Leeds RV Park, Leeds Utah

Leeds RV Park is closest to what I had imagined RV parks to be like prior to our actual experience with RV parks. It is a smallish rural site with a country feel that offers the basic services you expect and not a lot more. For me, the highlight is that their wireless internet actually works most of the time, a true rarity so far in our travels.

Nights: 16
RV Park Cost: $608 ($38/day)
Discounts Used: Escapees RV Club
Address: 97 Valley Rd, Leeds, UT 84746
GPS: 37.233395, -113.362695
Website: www.leedsrvpark.com

Pros

  • Pleasant rural setting
  • Clean private bathrooms
  • Full hookups including water, sewer, electrical.
  • Reliable wireless internet
  • Wandering Cats?

Cons

  • Wandering Cats?
  • Limited service
Here we are parked at Leeds RV, lots of nice trees here.

Here we are parked at Leeds RV, lots of nice trees.

Leeds RV park is located in Southern Utah in the town of Leeds, a place that consists mostly of a few small farms, a good number of lovely homes, and a goodly number of RV parks. It has a cafe, a post office, a general store, and not much else in the commercial arena. It is not a long drive north or south to strip malls and Zion National Park is close at hand which is why we are here.

Let’s talk internet! Nearly every park claims to have free wireless internet. Generally, it is almost always overloaded and next to useless as a result. Leeds RV is a small park however and as a result, the wireless here works pretty well most of the time, even inside our trailer near the edge of the park. True, from around 7pm to 11pm it can get sketchy as more folks jump on, but by comparison to other parks, Leeds RV is wireless heaven.

The club room is next to the laundry and is plenty comfy.

The club room is next to the laundry and is plenty comfy.

The environs of the park are nice, but not spectacular. Trees cover most of the parking spots giving you a touch of privacy and a good bit of shade. The back of the park abuts an attractive rocky cliff and trails from the park lead to areas you can explore. The owners have done a decent job creating attractive lawns and gardens on the ground. Nothing spectacular bit it feels like a nice country home.

The bathrooms are also a big plus. There are only two at this time (others are apparently being renovated) but they are private bathrooms with full showers, really nice compared to the usual group style bathrooms at most parks. Since it is a small park I haven’t found them crowded or overused and they are kept sparkling clean.

This kitty was pretty insistent on getting petted whenever we passed by.

This kitty was pretty insistent on getting petted whenever we passed by.

If you like cats, you are in luck, there are a number that lurk around the grounds. It’s not clear if they are neighborhood cats or belong to someone at the park. It’s odd because the park rules require all pets to be on a leash or in an enclosure. If you don’t like cats, this could be a problem for you.

I’ve read reviews of the place where the chief complaint was the owners/hosts. While we didn’t find them especially friendly, neither did we find them hostile in any way. We were disappointed they didn’t accept mail deliveries for residents, but each site is going to decide what services they offer so there is nothing rude about that.

Pretty much what I always imagined an RV park to look like, yet most of them don't.

Pretty much what I always imagined an RV park to look like, yet most of them don’t.

The price here is on the high side, but not unusual for the area as it is near very popular national parks. They don’t take passport America, which tends to give a great discount, but they are a Good Sam member and accept Escape RV club, which we joined specifically to get the discount here. Our two week stay paid for the membership.

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What Type of RV to Buy: Part 3

In What Type of RV to Buy: Part 2 we did some self-reflection on what you needs and desires are. Here we put that into practice by looking at the qualities offered by different types of RVs in various categories. Finally, we will offer some simple stereotypes that many travelers fit into and what their most common RV choices are.

Driving Considerations

Safety and comfort while driving are important, and the more road time you plan on having, the more important it is. Generally, any RV can be driven safely, but the level of skill required and the level of stress driving them can vary based on a number of factors.

The bigger they are, the harder they drive: The bigger the RV, the more challenges there are driving it. The length makes turning and changing lanes harder, height means you have to pay close attention to clearance, width reduces visibility making everything more dangerous, weight increases the challenge when dealing with steep hills both going up and down.

