Capitol Reef: Lower Cathedral Valley

The best way to visit Capitol Reef National Park is via long road trips on dusty dirt roads, some requiring 4 wheel drive and possibly high clearance. Lower Cathedral Valley is one of those remote locations where the effort is duly rewarded in the form of dazzling and other-worldly monoliths. We only had time to visit three sites that day: Temple of the Sun, Temple of the Moon, and Glass Mountain.

Cathedral Road

The best road to this site starts outside Capitol Reef National Park, but still within land controlled by the Bureau of Land Management. Once called Cainville Wash Road, the dirt route is now officially called 490 West, Cathedral Road and is accessible via Utah State Route 24, about 19 miles east of the Visitor’s Center.

Cathedral Road

Blink and you will miss the turn-off for Cathedral Road!

We first checked with the rangers at the visitor center before heading out. The dirt road can get dangerous during rainy weather since it crosses several washes that are prone to flash flooding. Having been on the road, I cannot stress well enough that you should have high clearance and 4-wheel drive. If it is been raining the day before or the day after, wait a few days before going. Some of the areas we encountered looked as if you could get your vehicle stuck in the mud.

Caineville Reef topped by buttery colored cliffs

Caineville Reef topped by buttery colored cliffs

Cathedral Road, combined with Hartnet Road, creates a 58-mile dirt road loop. I had considered taking the full loop for our adventure, but there is a portion of Hartnet Road where you have to ford the Fremont River. Having seen the river swell to surprising level in a few hours the previous day, I didn’t want to risk our truck. Maybe another day.

Caineville Reef

Caineville Reef set among a Cobalt Sky

On our way to this road, we blew right past it, overshot as far as Hanksville. It’s easy to miss and not well marked, you wouldn’t even know you could access Cathedral Valley from this road.

The first leg of the drive runs sandwiched between Caineville Wash and North Caineville Reef, a lengthy ridge system of unbroken cliffs. The khaki colored sandstone mesa top blends down into a stark gray of shale. I marvel at it, remembering that all of this use to be the bottom of a shallow inland sea during the Cretaceous period.

Candy Stripes on the Brushy Basin Formation

Candy Stripes on the Brushy Basin Formation

The road then twists through some boulders that remind me of the White Tanks found in Joshua Tree National Park, but they are not granite, it’s weathered sandstone. We drive past candy-striped mounds and deeper into the Middle Desert. After driving a slow 16 miles over rough road, we turn off toward the Temples which beckon us onward.

Glass Mountain

Glass Mountain really isn’t a mountain, it’s more like a mound or small hill, but that’s not its defining feature. This is a 15-foot mass of glittering selenite crystals. Crystalized gypsum deposited here over 165 million years ago as the shallow inland sea evaporated. This marvel only remains standing because its illegal (up to $2,000 and possible jail time) to harvest any natural resource from a national park. It would be otherwise reduced to flat rubble by rock collectors.

Glass Mountain is a mound of Glittering Gypsum

Glass Mountain is a mound of Glittering Gypsum

The Temples of Lower Cathedral Valley

From glass mountain, we could see all three temples. The Temple of the Sun stands as a monolithic sentinel of eroding reddish-pink Entrada Sandstone. Behind her is the Temple of the Moon, equally awe-inspiring, although dwarfed by only distance. Further away is the Temple of the Stars, which use to be accessible by car but now can only be reached on foot via a wash.

Temple of the Sun

Temple of the Sun with our Truck, Batou-san next to her for size reference.

We drive up to the Temple of the Sun and marvel upward at the looming mass of earth. This place is so remote I feel like we are her sole worshipers, come to her after a long pilgrimage.

The drive to the Temple of the Moon is a short one, and we park at near the base. As we wander toward the Temple of the Stars, I notice that the wash we’re talking on is littered with all sorts of geological curiosities, such as pieces petrified wood, fragments of agate, and rounded pieces of jasper. I stop to look but put it back where I found them. I want to protect this wonderful park.

Temple of the Moon

Temple of the Moon with Batou-San, and Temple of the Sun in the background!

In other areas of Capitol Reef National Park, many cathedrals are protected from large-scale erosion by a weather-resistant cap rock of the Curtis Formation. However, in Lower Cathedral Valley, the Curtis Formation has been removed, resulting in the steeple-shaped appearance of the monoliths.

Temple of the Moon with Temple of the Sun

Temple of the Moon with Temple of the Sun

I can imagine Lower Cathedral Valley in bathed in the incandescent light of sunset or sunrise. Maybe a coyote howling in celebration. I suddenly realize that want to return to this sacred place again.

Hitch and the Glass Mountain

Hitch and the Glass Mountain

Temple of Stars

Trail between the Temple of Stars and before the Temple of the Moon

Temples Shine Bright in the Sun

Temples Shine Bright in the Sun

A Flower in the Gypsum

A Flower in the Gypsum

Worshiping at the base of the Temple

Worshiping at the base of the Temple

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Wonderland RV Park: Torrey, UT

If you are heading to Capital Reef National Park, and I highly recommend you head there, then Wonderland RV is a good place to park your RV while you visit. It’s best qualities are its location, about 15 minutes drive from the park entrance on the west side, and the very well kept and attractive grounds which make for tranquil viewing.

Nights: 7
RV Park Cost: $225 ($32/night)
Discounts Used: Good Sam
Address: 420 North Main Street Panguitch, Utah 84759
GPS38°17’55.7″N+111°24’10.5″W
Website: www.capitolreefrvpark.com

Pros

  • Close to Capital Reef National Park
  • Full hookups including water, sewer, electrical.
  • Well kept grounds

Cons

  • Iffy wireless internet
  • Highway noise
  • Barnyard aroma
I'm not sure I'd rent this cabin but it sure is cute.

I’m not sure I’d rent this cabin but it sure is cute.

Wonderland RV park is as close as you can RV park to Capital Reef on the western side, only about a 15-minute drive away. Despite this ideal location the prices are right around what I would consider average. For most of the big national parks, the closest parks can be as much as $80 a night so we tend to park an hour or so away to save money. Capital just isn’t as popular as places like Zion or the Grand Canyon so there is much less a premium. While it is less iconic, it still has jaw-dropping landscapes and absolutely stunning hikes and without all the crowds and noise.

