The morning dog walk was better than average this morning. Temperature was a finger stinging 25. The dog was obviously enjoying being out in it as much as I was. It was a fitting good-by to a place that will always be special to me,. Once again, the break down and hook up was uneventful and quick. We were on our way to Glendale, UT, about 250 miles away. Leaving the park is a gradual descent from the rim plateau to the Colorado River Valley. Close to river level the landscape turned to rolling hills covered in golden brown grass with fantastic rock canyons cut by the rivers. This is Indian country and their shops lined the route full of the usual tourist items found in Indian country.
The valley presented another long hard slog with strong headwinds and poor road surfaces. Weíre beginning to take these in stride, but theyíre still not enjoyable. We miss an opportunity to tour Antelope Canyon when we passed through Page, AZ. Antelope Canyon, more than any other destination, has been rated as must not miss stop. We missed it. After Page we pass just up river from the Glenn Canyon Dam. The Glenn Canyon Reservoir certainly looks like a spot worth spending a few days exploring if we ever get back this way (doubtful). Next up is the only city of any size to get provisions, Kanab, UT. Thirty more miles and weíre settling into our new home for the week, Bauerís RV Park.After checking us in, old man Bauer points out our site, right next to a huge shiny fifth wheel with a tractor-trailer for a tow vehicle. When Iíd made the reservations Mr Bauer told me he only had a back in site available, but not to worry as itís a straight in shot. Now he informs me that itís not really a straight shot, but itís not really bad, either. I know I can actually back this thing in just about anywhere, if given enough time. But now Iím going to have an experienced audience sitting 6í away watching my every bumbling effort to get this barn on wheels in the right position. Time for some sweaty palms and upset stomach. I wish I wasnít this way, but I am. We actually did a pretty decent job of getting it in straight, leveled, blocked, unhooked and slides out.
After getting set up, Iím putzing around outside the RV, with Buddy at my side as usual. Our new, and up to now intimidating, neighbors opened their door. Buddy, completely out of character, ran into their RV, tail wagging like crazy. Obviously dog people, they thought this was hilarious. Buddy ran into their bedroom and grabbed a tissue out of the garbage, then ran out the door to get them to chase him. This broke the ice with the people who I was sure were watching my every mistake in setting up the RV. They turned out to be super nice people who were fantastic to be next to for a week. I never thought Iíd have a campground neighbor Iíd miss, but I do.
Bauerís is a small, rustic Rv park carved out of a little piece of their 1,000 acre ranch and apple orchard. Along with their 1,000 acres, they lease another 2,000 acres from the state. The ranch portion of the property runs along a valley with steep rock and scrub brush covered hills on either side. There is a very crude dirt road that runs along the edge of the mountains that allows access to the many small fields carved out of the valley. As part of staying at the park I was allowed to roam the property at will.
Monday we head off to Zion National Park to get the lay of the land. We enter the park from the east side, but all the action is on the west side. East and west Zion are like night and day with an extremely narrow mile long tunnel separating the two. The east side is made up of very unusual brightly colored cliffs and odd formations with little to no valley. The west side is predominately sheer granite cliffs with a wide wooded valley and river along the bottom.
A good bit of the park is off limits to private vehicles with access provided by free propane powered shuttle buses. As an appointment was necessary, Donna made one for Thursday for herself. Zion has one trail, Pa Ďrus, where dogs are allowed. Itís a 3.5 mile paved trail that runs along a stream bed. With a few allowed side excursions the trail can be stretched to a decent four mile walk. Most of the time we were at the park the spring runoff was so intense as to keep Buddy limited to wading along the shore. We hiked this trail and called it a day for Zion.