Trailers are tricky: Trailers come with challenges. Backing up a trailer is not intuitive and requires a lot of practice to become proficient in. You may not need to back up a trailer often, but it does happen. Having a spotter or wide angle rear camera is pretty much essential. Trailers can also suffer from trailer sway. This is when wind or other forces shove your trailer sideways causing it to pivot with respect to the hitch point creating instability. It is the leading cause of wrecks for travel trailers. 5th wheels generally don’t get trailer sway and there are hitches featuring sway control technology that reduce the danger, none the less it remains a consideration.

Motorhomes can have trailers too: If you decide to tow a vehicle or another trailer with your motorhome you end up with the same challenges that trailers face. In the case of towing a vehicle, called a toad in the lingo, then you simply cannot back up safely.

Only the most courageous and skilled should attempt this madness!

Only the most courageous and skilled should attempt this madness!

Home on the road: Motorhomes have the advantage of allowing passengers to be in the home part of the motorhome while in transit. Laws vary by state but typically you cannot ride in a trailer. For longer trips this typically allows folks to be more comfortable and entertained during the trip. It is also an advantage if traveling with pets. All that said, safety-wise, it is best to be in a belted seat with appropriate airbags. Often a trailer tow vehicle has the best safety options of this kind.

A commanding View: Class A motorhomes have big front windows offering a commanding view of the countryside as you drive. Chances are good there will be lots of great things to see as you drive so this can be a big positive in the pleasure of driving.

The Bottom Line for Driving:  Motorhomes have an edge in being easier to and more pleasurable to drive. They are especially nice for very long driving trips. The bigger the rig of any type, the more challenge, and stress you will have driving it.

One of the greatest drives in the world: Zion East.

One of the greatest drives in the world: Zion East.

Mobility Considerations

Size Matters: In this case the smaller the better in terms of mobility. Large RVs are limited as to what roads they can travel on and where they can be parked.

Built for Back Roads: ATV RVs are made for going up back roads or even off roads with your mobile abode. Small trailers like teardrops are also sometimes engineered to be towed on rugged roads using a 4-wheel drive tow vehicle. If you really want to take your RV anywhere, this is the only way to go.

Urban Explorer: If you want to travel in and sleep in urban areas, a Class B motorhome is probably the ideal option. They are a little tricky to park but you can usually find something workable and they tend to fit fine through tunnels, garages, and other urban obstacles. Likely you can overnight nearly anywhere without drawing undo attention.

Divide and Conquer: Large RV’s don’t mean you can’t explore remote locations, you just have to adopt the divide and conquer strategy. With trailers, you take your tow vehicle, and with a motorhome, you bring a toad. Toads are typically fairly small so they are great for running errands in the city or site seeing. You can tow a jeep or similar off-road vehicle for wilderness treks. Tow vehicles tend to be a good deal larger but will have strong suspensions that do well off road. Tow vehicles also tend to have more storage space for backpacking adventures and the like.

The Bottom line for mobility: Smaller means more mobile, but you can find a way to make nearly any choice work to get you where you want to go.

A good example of a poor choice.

A good example of a poor choice.

Lifestyle Considerations

Living Large: Bigger RVs mean more options. You can sleep more people, you have more amenities, you have space for more stuff. This makes large and mid-sized RVs very popular and the smaller models more niche. Mind you larger also means more time and attention spent maintaining and cleaning your RV. The more time you plan on being out and about, especially if you are a full-timer, the more a comfortable RV will matter. Weather and illness can force you inside for longer than you’d otherwise plan and creature comforts become important. Going big usually means 5th wheels and Class A motorhomes, though some larger travel trailers can fit the bill.

Living Small: If your focus in traveling is reveling in the great outdoors, then going small may hold many rewards. For starters, it encourages you to get out of your RV and spend more time under the open sky. It also occupies less time and attention in maintenance and the like, freeing you to get out and do more. Part of the RV lifestyle is exposing yourself to the wider world and a smaller RV helps accomplish that. There is also a peace of mind that can come from minimal materialism and maximum self-reliance. Small usually means trailers, though Class B motorhomes and the old truck camper certainly fit the bill.