The first thing we noticed is the grounds are very lovely. The gardening is well done and there are many attractive trees and lawns on the site. The care that goes into it is obvious and extends to the facilities which are cleaned thoroughly every day and are nicely appointed. This is one of the best-maintained RV parks we have yet encountered. Not only is the caretaker thorough, he’s a really nice guy eager to make you feel at home and take care of any problems you may have.

A view of the main area of the park, it's quite lovely due to the trees and lawns.

A view of the main area of the park, it’s quite lovely due to the trees and lawns.

This is a park, rather than a resort so there is no pool. They do have a small half-court basketball hoop and there are small cabins and tent areas, as well as a cute covered wagon style cabin you can rent. There is wireless internet, but it only works well when the park is half full or less. Many seem to park here overnight only, and so it tends to be good in the morning when everyone is gone and drops off as the park fills up for the night becoming useless around 7pm or so. It does get the award for cheapest laundry. We did a week’s worth for about $5.

The downsides of the park are that it backs a highway, which during the day provides a bit of road noise, and on the other side abuts a pasture for cows and horses which can blow in the smell of ungulate poop. I’ve never found the aroma especially displeasing and I’d describe it as “faint” but it’s there if you take a big whiff. The tent spots are right next to the pasture so I imagine they have the worst of it.

Lots of pretty horses and some less pretty but friendly cows wander near by.

Lots of pretty horses and some less pretty but friendly cows wander near by.

Also of note, there is a gas station and a convenience store across the street, as well as a treat shop. Down the road, just a few miles, is the town of Torrey which has a lot of useful stores and restaurants for travelers and tourists. We found the “sheriff” of Torrey especially amusing. They have a police car with an inflatable sheriff behind the wheel parked at the road side. It took us a couple times into town before we caught on. A great way to get folks to pay attention to the town speed limit.

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Capitol Reef: Fruita & Fremont River Trail

Capitol Reef National Park feels like a secret. Hidden away in the remote back routes of Utah, and as evident by the low tourist population, hardly known or seen by others. Without crowds, there is a wonderful sense of intimate discovery among the stunning and diverse geography. The park is larger than Zion and even has similar geographical delights, but its defining feature is the Waterpocket Fold. The Waterpocket Fold is the name given to the landform which rises up from the desert. It is an exposed monocline of rolling waves of earth and stone. The naked edge of the tectonic uplift is worn away into slick rock formations, imposing domes, and twisting canyons.

Fruita Valley from Up on the Fremont River Trail

Fruita Valley from Up on the Fremont River Trail

Fruita

The Fruita Historic District is located along Scenic Drive, the main road of the park. This is an old Mormon settlement consisting of 200 acres filled with fruit trees and refurbished houses. In early spring, the trees explode with blossoms, and in the fall, you can harvest fruits and eat as much as you want so long as you are within the orchards. If you want to take fruit out of the orchards, there’s a fee you have to pay.

Orchards along the Fremont River Trail

Orchards along the Fremont River Trail

I love gardening, and I’m rather dizzy with delight to be in Capitol Reef’s orchards. I spot dozens of nut trees, fruit trees, and other crop plants: apples, peaches, plums, cherries, pears, quinces, apricots, pecans, grapes, walnuts and almonds. Some fruit breeds are rare, and if I were here in the fall I’d get the opportunity to taste heirlooms such as Royal Anne cherries, Red Astrachan apples, Yellow Egg plums, and Flemish Beauty pears.

Get your Pies and Cinnamon Rolls at the Gifford House

Get your Pies and Cinnamon Rolls at the Gifford House inside Capitol Reef National Park

Any visit to Fruita must also include a stop at the Gifford House. In the heart of Fruita Valley’s desert oasis, this homestead established in 1908 by polygamist Calvin Pendleton. The second residents of the home were the Jorgen Jorgenson family who resided here from 1916 to 1928. Jorgenson sold the homestead to his son-in-law, Dewey Gifford, in 1928. From then on the Giffords owned the home for nearly 41 years.

Yummy Pies

Yummy Pies!

Today, the Gifford House is a cute little shop where you can buy handcrafted gifts, but the real prize is the fresh baked pies and cinnamon rolls. By the time Hitch and I showed up mid-morning, the cinnamon rolls were all sold out, but they had plenty of pies left. I snagged an apple pie for later in the day.

Fremont River Trail

We started our hike just behind the Gifford House. The Fremont River bank was thick with brush and tall grasses. Near the campground, there’s an old cottonwood tree and provides cover for hikers wanting access to the river itself. That morning, the river waters were a silty green flowing calmly through lush plant life.

The Fremont River- Notice the silty green water

The Fremont River- Notice the silty green water

The path is an easy stroll through the orchards. I enjoy the sound of wind rustling through their branches and leaves. Secretly I wish it was harvest season, so I could grab an apple for my hike.

Just beyond the fruit trees and the bridge is where the trail ascends upward along a chocolate colored cliff face and providing some nice views of Fremont River. We take a rest for some pretty views of Fremont River Canyon, Wide Hallow, Cuts Canyon, and Miners Mountains in the distance. We just take in the views before hitting the switchbacks for the overlook point.

Fremont River Trail Overlook

Fremont River Trail Overlook

800 feet above the valley floor, the overlook provides a charming view of Fruita itself framed by mesa tops and cliff faces. I take a seat on a rock and savor the calmness.

On the way back Hitch and I notice that the river has changed color from a silty to a milk chocolate brown and is now raging fast, and swollen with additional water. Even though it’s a clear day here in the valley, upstream there maybe a storm forcing the river to change its temperament.

The Fremont River

Just a few hours later the Fremont River is swollen and brown.

Back through the orchard, we notice mule deer feasting on rich tall grass. We sit on a nearby bench and remain still and quiet. The deer get used to us in a few minutes and move closer, one even taking a rest in the soft turf a little over 8 feet away.

Surprisingly serene and absent of other tourists, I am pleased by the charms of Fremont River Trail and would recommend it as a part of any trip to Capitol Reef National Park.

Deer resting in the grass within the orchard

Deer resting in the grass within the orchard

Goatsbeard Flower along the Trail

Goatsbeard Flower along the Trail

Obligatory Selfie on the Fremont River Trail Overlook

Obligatory Selfie on the Fremont River Trail Overlook

Hitch Enjoying the view

Hitch Enjoying the view

Chocolate Brown Cliffs above the trail

Chocolate Brown Cliffs above the trail

Mule deer on their lunch break

Mule deer on their lunch break

Wild Rose found near the trail

Wild Rose found near the trail

DSC_0253

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RV Life and Personal Health

Living full time in an RV and traveling the country seeing the great outdoors has taught me just a bit more about my own state of health and led to at least one interesting personal revelation. While I’ve learned some new things, it is also part of a longer ongoing story about my own health and fitness.

