feet if not deeper. Because we left Zion early enough we were able to spend the afternoon in Bryce Canyon. First we headed to the National Park Visitor Center to talk to a ranger and get some information on the weather report. He informed us that the day was going to continue with high winds and cold air but heading down into the canyon should provide us with some shelter from the wind. Sue and I headed out to hike that’s called the Navajo Trial Loop. This was going to turn out to be one of the most incredible hikes we have ever done next to Kodachrome Basin (more on this later) and the Na Pali Coast in Kauai. We got to the trailhead which over looked the canyon and all its brightly colored hoodoo rock formations. To our surprise we came to realize that the trial was going to take us down into a snow packed narrow corridor that was less than 10 feet wide with massive pine trees growing up through the middle!!! After working our way through this narrow piece the trail opened up on the canyon floor and displayed these massive rock formations that we experienced when standing on top on the canyon. Hiking at the bottom of the canyon did provide us with shelter from the wind and a much warmer temperature thanks to the abundant sunshine. Being at the bottom was amazing. So many people come here get out of their car and say, “oh look how beautiful” snap a photo and drive away. Being at the bottom of Bryce Canyon, or off the beaten path in any park, is to truly feel and experience the natural environment around us. When we headed out of Bryce later that day we headed back to our little place we called home for two days. We stayed at Stone Canyon Inn, a bed and breakfast in the town of Tropic, 10 miles outside of the park. What a treat this was!!! We were the only guests there for the week and had our own living room with a fireplace and a view to die for. The people running the place were so kind, warm and friendly, and I must say also cooked a mean breakfast. Our game plan for the next day was to head back to Bryce hike a different trail and get back to that amazing canyon floor. Upon arriving there the temperature was 25 degrees and the wind was blowing even harder than yesterday. But this wasn’t going to stop us. We got out on the trail and started to walk along the canyon rim on a snow and ice covered trail. Once reality set in we realized that to the left and right of the trail was a drop into the canyon falling hundreds of feet. Seeing this Sue looks to me and says, “ummm do you really think this is a good idea?” My response before my common sense took over, was “of course it’s a good idea. Where dressed warm and will stay on the trail.” Needless to say once the common sense took hold we high tailed it out of there. Heading back to the car we pulled out our maps and turned on the GPS did some research and found that there was a State Park 30 miles down the road at a lower elevation called Kodachrome Basin. We decided to head that way. Kodachrome turned out to be AMAZING!!! The park isn’t that big in size, only spanning 2240 acres but it has some incredible views and vistas. Driving in we paid the park fee, got the map and decided to hike the Panorama Trail. What made this hike so amazing for me was that along the trail we took many side hikes following a dry river bed into some of the most amazing box canyons. We got to this one side canyon where the trail ended but off in the distance we could see these eroded sand cliff walls that were the most unbelievable color orange with a purple tint. Taking a left turn we headed up into the canyon, followed the dry and crusted river bed. Twisting and turning around the rock formations that looked like chimneys hundreds of feet tall we came to an opening underneath the “orange wall”. Sue waited at the bottom for me while I climbed my way up into this narrow crevas that took me up about 50 feet to this massive wall that I had been staring at miles away when we entered the park. Getting up close to this wall gave me this most amazing feeling that I just can’t describe. Ok, ok you’re probably saying this guy doesn’t get out much but all I can tell you is that you had to be there. After shooting some photos I made my way back down to were Sue waited for me and was at a lose of words in trying to describe what I had just experienced. We finished our hike in Kodachrome around 2 pm and decided to head back to Tropic and find a place for a bite to eat and plan a Sunset location shoot. Tropic isn’t very big only having a gas station, convenient store and a couple of restaurants. After lunch we headed back to the bed and breakfast and made a plan to head out before sunset to Red Canyon and then on to Ruby's for dinner. Most people who head out to Bryce will stay at Ruby's. It’s right outside the park and has everything one needs including a bar and fireplace!!!! Stay tuned for part 2 coming next month.

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