The Bottom line for Lifestyle: Size is what you are deciding on here. In listening to longtime RVers talk about their choices and watching what people pick when they change RVs two trends emerge. People either move towards larger and more luxurious models, or they seek to strip down and go as small as possible. If you have a strong sense as to which type of person you are, go big/small as you are inclined. If you are not certain, I’d advise trying something in the middle ground and finding out which way you learn through experience.

This kind of interior is likely to set you back a bit.

This kind of interior is likely to set you back a bit.

Money Considerations

Budget often puts a hard limit on what you can buy, and if you are like most folks, you will spend up to, and probably a little beyond what you intend to. Prices can be all over the map depending on how fancy you get. By type, it tends to go about like this from most expensive to least.

Engine Included

  • Class A (Diesel Pushers) & All Terrain RVs: New ones start at $150K and go up a lot from there into the millions.
  • Class B: Surprisingly small isn’t cheap, they start in the $90K range and up to around $120K
  • Class A (Gas) : New ones start around $70K and can go well up from towards $150K
  • Class C: New starts in the $55K zone and cap out around $80K

Vehicle Sold Separately

  • 5th wheel:  Low end is around $30K, and go high as $100K for the 50′ monsters.
  • Park Models: Low end is around $18K new but can range up into the $100K zone for deluxe Airstreams.
  • Truck campers: Starting near $10K and topping out around $20K.
  • Expandable and Teardrop Trailers: Start in around $5K and tend to go as high as $20K

New vs Used: Used trailers come at a steep discount. The primary reason for this is supply vs demand. There is a much larger supply of used trailers than new ones, yet demand for trailers is more evenly split. Value wise, used is almost always better. If budget is less limited, new trailers come with fewer surprises and less financial risk. While new trailers are rarely perfect, they often have manufacturing defects you get to discover, they come with warranties meaning repairs are generally at no cost, only time and hassle. If you want to reduce the risk on an older trailer, hire a professional inspector once you are fairly certain you are interested in one. Knowing what the hidden costs of repairs will help you make a more confident decision. New trailer prices are determined largely by make, model, and dealership. Used trailer prices can be all over the map from incredibly low “get it out of my yard now,” bargain prices to “might as well buy a new one,” overvalued. Conditions also range from “better than new,” to “water logged, mold infested nightmare.”

RV clearance sale, like new, minor water damage.

RV clearance sale, like new, minor water damage.

Maintenance Cost: Bigger and more complicated means more to break and maintain as where simple and small is cheaper. You will spend money fixing things in the trailer. The more handy you are the better, but sometimes you need specialized parts and tools to get the job done and that means hiring professionals. The most expensive configuration is likely a Class A towing a toad. This means two engines to maintain and maximum bits and pieces. The cheapest is likely a teardrop towed by a reliable car. Diesel engines are an interesting case. On the one hand, they last considerably longer than gas engines much of the time, on the other they typically have a higher per mile cost as they require more lubrication and additives. Commercial vehicles prefer diesel because they are on the road near constantly so lifespan really matters. RVs, even for full timers tend not to see quite so much road time and are more likely to be swapped out before the engine comes to the end of its natural life.

Fuel costs: While you burn a lot of fuel traveling around, the overall difference from one type of RV to another, and their relative price tends to make mileage less of a consideration than you might expect. Generally, the heavier your rig, the more you spend in fuel. Trailers and tow vehicles will tend to get a bit better mileage even if about the same weight as a motorhome. Unless you are in an economy car, pulling an ultra light trailer, expect gas mileage somewhere between 5mpg and 12mpg on average.