Generally speaking, I’m a healthy person, in so much as I don’t suffer from many ailments or afflictions. My family tree seems to have gifted me with a pretty good set of genes. Most of my problems are entirely of my own creation stemming from two things I like that are bad for me: sweet foods and limited exercise. The result’s that have plagued me to some degree are back problems and metabolic issues.

Hitch Ledge Point

Despite 6’3 and 325lb, I manage to be in generally good health most of the time. Yay DNA!

My folks tended to be healthy eaters for the most part. While our home was not without its treats and such, by and large, they ate healthy meals and tended to nutritious food. When I forged out on my own, a combination of sweet tooth and very limited food budget meant I ate a lot of pure sugar and starch, both of which were cheap and satisfied my cravings. A box of supermarket doughnuts is a dynamite calorie to dollar ratio but came with a hidden cost.

From my freshman to Sr year in college, I gained as much as 100lb. Mind you, it was not all fat, I also bulked up muscle wise, but there was plenty of flab to go along with it. More importantly by my Jr Year, I started to get a lot of strange health problems. I had persistent mucus in my lungs making me cough a good deal and I was constantly breaking out in hive like rashes on my arms and chest. Pretty severe acne also came and went.

Behold my flab and despair! I'm vein, so I try to look my best in shots for the blog but sometimes you got to let it all hang out.

Behold my flab and despair! I’m vain, so I try to look my best in shots for the blog but the truth is, I’m not trim.

A nutritionist and allergy specialist I rented a room from in college suggested I was allergic to milk. I drank perhaps 3 gallons a week, sometimes more. I cut back and sure enough, it got rid of the persistent chest congestion and also cleared out the bags under my eyes. The rashes however persisted. A few years later I met Trail and shortly after getting married we decided to loose some weight. I chose to try the Atkins diet and it was something of a revelation. Nearly every health problem that plagued me vanished, and I also lost a good bit of weight, around 50lb in the course of a year.

I came to realize that all the carbs I’d been consuming, which was a monstrous amount, had been really overloading my bodies ability to cope with them. So much so I was pretty sure I’d done some permanent damage even though the low-carb diet cleared up all the really alarming issues. I also just felt darned good on the diet. Of course, it’s a hard diet to keep and after some 16 months or so we simply stopped doing it. For years after I’d toy with the diet again when feeling poorly, and it almost always felt great, but made social eating difficult and before long I’d be off it again. None the less, I’d never gone back to my days of regular carb binging.

Me at my trimmest during Atkins dieting, about 275lb here, around 35yo.

Me at my trimmest during Atkins dieting, about 275lb here, around 35yo.

Flash forward to the present as we travel the country in our Airstream. I’d imagined that our life of exploring national parks and other places would be a significant boost in my exercise, and our limited food budget would keep me from eating lavish meals out and about. Thus, I imagined overall health benefits. The reality has been a little different than my imagination. It’s true I get more actual exercise. We go on hikes very often, some rather strenuous and most 1-4 miles. We spend about 4-5 days of each week out exploring and most involve at least a short hike. On the other hand, when I am at home in the RV, I’m hardly moving a muscle. There just isn’t much space or much need to walk around. In our old house, I’d be going up and down the stairs quite often and walking around to do chores and such. Nothing in an RV is more than 10 steps away so you move much less.

As to diet, it’s a mixed bag as well. While we don’t go out and eat lavish meals, we do tend to buy food that is quick and easy to prepare, and that tends to mean more carbs for both snacks and meals. We also tend to shop cheap and cheap tends to steer you to processed foods, again, rich in carbs. I’m not binging on sugar, but we have a lot of trail mix, rice, sandwiches, cereal, dried fruit and the like.

This isn't ours but its pretty close, we have shell colored cushions... and more clutter.

Not a whole lot of room for exercising in here, everything is within easy reach.

Here is where the revelation comes in. Because I am getting out and exercising much more often, I am much more aware of when I have a good level of energy and when I don’t. Over the months, my cardio health has improved noticeably. When we started a trip up the stars could leave me a little winded, now I can hike for 4 miles up 500′ switchbacks and not be out of breath. My muscles are also getting in better shape. Despite all this, I sometimes am just plain exhausted in the morning and hiking is a real struggle. On such days, when we get back I can barely muster the energy to write or do anything useful. Trail get’s both annoyed at me and worried for me.

In an attempt to justify that I’m not just being lazy I tried to come up with a definitive answer as to what was wrong. I assumed low blood sugar. Trail presumed it may be blood pressure, cholesterol, or just in my head. We set about experimenting by measuring both on days I was feeling generally pooped. Trail has tools for measuring all these things, partly because she worries about such, partly because she has had problems with each from time to time.  After experimenting, the only good suspect was the blood sugar, but instead of low, it was high. Hitting the internet on high blood sugar the symptoms matched up exactly, not only those I had now but also minor issues ever since college. Coincidentally a TV program called “Trust me I’m a Doctor” covered high blood sugar and offered the most succinct explanation of how it works I’d yet encountered.

Looking down at the hike in Bryce canyon, 3 miles down to the valley floor and back up.

Looking down at the hike in Bryce canyon, 3 miles down to the valley floor and back up. We get a lot more exercise than we used to.

The upshot is that if you are a sedentary sort, you have trouble getting the blood sugar (glucose) out of your bloodstream when it builds up after a carb-rich meal. What I’d not understood before is that Glucose, in high doses, is a toxin. It wreaks havoc with proteins and can damage nearly every part of your body. There is also the problem that if you are not absorbing it, you are not getting all the energy from the food you eat. Unlike a diabetic, I don’t suffer the symptoms all the time, instead, it is intermittent, most likely when I’ve simply overloaded on the carbs. This is probably why I’ve never had a doctor comment on it, my blood sugar was fine on the occasions I had blood work check ups. It seems that in my college years I likely broke my bodies ability to handle high blood sugar levels, though not so much it couldn’t handle modest ones.

