We stumbled onto the San Juan Scenic Byway traveling out of Moab, Utah trying to stay south and warmer as we were attempting to move east towards Denver, Colorado and (what we thought) service for our Sprinter.
We stayed in Cortez, Colorado for a few days then decided to go north out of Cortez and head up towards Telluride, Colorado (neither of us had visited Telluride), stay near Telluride, then make our way around and back towards Durango, Colorado. Only after the fact did I discover we were on the San Juan Scenic Byway and that mainly because a friend mentioned her love of the Byway on Instagram.
We also lucked out because parts of the byway got new snow the day and night before we began our tour. I'm guessing that all the Aspens in the Fall might just rival the beauty of that fresh snow. I suppose we'll have to plan another trip along the Byway.
Mesa Verde is one of the cooler National Parks we've visited. When we were there in April, the cliff dwellings, the ones that are generally accessible to the public, the museum, and most of the campground were closed. They officially open May 15th.
We were able to do a nice drive into the park and view the cliff dwellings and a few archeological sites from the comfort of Miranda.
This wild landscape of deep canyons and expansive vistas is home to over a thousand species, including several that live nowhere else on earth. For over 700 years, the Ancestral Pueblo people built thriving communities on the mesas and in the cliffs of Mesa Verde. Today, the park protects the rich cultural heritage of 26 tribes and offers visitors a spectacular window into the past.- NPS website
It was a grey and snowy morning when we arrived on the first day of the season for a Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park driving tour of the South Rim. The North Rim was still closed.
This outing was part of our pivot and see a bit more of Colorado while we wait for our entry steps motor to arrive and be installed in Moab, Utah. Melanie and I decided to take a day trip to the National Park, Gunnison and Crested Butte. A full day of site seeing in Miranda.
From the NPS website:
Big enough to be overwhelming, still intimate enough to feel the pulse of time, Black Canyon of the Gunnison exposes you to some of the steepest cliffs, oldest rock, and craggiest spires in North America. With two million years to work, the Gunnison River, along with the forces of weathering, has sculpted this vertical wilderness of rock, water, and sky.
Black Canyon Dimensions.
A quick day trip to Gunnison then Mount Crested Butte.
Located in south-central Utah in the heart of red rock country, Capitol Reef National Park is a hidden treasure filled with cliffs, canyons, domes, and bridges in the Waterpocket Fold, a geologic monocline (a wrinkle on the earth) extending almost 100 miles.- NPS website
Melanie and I once again were up early, parked Miranda near Capitol Gorge and rode back to Fruita along the scenic drive. And we came away with pies. Another nice morning spent.
We drove out of Zion National Park and straight into Bryce Canyon National Park for what turned out to be a nice drive along the 18 mile road within the park that ends at Yovimpa Point 9,000 feet above sea level.
Hoodoos, irregular columns of rock, and the park's most striking feature, reminded me of building sand castles at the Gulf of Mexico where you grab a hand full of wet sand and allow it to drip slowly forming pointy irregular structures. Bryce has the largest concentration of Hoodoos in the world.
Bryce is a true feast for the eyes.
It's that time of year, regardless of the pandemic that's hopefully, if painfully, becoming less of a threat to life for all of us as the vaccines become more available. Spring Break.
We learned Spring Break was happening in Utah when we reached St. George, Utah after a few days in Las Vegas, Nevada when we landed in the over flow of a campground in St. George. The state's students take a break on two separate weeks and we landed in Utah right in the middle of those two weeks.
We'd already booked an RV park about 12 miles away from Zion National Park a few days back having not been able to get into the campgrounds in the National Park. I rode from our private campground in Virgin, Utah on the 30th of March to get a notion of how we might take in the sights on the southern end of the park.
The bicycle ride to the park from Virgin through Rockville and then on to Springdale on the south end of the park is truly great and easily done with my electric assist bike. After getting a map of the park and riding in a short distance, I returned back to Springdale to make a plan.
As mentioned, it was Spring Break when we arrived, but that only partially explains the crowds we experienced when we visited.
I found this on the web: [Zion] attracts 4.3 million visitors a year, a number that jumped 60% in the last decade. In 2018, Zion ranked fourth among America's most visited national parks, ahead of Yellowstone (fifth) and Yosemite (sixth). Only Great Smoky Mountains, the Grand Canyon and Rocky Mountain parks were more popular.
While 2020 saw a drop in visitors to 3.59 million, it appeared to us, 2021 is on pace to have big numbers again.
After watching a brief visitor information video on the Zion website, we decided getting up early (5:00 a.m.) and driving into the park when we could easily find a spot for Miranda was a good start. When we arrived around 6:00 a.m., we were one of two recreational vehicles in the parking area designated for Miranda (RV's).
We drank our coffee, ate breakfast and around 7:30 I got our bikes out and we began our ride north into the park.
We rode from our parking lot near the Visitors' Center to the Pa'rus Trail which takes you to the Canyon Junction where the park road is closed to private vehicle traffic, and then on to the Temple of Sinawava where the road ends. The ride is about 8 miles one way and runs along the Virgin River. There were very few people, private shuttles, or buses on the road as we made our way north into the park. The only private cars allowed into the park after the Canyon Junction are those belonging to people staying at the lodge.
While it was chilly to begin, I rate it as one of the most spectacular bike rides we've experienced on our travels.
Callville Bay Campground is located within the Lake Mead National Recreation Area near Las Vegas, Nevada. We were there as the campground transitions from first come, first served to fully reservations only. There's a store with a restaurant and a marina with various kinds of boat rentals available. It's quiet and beautiful here and I'm sure it's very busy during the summer season. Melanie was able to work easily as a cell tower is within view of the campground.
In keeping with our usual tours of botanical destinations within cities that keep such places, I give you snaps from our visit to San Diego's Botanic Garden.
Steven and Melanie