Tuesday it was time to make an exploratory trip to Brice Canyon National Park. At the recommendation of our new friends next door, we took the long route to the park that took us over a 10,000í mountain peak still covered with snow and frozen water falls. This was the approach to Cedar Breaks National Monument, but it was still closed due to the deep snow. After touring the high altitude snow fields, it was on to Brice. In Zion, one travels along the valley floor and gazes up to the mountain peaks. In Brice, itís just the opposite. One drives along the top of the mountains to gaze down upon the red rock formations of the valley.
The morning dog walks involved gradually exploring deeper and deeper into the backfields and valleys of the Bauer Ranch. Until the last hike, I enjoyed these walks as much, or more, than visiting the National Parks. We had the whole place to ourselves and the scenery was beautiful and natural. On one of my walks I was admiring a large Canadian Goose sitting in a small field off to my right. Even though I stuck to the road, I got pretty close to the goose without it moving. Then two hunters in full camo stood up from the brush right beside the decoy. They were good natured about it and I headed back to camp, although I did offer them the use of Buddy.
On my last hike, we were right at two miles back in the canyon. At this point the road was no more than a trail and the fields were few, small, and far between. Buddy and I were taking a break and I happened to look back into the underbrush about 6í back from the road. It took me a minute to realize what I was looking at was a dead animal. Then I noticed a chain wrapped around the bush and attached to the animal. At first I though someone had chained a dog out here to let it die, but then I noticed the animals foot was in a steel trap. It was some kind of cat in about the 40# range. The cruelty of trapping an animal and then letting it slowly die was more than I could stomach. I headed back to camp, careful to not let Buddy venture off the road to explore, not knowing what might be attracting him. That pretty much ended my warm and fuzzy feelings for Bauer Ranch.
On Thursday we went back to Zion for Donna to do her guided tour up the canyon with stops along the way for a couple of short hikes. I took another dog hike on the Pa Ďrus trail with Buddy, had lunch, then waited for Donna to return.
Friday we had business in the city, then we ran off to Brice for another look. I donít know where I got my information, but I was under the impression Brice Canyon was much stricter on dogs than most parks, not even allowing them to get out at overlooks. Dogs are actually allowed on the overlooks, and paved trails, and this changed the whole process of touring Brice. Unfortunately, at this point we only have a few hours to do our tour. Considering our time constraints, we still had a great second visit to Brice.
Saturday, another Zion visit. At this point, I think we could have both just hung out at the RV park, but we felt obligated to go again. We made a picnic lunch and planned another dog walk on the Pa Ďrus trail. The park was mobbed with all parking, including the overflow lot, full to capacity. And, it was now hot. Buddy doesnít do well over about 70 so we only took half the hike, then had lunch. We were lucky in that we found the picnic area almost completely deserted and in a beautiful, shaded field.
From the beginning, weíve been very lucky with the weather. It seems like every time we pull into a new location people are complaining about how cold itís been. Then we have superb weather that tends to get hot at the end of our visit. The Grand Canyon was an exception as it was very cool for the whole visit. Our plan had been to move about 200 miles north from the Zion/Brice area and explore Arches National Park, and a few other in the area. Considering the fast approaching spring, and its attendant crowds, we decide to skip the Arches area and make a big move to Yellowstone. Besides, the Arches area is a big favorite of the ATV and four wheel drive folks, and they seemed to be reserving all the camping space around. The weather in Yellowstone was forecast to be mid 20s to mid 40s, then warming to mid 30s to mid 50s. That sounded just about right, so a hard 600+ mile run to Yellowstone was in the plans.
Upon hearing of our plans, our new best friends next door dropped a bombshell on us: there was a major front moving in with forecast for heavy rain, flooding, and snow in higher elevations. And it was moving right into our planned route to sit for three days. Our options appeared to be sit for a few more days where we were, or try to get a couple of hundred miles north, right to the edge of the weather, and wait it out, giving us a 200 mile head start when things cleared. I was leaning towards staying put but Donna wanted to move on. Needless to say, Sunday morning, we pack up and hit the road.
Photos: lower Colorado River, Bauer campsite, Zion, Cedar Breaks area, Brice