It also explains why the Atkins diet tended to work well for me. It’s a low carb diet and puts you into a state of Ketosis where you switch from primarily using carbs for food to processing fats. It was developed originally for diabetics. For me, it essentially ensured I wouldn’t have enough glucose beyond my bodies ability to process it.

So, now that I have a much better understanding of what is happening, and also a better understanding of how dangerous letting my glucose get out of control is, I am faced with having to find a solution to the problem. Short of going on insulin there are three main ways to regulate blood sugar levels: exercise, eat fewer carbs, and drink lots of water. Thus, I need a strategy for each of these.

I like sitting, so much so I turned some cairns other hikers had built into this "throne" to admire the view from.

I like sitting, so much so I turned some cairns other hikers had built into this “throne” to admire the view from.

Getting more exercise is something I already do as we travel around. Going for hikes is a big part of it. Another nice benefit is that many RV parks have pools and I do like swimming so whenever I have the opportunity I should take advantage. Also, when pools are not available and hiking is not on the agenda, I need to at least get out of the trailer and walk around at least once every day, possibly work up to jogging about some.

Eating fewer carbs mostly takes discipline and a bit more work cooking. I’ve done hard-core Atkins before, and I think it’s impractical for the RV lifestyle, but I can come pretty close. I feel I really just need to minimize carbs rather than try to cut them near completely. The good news is I actually really enjoy low carb, and the biggest barrier is not an issue. Generally, what I hated most is it was very hard to eat with friends, so much food is carb loaded, both at home and when eating out. I love eating with friends. Traveling in the RV, it just doesn’t happen often enough to matter. The bad news is low carb is pretty expensive. Meat is expensive, and so are many of the vegetables that are low in carbs, especially compared to grains and bread. None the less I think I can make it work.

I love water, but not as much as I love my wife, who will remind me to drink more of it.

I love water, but not as much as I love my wife, who will kindly remind me to drink more of it.

Finally, there is drinking water. Strangely this is the one I have the most challenge with. When I wake up in the morning I genuinely hate water. The thought of it seems unpleasant and gulping it down feels uncomfortable and somehow wrong. As the day wares on this dissipates and I drink as much as anyone likely does. None the less it’s not something I give much thought to and at times I forget to drink as much as I should. Low carb diets exacerbate this issue. In ketosis, it’s very easy to become dehydrated because the fat burning metabolic process requires more water than the carb based chemistry. My first time on Atkins my blood practically turned to syrup, preventing blood draw when I visited the doctor. I didn’t suffer real harm from it at the time but it’s none the less bad for you. The solution here is to get Trail to be on my case about it, she’s good at that, lucky for me.

When I set out on our trip I was hoping it would lead to some self-discovery and enlightenment and this is one more case in which it has. Getting out and exploring the landscape brought to much greater focus my energy levels day to day in a way my old life just couldn’t. As a result, it forced me to a much better understanding of an important part of my own health and strung together bits and pieces of what I already discovered into a cohesive picture of cause, consequence, and remedy. I think the moral of the story is: the more you introduce change in your life, the more you will learn and grow.

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RV Tire Pressure

Whether you have a truck and trailer or a motorhome tire blowouts are one of the most common causes of RV road accidents. Keeping your tires at the proper tire pressure is an easy way to reduce the risk of a blowout. It’s also a good way to help get the most value out of your tires. This post is going to give you the short story first, then the longer and more interesting one.

The Short Story

Your RV should have a manufacturers recommended tire pressure printed somewhere on the vehicle on what is called a Chassis plate. If it doesn’t have one this information should be in the drivers manual. It’s going to tell you what pressure your tires should be for safe operation. Some RVs will have different pressure for different tires, others will all be the same.

Check your tire pressure each time you prepare to move your RV (ideal) or once every couple of weeks (less ideal but probably fine). Fill your tires up to the recommended values and you should be in good shape.

Because our trailer doesn’t fit especially well into most service stations we have a portable air compressor/tire inflator. We use this model from Slime. It runs on 12 volts so you can use your car or a generator to run it. We use a portable battery unit to run our compressor which makes it easy to run around and do all the tires. This is a good one that will also jump-start nearly any RV should the need arise.

If you want to know what your tire pressure is 24/7 and don’t mind spending some dough, then you can get a tire pressure monitoring system like this one. You attach sensors to all the tires and the monioring device will give you a real time readout on the tire pressure of all your tires. It won’t fill them up for you, but you will know, even on the road, what pressure you are at. These are especially nice for detecting leaks while you are driving due to nails or the like.

Don't let this happen to you, check your tire pressure regularly.

Don’t let this happen to you, check your tire pressure regularly.

The longer story

Under-Inflated Tires: Under-inflated tires are the most common cause of tire wear and blowouts. When a tire is under-inflated the lower sidewalls bulge out, putting extreme pressure on that part of the tire. As it turns the part being flexed changes and this rapid flexing can wear and then tear both the interior and exterior material of the tire which is what leads to the blowouts. Finally, the bulging side walls can more easily scrape against rocks or curbs which can rupture them instantly. Beyond the potential danger, under inflated tires create more friction with the road and as a result decrease gas mileage.

Over-Inflated Tires: Every tire will list a maximum tire pressure on the sidewall, usually listed in PSI (pounds per square inch) in the US, kPa in metric. Don’t more than this in your tire or you risk rupture under stressful conditions. Even if you don’t exceed the maximum pressure, if a tire is inflated beyond what you need it can result in stiff and bumpy ride due the high pressure, and weaker traction because less tread makes contact with the road as the shape becomes more rounded on the bottom.

This shows how tires contact the road in different states of inflation.

This shows how tires contact the road in different states of inflation.

The Best Tire Pressure

The value listed on your chassis plate is a safe guess and as a result, it’s going to be on the high side of what is likely your optimal tire pressure. Optimal tire pressure depends on two things: the tires you have, and the weight being put on the tire. Each tire type has a chart from the manufacturer that will tell you the optimal pressure given the weight borne by the tire. The manufacturers usually collect these into books called “Load and Inflation Tables.” If you google that along with your tire manufacturer you should be able to find them.

An example L&I Table: Find your tire, Look for the weight, discover the  best PSI.

An example L&I Table: Find your tire, Look for the weight, discover the best PSI.