Shop till you drop: You should be able to shave at least 20% off the manufacturers list price for most new RVs, more if you are very crafty about it. Used models will vary wildly in price, with the best deals coming from direct owner sales via classifieds and the like. Your best bet is to find lots of options, then negotiate between them getting the lowest prices possible. Patience is also helpful as events like model year sell-offs and the like can generate more savings. Generally, you want to buy locally. Costs to move a vehicle from another state or long distance will tend to eat up any price advantage you can get.

RV shows can be a good place to explore many different models and brands.

RV shows can be a great opportunity to explore many different models and brands first hand.

The bottom line on money: New trailers come in a pretty wide price range while motorhomes are more narrowly priced by their class, with only Class C being in the economy range. Motorhomes cost considerably more than similar sized trailers, though with a trailer you need to have or buy an appropriate tow vehicle. Maintenance matters, but fuel economy is a small factor by comparison as its generally poor no matter what. Smart shopping is what will really save you money and buying used is far more economical for the budget minded than buying new unless you have the bad luck of purchasing a real lemon.

What is your type?

One way to pick an RV is by using stereotypes. Folks often do fit into some broad categories and the RV marketers of the world understand these pretty well. Each type will have some preferences that match up to an RV type.

The Castle Camper

Your home is your castle and you want to take it with you on the road. The more luxuries and room the better. You will journey out by day but spend a good bit of time at and in your RV. You tend to settle down somewhere for a good stretch of time, often for weeks or even months at a time. When money is no limit, you go for the Deisel Pusher, often with a toad for trips for supplies. If money is a consideration you go for a 5th wheel, often as big as you can find.

The Robinson Family

You and your sizable family love to travel. Kids, pets, parents, grandparents, guests, it’s all about communal adventure. Luxury is not as important as experience but you need space for everyone and their gear. If you can afford it a Class A is certainly nice, but more likely you are rocking a good sized 5th wheel pulled by a king cab truck. Mom and dad have a private room up front and there are lots of bunk spaces for the kids.

This is not one of the more popular categories of RV.

This is not one of the more popular categories of RV.

The happy campers

A couple or small family, not retirement age but eager to explore. Because budgets are limited a Class C is usually the motorhome of choice, while a small 5th wheel or park model are also good options in your price range. Both offer enough room and amenities for visiting the great parks, exploring America, or just spending a week with relatives.

The wilderness wanderer

You would like to be as far from civilization as possible as much as possible. You tend towards a nice teardrop or ultra-light pulled by a jeep or off road SUV. Truck campers are also a possibility. With your compact shelter and rugged vehicle, you can go anywhere and do anything.

The urban explorer

You are eager to explore the country, probably single or a couple without kids. You like some creature comforts and are as at home in the city as the park lands. A class B is just about the perfect way to go anywhere and do anything.

The post What Type of RV to Buy: Part 3 appeared first on The Adventures of Trail & Hitch.

What Type of RV to Buy: Part 2

In part 1 of this series we discussed the huge range of RVs currently on the market. Now we will consider your needs, desires, and limitations. Having these in mind will help you choose the best RV for your new lifestyle in part 3. Let’s start with a series of questions to get you thinking about them. I’ll give you my own answers to these questions as we go.

Who Wants Some Adventure?

This one should be easy to answer, who is going to be traveling in the RV? Typically, this is going to be your family, but you may want to bring guests or clients or perhaps pets. In addition to a number of folks living and sleeping in the RV, you want to tackle the rest of the questions keeping in mind the needs and desires of everyone in the crew.

The more people and critters in your party, the more space you are likely to need. This is especially the case if you want any kind of privacy between the travelers, though don’t expect too much on that account inside your RV.

Trail and I have no kids and aren’t too likely to bring any guests, but we do have a couple of kitties. The cats need a place to feel safe, and room for their litter box and food. We humans need a fair bit more room. I’m 6’3″, 320lb, and far from flexible. I needed an RV tall enough I could stand up, with a big enough bath I could fit without contortions, and a bed I would not stick out of in multiple directions.

Here is a selfie taken with the Coolpix. Trail and Hitch geared up for exploration.

Fellow Travelers: Trail and Hitch at the grand canyon.

