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.
After having a needed repair to our side entry door done in Las Vegas, we traveled to Pahrump, Nevada for the night. Pahrump is 60+ miles west of Las Vegas and provides a nice place to gain entry from the east side, through Death Valley Junction, of Death Valley National Park.
Melanie and I were fortunate to get a night's stay at the Furnace Creek Campground within the park. We left Pahrump early enough to arrive in time to get the last (so the ranger said) first come, first served spot.
Because we had only a day to check things out, we opted to take a drive which lasted most of the day. Well, that and the 30% chance of rain (only 2 inches a year at the park) warranted a warning from the ranger at check-in not to get caught hiking in one of the slot canyons during a rain storm. Taking our time, stopping for lunch and at a few other spots, I shot a series of photos (mostly along Badwater Road), mostly of the point and shoot variety, from Miranda as we drove, I shot a few more driving out of the park the next day.
March is a good time of year to be in Death Valley. The park is a feast for the eyes. Recommended.
We spent a few days in February in Apache Junction, Arizona just east of Phoenix, Arizona. One of those days we drove into Phoenix and took an afternoon walk in the Desert Botanical Gardens.The gardens are one of the best we've seen.
We spent a great week in Tucson, AZ, one of our favorite cities to visit so far. The RV park we stayed in on previous visits was booked this time so we chose a park near downtown. On the day we visited the Tucson Botanical Gardens we rode our bikes from our van, a seven plus mile trip. Afterwards, we ate pizza for lunch then took The Loop back to the van. Total miles nearly 35. Great day.
We stopped in Guadalupe Mountains National Park for a couple of days on our way to Las Cruces, New Mexico. On the second morning, I left Miranda around 10:30 a.m. and began my assent to Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas at 8,751', via the Guadalupe Peak Trail. The trail is well marked and maintained but is definitely a world of up, climbing 3,000' from Pine Springs Campground where we were camped. The round trip out and back is 8.4 miles.
On our travels, we've been through San Antonio a few times and I've chosen to stay south of town near the San Antonio River Walk as it makes moving around town on our bikes for exercise and errands and site seeing too easy. The last time I rode the river walk, the path ended just past Mission Espada south of town. The trail now connects there to Medina Greenway Trail which adds a really nice additional ride heading westward away from the San Antonio River. Recommended.
We continue to enjoy Texas State Parks. We stayed for a couple of nights at Corpus Christi Lake State Park on our way to San Antonio. The sites in Javalina Loop are all full-hookups, pull-through, large, with covered picnic tables and somewhat private. Far enough from the town of Mathis and the interstate so it's quiet. The bathhouse is older, but nicely kept. There's walking, fishing and plenty of room to bike around. Recommended.
Steven and Melanie