To use the tables you need to know the load on your tires. The best way to get this information is to hit up a commercial truck scale with your RV. If you are not familiar with these, they are typically used by commercial truck drivers both to adjust their rigs for a given load and to ensure they comply with road regulations. They can give you an exact measurement of the load on each of your wheels. CAT Scale is one provider and they have a tool for finding a weight station as well as easy and detailed instructions for how to use the scales. You will get a report giving all the relevant weights. When weighing, error on the heavy side by making sure your tanks are full and you have your normal assortment of stuff in the RV.

Armed with the tables and the weight on each of your tires you can find the best tire pressure for each. If you do something that significantly changes the weight or weight distribution for your RV, then you should go through the process again.

Looking down the Burr Trail switchback from the top. Amazing drive!

Looking down the Burr Trail switchback from the top. Amazing drive!

Altitude and Temperature

Both altitude and temperature affect your tire pressure. The PSI values in the load and weight tables, as well as the chassis cards, are “cold measurements”, meaning when your tires are not hot from driving. That is why you typically want to check tire pressure in the morning before you head out rather than at the end of a trip. Air pressure rises with temperature, the same amount of air will exert more pressure as the molecules bounce around more energetically. It changes about 1 PSI per 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

Altitude works a little differently since it’s the pressure outside the tire that is changing. The higher you go, the thinner the air and tire pressure gauges show the difference between the air inside the tire and the air outside the tire. Thus, the higher you go, the higher the tire pressure reading on your tires. In many cases, you won’t actually see this happen. That is because the higher you go, the colder it tends to get, and the temperature factor tends to about offset the altitude factor much of the time.

Regardless of both of these factors, if you check you tire pressure each time you roll out in your RV, then you are sure to have a safe and effective tire pressure for your trip. And so, while it’s worth understanding how it works, how to stay safe doesn’t really change.

Dirt Roads can take you to amazing places, but leave the big rigs at the RV park.

Dirt Roads can take you to amazing places, but leave the big rigs at the RV park.

What about driving on dirt roads?

Under-inflating your tires can have some advantages on dirt roads or when driving entirely off road. It gives you more traction and a softer ride over all the bumps. Generally, RVs simply aren’t a great idea on the kinds of roads where under inflating is going to help you and the risk is likely not worth the smoother ride if you do. A better plan is to simply take it slow and easy when taking your RV off the beaten track.

 

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Tea With Your Travel Sir?

Yes, please! One cream and two sugars if you will. Ahhhh, that’s delicious!

My love affair with tea goes back to my childhood though I can’t point to a single point of origin. All my parents were at least passingly fond of it so it was in the house growing up no matter where I was. In my early passions, I was fond of absolutely saturating my tea with sugar and then also with milk. The resulting concoction was a sweet milky drink alien to most folks I knew. I even took to adding food coloring to further confound anyone asking about it. I’d make vats of the stuff in one-gallon Adam’s Peanut Butter jars (another passion of my adolescent years). It wasn’t until much later I came to learn my creation was not so far from southeast Asia desert teas or southern sweet tea. Living in Anchorage, Alaska these culinary treats were unknown to me at the time.

In these early years, tea meant bagged tea, Lipton or Celestial Seasonings were among those I remember. It wasn’t until my third year of college when I attended the University of Washington that I discovered the world of loose leaf tea. Halfway between where I rented a room and the university was Teahouse Kuan Yin. I was making enough money at the time to eat out occasionally, a big boost from when I worked in movie theaters, so I decided to order some tea here. It was amazing, and I bought some loose leaf to take home along with a cheap teapot to brew it in. From there I discovered other tea shops and most notably an import store near the university that had incredibly cheap bulk tea from china.

Clean amber goodness, oh, and some lavender, lovely!

Clean amber goodness, oh, and some lavender, lovely!

Soon I had dozens of teas and was brewing daily if not hourly. By the time I met Trail a few years later I was a hardcore tea junkie with a special passion for Lapsang, a smoked tea best known as Sherlock Holmes favorite. It wasn’t very long before Trail was also hooked on the stuff and had her own favorites. By the time we were preparing for our grand adventure we were buying one and two-pound bags of tea fairly often, a product usually sold by the ounce to most consumers. One thing we were not giving up on during our travels was tea.

The essentials of tea are as follows: good loose leaf tea, airtight storage for the tea, good water to brew the tea in, a means to heat the water to near boiling, a means to brew the tea in the hot water, something to drink it out of, and whatever additives you most enjoy in your tea.

The current shrine to tea, note the tub of tea right, one of 4 we keep!

The current shrine to tea, note the tub of tea in the background on the right, just one of four we have.

Good Tea: Going to local tea shops is nice because you can smell and often sample the teas. Until you know what your favorite staples are, this is the way to go. Once you start going for big orders of your favorites, mail order is often half the cost, Silk Roads Tea is our favorite as they personally inspect the places they buy from. That said it can be tricky when you live on the road so we once again buy from local shops much of the time.

Airtight Storage: Exposure to Air will leach flavor from your tea over time and moist air can lead to mold in your tea. Good food storage is always essential in an RV to prevent pests and keep things tidy when the RV is bumping down the road. We get most of our containers at Bed Bath and Beyond or The Container Store but these containers on Amazon are the sort we have.

Good Water: Living in Seattle we had lots of this, they have incredible city water. Out on the road, well you have to watch out for arsenic and lead and whatever else is in the local water supply. One stop we were on warned the local water supply was deemed flat out unsafe to drink. You can buy water, which we do sometimes, or filter it, which we do most of the time. We’ve also found some parks have very nice spring water they encourage visitors to use so we have some gallon jugs we bring along to fill up.

Heating Water: Different teas require different temperatures for optimal brewing and flavor. We’ve found electric water heaters are the fastest way to heat water and systems that can keep it hot are ideal for frequent cups. We have this guy Zojirushi Water Boiler and it’s amazing. It heats water to specific temperatures and keeps it there as long as you like, dispensing it at the touch of a button. If you boondock you will want a kettle you can heat with propane. Since we don’t do that much we just heat the water in a pot with the lid on.

Remember, Tea is very macho: Civilizations fall, but steam will always rise!

Brewing: Before hitting the road we had a sizable collection of teapots from around the world. While all were functional, most were just decoration for us. Hitting the road we needed something small and portable but also rugged. We also needed two since Trail and I sometimes differ in what tea we’d most like at a given moment. Having disposable empty tea bags like these are one good option as you can brew what you like in any container you like. In addition, we also have two of these, insulated travel teapots. They keep the tea hot for a while, have a built in filter, have a nice spout, and are hard to tip over.

Drinking: We found a couple of insulated aluminum mugs we use for all hot drinks in the trailer. They keep the drink cool or warm and yet the handle remains room temperature. They are also near impossible to break and easy to clean. The only downside is they are no good for the microwave.

Extras: I like Splenda in my tea as it has a fruity flavor I enjoy. Trail likes stevia products since it is a natural sweetener. I like my tea both straight and with Half and Half which for me gives the right creaminess. Honey is also a great thing to have on board. Trail likes to use chopsticks and I find those are ideal for stirring tea due to their length and being easy to clean.

There you have it, the why’s and wherefores of my tea drinking passion. I will leave you with this ode to by passion from Professor Elemental.

 

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Scenic Highway 12 and Escalante Petrified Forest State Park

Scenic Highway 12

Some of Utah’s most gorgeous high desert scenery unravels along this all-American highway. The entirety of the road starts near Bryce Canyon with her orange and red spires, then ends at the gray and white domes of Capitol Reef. For our driving tour, Hitch and I started at Panguitch, an old town with Mormon pioneer roots along SR-89 then turning left onto SR-12. About two miles from this junction is Red Canyon of Dixie National Forest, a fantastic place deserving a day or two of its own exploration. I read that outlaw Butch Cassidy and his gang would hide out among the ponderosa pine and hoodoos.

Utah State Route 12 Near Red Canyon

Utah State Route 12 Near Red Canyon

We pass the SR-63 turnoff toward Bryce Canyon, and on toward the towns of Tropic and Cannonville. About 13 miles past Tropic, I see these amazing salmon-colored cliffs of Powell point, named after that famed explorer Major John Wesley Powell — the one that Lake Powell is named after. We snake through portions of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and across the high pastures of Table Cliff Plateau.

We end our road trip in 44 miles, just outside of the town of Escalante, and Escalante Petrified Forest State Park.

Escalante Petrified Forest State Park

There are a two main trails within this park: Petrified Forest Trail and Sleeping Rainbows Trail. I grab an interpretive trail pamphlet from the visitor center, but before we hit the trail Hitch points out the glass case and the few dozen letters from people who “stole” petrified wood from the park. I examine them closely and each letter reads along the same lines, “I’m sorry I took this from your park. Please take it back. I have had bad luck ever since I took it.” There are a few saying that the stones are cursed or haunted by spirits. The ranger says that every year a few dozen people mail back the petrified wood in hopes to change their luck for the better. One letter writer states that he “thought the warnings were phony. Since that time, I have had three accidents” involving broken bones—plus a motor home fire and a dead car engine. I consider myself warned! Take no petrified wood from these parts!

Cursed Rocks! Don't take them!

Cursed Rocks! Don’t take them!

We first start the hike on the Petrified Forest Trail, we climb about 200 feet along a mild switchback to the top of the mesa where we have a great view of Wide Hollow Reservoir. Hitch and I talked about fishing several times now. Apparently, Utah has some good fishing and in reservoirs like Wide Hollow, there is rainbow trout, largemouth bass, and bluegill.

Wide Hollow Reservoir

Wide Hollow Reservoir

The trail continues and we take the turnoff toward Sleeping Rainbow Trail. This is a loop extension at the most northern part of tame Petrified Forest Trail, but the terrain is steep, rocky and requires a bit of scrambling. The logs here are two feet or more in diameter and shimmer like rainbows in the ground. I guess that’s why the Navajo call it the Land of Sleeping Rainbows. The petrified wood comes from a tropical forest from over 200 million years ago and has some of the most vibrant colors I’ve ever seen of its like. I can understand why stone wood was prized by hobbyists before the park was established. Along with the petrified wood, there are suppose to be fossilized dinosaur bones over 150 million years old, but I’m untrained and can’t spot them.

Super Long Log of Petrified Wood

Super Long Log of Petrified Wood

Just before the loop turns back, the trail stops at a vista overlooking a small canyon. It’s a parochial kind of pretty, not as wonderous as Bryce, and we are easily distracted by the lizards scurrying on a nearby rock. We start up the second half of Sleeping Rainbows Trail and rejoin the Petrified Forest Trail. The hike back has a mild terrain and peaceful view of the reservoir. Misson complete! I have finally seen a petrified forest!

View from Sleeping Rainbow Trail

View from Sleeping Rainbow Trail

Petrified Wood Log. cobalt makes a green, blue. iron oxides make red, brown, and yellow.

Petrified Wood Log. cobalt makes a green, blue. iron oxides make red, brown, and yellow.

Carbon makes black, manganese is pink and orange, and manganese oxides is blackish yellow

Carbon makes black, manganese is pink and orange, and manganese oxide is blackish yellow

Cursed rock poetry

Cursed rock poetry

Balanced Rock

Balanced Rock

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Bryce Canyon: Mossy Cave and Fairyland Point

Mossy Cave Trail

Hitch and I took Highway 12, a little less than 4 miles beyond the SR-63 turn-off. I found this hike exceedingly pleasant, with its perennial creek flowing parallel to the trail. The terrain mostly flat for about a mile and less frequented by tourists. The bubbling creek meanders through Water Canyon and is a landscape filled with wondrously tall red spires. There are two bridges, but at the first crossing, there is a wonderful view of natural arches and window walls in the cliffs. Beyond the second bridge, and after a short climb, we took a right at the T-section onto the waterfall. At the kiosk, I learn that the water flow here is not natural. Pioneers diverted the water from Sevier River into Water Canyon via a series of canals to feed the farmlands around the town of Tropic. The canal itself is called the Tropic Ditch.

Hoodoos, water, pines, and blue sky. Perfect Combo

Hoodoos, water, pines, and blue sky. Perfect Bryce Canyon National Park Combo

The water falls 10 feet, over a ledge into a circular pool. We reach above the drop, and I notice that the water swirls quickly in a channel and several quite deep potholes, formed by the water eroding into the soft, orange-colored limestone. The water looks fast and swollen from snow melt and rainfall. There are signs forbidding us from crossing and climbing up to the windowed walls and red arches.

Waterfall of Tropic Ditch

Waterfall of Tropic Ditch

So we continue walking along the banks of the stream beyond the 10-foot tall waterfall along a well defined but unmaintained route. I’m curious and trek on upstream. The water lovely and cools the heated air. We find more brilliantly red rocky spires, and a second shorter waterfall. The water here seems to erode under a the spires before falling to the lower level. I dip my fingers into the water and discover that it’s rather soapy feeling. Perhaps from the dissolved lime rock? I find the solitude here lovely. Even the birds seem to be enjoying themselves here.

WaterCanyonWaterFall02

We continue forward and upstream but are impeded by the stream itself. The rest of the trail is cut off due to the swell of the water. We head back toward to the T-Section of the trail to see the Mossy Cave itself. The left fork is a short but steep climb through a patch of pine woodland. The cave is actually just a wide, mossy overhang in the Claron limestone. It’s kept moist by water dripping from the ceiling. The sign indicates that it is a seep where rainwater is stored within the earth before find its way back to the or “seeping back up” to surface. In the winter, large ice pillars form beneath the cave lip, sometimes not melting until well into July due to its shadowed shelter. The soil at the base of the grotto is often soft and muddy so the path ends at the edge. I can see delicate hanging gardens of moss and understand why they don’t let people wander into the cave: it’s a delicate ecosystem easily ruined by one step let alone hundreds of tourists.

I’m deeply satisfied by this hike, mostly because of the stream and the wonderful rock formations nearby. I reluctantly head back to the truck. There’s one more view I wish to see before leaving Bryce Canyon.

Mossy Cave

Mossy Cave is kind of dull in comparison to views along the stream

Fairlyland Point

The Fairyland Loop Trail is one of the best-kept secrets about Bryce Canyon. Located at the far northern tip of the park, most of the tourists blow right past Fairyland on their quest for car accessible Bryce overlooks. So Fairyland is a hikers dream.  It’s considered a strenuous hike with an elevation change of over 1500 feet as you go down into the canyon. With a total distance of over 8 miles, we don’t have time to hike it nor the stamina.  But the view from the overlook is dazzling and especially at sunset. The turn-off toward Fairyland is about one mile before the visitor center.  From the turn-off, it’s another mile through ponderosa pine and fields of grass to the viewpoint and trailhead.  We drove slowly and spotted a few Pronghorn and deer prancing about the trees.

Fairland Point

Fairland Point

The view here is just as good as the main amphitheater, with fewer crowds as a bonus.  At the trailhead saying sturdy boots are necessary for this hike, and then I remember a warning back at the visitor center informing tourists that the number one emergency calls for ranger rescues on trail are injured feet and angles due to bad shoes.

I walk a few dozen feet from the overlook proper to an overlook near the rim. I find a nice ponderosa pine to sit under. My hands skirt the bark and I discover a tiny bronze plaque marking the site to one beloved mother named Irma who died in 2005.  I guess this is where her ashes were laid by her loved ones. I sit quietly to enjoy the view and a wonderful cooling breeze.  I fine place to rest indeed.

Towers Of Mossy Cave Trail

Towers Of Mossy Cave Trail

Water Canyon Water Fall and Hoodoos

Water Canyon Water Fall and Hoodoos

Windowed Wall and Hoodoos above the Waterfall

Windowed Wall and Hoodoos above the Waterfall

Water Canyon Waterfall

Water Canyon Waterfall

Water Canyon's Red Towers

Water Canyon’s Red Towers

 Water Canyon Spires

Water Canyon Spires

Mossy Cave Trail Head

Mossy Cave Hoodoos near the Trail Head

IMG_20160510_151111

Tropic Ditch, Waterfall and Hoodoos

Tropic Ditch, Waterfall and Hoodoos

HoodooSetWaterCanyon

Water Canyon Castle

Hitch In Water Canyon

Hitch In Water Canyon

FinalWaterfall

Water and Ponderosa

360 Mossy Cave Trail, Bryce National Park

360 Fairlyand Point, Bryce National Park

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Hitch N Post, Panguitch UT

If you are looking for a decent place to park near Bryce Canyon UT and not a whole lot more, the Hitch N Post should suit your needs. It’s not fancy, it’s not pretty, but the hookups work, the internet is good, the lots are level, and the price is decent for the area.

Nights: 14
RV Park Cost: $470 ($34/night)
Discounts Used: None (Weekly price includes 10% discount)
Address: 420 North Main Street Panguitch, Utah 84759
GPS37°49’47.1″N 112°26’07.5″W
Website: www.hitchnpostrv.com

Pros

  • Reliable internet
  • Full hookups including water, sewer, electrical.
  • Close to Bryce Canyon
  • Large Laundry

Cons

  • Limited amenities
Here is our Airstream, the Yamato, hitched up at the Hitch N Post.

Here is our Airstream, the Yamato, hitched up at the Hitch N Post.

What’s not to love about a campground that shares my name? Well, love might be a strong word in this case. Good enough would probably be more accurate. Hitch N Post is best described as rustic even though it is in the midst of the small tourism-driven town of Panguitch. It’s a small park with a couple dozen gravel lots. The clubhouse is an uninsulated garage decorated with thrift store furniture and knick knacks. The bathrooms probably date to the 1970s and the grounds are scattered with rusting old west antiques.

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t deliver where it counts. The bathrooms are clean and kept supplied. They have a laundry with a huge number of machines given the camp size making doing laundry a quick endeavor. They have full hookups, barring cable TV, and they all work nicely. Shockingly, they may have the best wireless internet I’ve yet encountered. I suspect that is because this is a small campground and while we have been here it’s been half full at best.

Behold the rustic charm that permeates all corners of the Hitch N Post

Behold the rustic charm that permeates all corners of the Hitch N Post

I’m developing a theory that the smaller the campground, the better the wireless will be. Whatever investment big places make in repeaters and other equipment, they just can’t handle the level of traffic their big park puts on the trunk connection they have. Small parks, despite having less invested will have a pretty similar trunk service but far fewer people trying to use it. So far, this has held true for us with perhaps one exception.

The staff we have met here are all work-campers and were incredibly friendly. There is a rather nice gift shop on premises, though it’s long on tourist trinkets and a bit short on food and RV supplies which are what I look for in an on-site shop. The town itself is fairly nice. It’s small and rural and stuff closes early and on Sundays. It caters to tourists so there are many diners and souvenir shops. Amusingly many shops and homes have make-shift horse hitches out front to give it a frontier feel. Across the street, there is a Familly Dollar store which has basic food and drug store items for sale.

It may not be pretty, but it's the most functional laundry we have yet encountered.

It may not be pretty, but it’s the most functional laundry we have yet encountered.

All in all, Hitch N Post is nothing too fancy but as a place to camp while seeing Bryce and other local wonders, it gets the job done. The price is about normal, perhaps high for the amenities offered, but much lower than similar camps only a bit closer to Bryce canyon.

 

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Red Canyon, Dixie National Forest

Under the jurisdiction of Dixie National Forest is an excellent prelude to Bryce Canyon, if you are traveling eastbound on Highway 12.  When we were heading out to Bryce the first time the tall spires minarets of Red Canyon struck us with awe. I later learned that most visitors just pull out on the side of the road for a few quick photos then move along.  I was determined not to be one of those people.  I know when adventure and exploration are sending me an invitation, and it was doing so in the form of those bright red spires.

Pink Ledges and Hoodoo Loop Trail Combo

From the Red Canyon Visitor center, we decided to do a combo loop hike of two trails: Pink Ledges and Hoodoo.  Since this is US Forest Land controlled by the Department of Agriculture, it means that you can bring horses, mountain bikes, and ATVs in addition to regular foot hiking on designated trails.  Thankfully these two trails are restricted and only foot traffic is allowed.   Hoodoo trail is short, allows some intimate contact with hoodoos. The rock is a super bright red and seems to change color as the day moves on.

Hoodoo Red Canyon

To-when-an-ung-wa stuck in stone trying to escape the Coyote Trickster’s spell

I enjoy the scent of sagebrush, pinyon pine, and juniper.  I discover that ponderosa pine bark smells like vanilla or butterscotch when I set my nose upon a bark crevice and breath deeply. Other hikers tell me it smells like cinnamon or coconut.  The nearby sign says the aroma may arise from a chemical in the sap being warmed by the sun. Today, the weather is sunny and 80°F so the bark smells like baked cookies. Apparently, I’m getting intimate with the tree’s armor against fires. This ponderosa bark is thick, flaky and looks like a jigsaw puzzle; its protective layer.

Pink Ledges and Ponderosa Pine

Pink Ledges and Ponderosa Pine. Do you smell cookies?

Hitch and I take the turn-off junction toward Pink Ledges trail. There’s suppose to be some kind of interpretive map to go along with this trail, but we didn’t pick one at the visitor center. So we make things up at each numbered spot.  What I do know is that the rock at Red Canyon is very much the same rock found at Bryce Canyon.  In the geological timescale, Bryce and Red Canyon rock exposed  are younger than the ones found at Zion National Park, with Grand Canyon being the oldest.

Rare Rock Tree

Along the trail we find a rare tree that grows red rocks!

Although it’s not a grand of a hike as Navajo or Queen’s Garden in Bryce, the environment is still pretty and inspires the imagination. The color of the rock is stunning and stands out against the blue sky. There are few benches along the trail, and we stop and take it all in before heading back to the visitor center.

Cassidy, Rich and Ledge Point Trail Combo

For the rest of the afternoon, Hitch and I drive along SR-12 for a few hundred feet, park that the Red Canyon Trailhead, and start our hike up Cassidy Trail.  This is a mix use trail and horse riders, bikes and hikers are allowed.  We wind our way through ponderosa pine, green-leaf manzanita, limber pine, and junipers. The terrain is rugged and occasionally we have to walk around piles of horse dung. Surprisingly, there isn’t as much horse poo as I expected, probably because it’s still early in the hiking season.

Up along Rich Trail

Up along Rich Trail

The trail parallels a wash with pink limestone scree slopes bordering the edge. In about half a mile, I see the first hoodoo formation along the route, and at 0.8 miles we take a left, and up the southern half of Rich Trail.  We make our way up through a series of mild switchbacks, paralleling another smaller wash.  There are fine examples of pink hoodoos and alcoves of stone. The terrain gets a bit rocky and we have to do a bit of scrambling, but it isn’t long before we get atop a plateau. We make our way through some trees, onto Ledge Point Trail, and before long, we come to an astounding panoramic view of Red Canyon with a portion of SR-12 visible.  Having soaked up the view, we head back the way we came, relieved that it’s downhill all the way.

Hitch Ledge Point

Hitch playing with my hiking poles on Ledge Point

Arches Trail Loop

On a later day we head out to SR-12, eastbound we turn left on Castro Canyon Road. It’s a dusty dirt road, but our RAM truck makes quick work of the two miles to Losee Canyon Trail Head. Arches Trail is a quick hike, but there is a bit of scrambling to do. We wander up through pine and red color scree, only to encounter a curious man-made structure. It’s too small to be a shelter, and we later learn that its was once a makeshift food storage hut used by Butch Cassidy and his gang.

Cassidy's Food Hut

Butch Cassidy’s Food Hut. I guess cattle rustling is hungry work!

Our hike parallels a wash, and we spot a stupendous natural arch. I can’t resist and climb up for some photos.  After I’ve had my fill, we make our way back down on to what we think is the trail. Turns out we missed it by a few yards and scrambled up some rocks unnecessarily.  If we followed the trail properly we would have hit a switchback and a set of wooden stairs leading up to the route.  Oh well!

Hitch under a natural arch

Hitch under a natural arch

We next encounter a set of amazing hoodoos and windows all rolled into one. More pictures ensue! This time we stick to the trail proper, just beneath a bright red cliff face and toward a spur in the trail. The spur travels 200 feet out to a wonderful viewpoint facing westward toward SR-89 valley floor.  I can spot Haycock Mountain and Sandy Peak in the distance.  From there we make quick pace down the later half of the loop trail, but take a slight detour to walk back via the wash.  I look up and see a rock formation of a “fin” and the beginnings of a new hoodoo.  A nice short trail with easy payoffs.

Arches Trail

Selfie on the Arches Trail

WindowsAndArches

Hoodoos and Windows

Castro Canyon Spires

Castro Canyon Spires remind me of Cathedrals

Vermillion Cliffs along Arches Trail

Vermillion Cliffs along Arches Trail

RedRockLayers

Red Rock Layers

RedSpires

Red Spires

LedgePointHitch

Hitch at Ledge Point

360 Arches Trail, Red Canyon, Dixie National Forest

360 Ledges Point Trail, Red Canyon, Dixie National Forest

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