Where are You Going?

You never truly know where your adventures will take you but you probably have a good idea of the types of places you want to go. Even if “all of them!” is the answer, and it’s a good one, you should think about what types of trips you are most excited about and the types of places you would like to spend the most time. Generally, destinations will fall into some categories: urban, rural, and wilderness locations.

Rural includes most parklands that are set up to accommodate tourists. Urban areas are typically not happy places for large RVs, same goes for remote wilderness locations. Rural areas and most parklands tend to be the most spacious and forgiving. Of course, there are strategies for bigger rigs to divide and conquer. Those in a trailer can take their tow vehicle into the wilds or urban jungle and larger motorhomes can tow a car (often called a “toad”, since its being “towed” behind the motorhome). Wilderness areas also mean you need to operate off the grid and with reasonable supplies.

We want to go everywhere! I like cities, Trail likes the wilderness. I felt that being able to park our home, and then range around in a car or truck was the way to go to accommodate all adventures possible yet allowing us to have a fairly large RV.

Mt Rainier Sunrise Trail

Let’s go to mount Rainier!

How Long will You Be on the Road?

It may matter less than you might imagine, but you should consider how much time you plan to spend in your RV. Consider both how often you will take trips, and how long those trips will be. If you are like us, your RV will be your new home, not just a home away from home. Driving time matters too. If you want to go a long way in a short time it means a lot of driving time as where if you have more time you can take short hops from place to place.

The more time you spend in the RV the more it needs to feel like home and provide you both shelter and comfort. The more drive time you have the more you want your RV to be easy to drive and provide comfort for both driver and passenger on the move.

We were determined to go full time! We want to find a way to make a living from anywhere in the world and keep on roaming as long as we have the passion for it. For us, this meant we wanted our RV to be sturdy and reliable and with enough storage for all we needed in life with a bit of room for the unexpected.

Joshua Tree National Park

We will keep going so long as there are more things to see that make us go “Wow!”

What is Your Style?

Do you want to travel in the lap of luxury, or do you enjoy a more spartan existence? Do you need to bring along a lot of gear and equipment, or do you prefer to travel light and buy what you need when you need it? While it’s good to stretch and challenge yourself while traveling, it’s also important to feel comfortable and at ease when it comes time to rest. Visual style can matter as well. Trailer interiors range from country cottage to sleek modernity and everywhere in between. You want your RV to feel like a sanctuary.

Typically luxury comes at a cost, and often the larger the RV the more luxury features it will have and size also comes at a cost. There are exceptions, and companies like Airstream and others do have luxurious high-quality RVs in smaller sizes. Style is often where brand considerations come into play. No matter what you get, taking some time to customize your RV and make it your own is time and money well spent.

For better or worse, Trail and I have somewhat expensive tastes. We also were pretty fond of “stuff” and our home was full of “things” of all kinds. We made a deliberate decision to get rid of stuff and change to a more stripped-down lifestyle. For Trail it was a deliberate change of lifestyle, for me, it was more a matter of practicality. Both of us prefer a modern design and are not fond of the stained wood look popular with many manufacturers.

Yamato parked at Mountain Gate

Keeping it shiny-shiny!

What is your budget?

Here is where the rubber meets the road. It is important to decide how much money you want to spend and how much you can spend to realize your RV dreams. For some this means making payments, for others it means paying a lump sum up front. RVs are not an investment as a home with property can be. They are almost guaranteed to lose significant value unless you have the skills to dramatically improve the quality and appearance of an older trailer.

The good news is that if you have time, and are willing to work at it, you can make your money go further by being a skilled RV shopper. This means both searching high and low for trailers to buy, and knowing how to negotiate the best price. Especially if you are buying new, if you don’t think you have the time or temperament to negotiate and shop, I strongly suggest you find someone you know who can help you out, or even hire a professional to help you. You can also take advantage of the depreciation of RVs by buying used. The risk is somewhat greater, there are real lemons out there, but the rewards can be great. With a few exceptions, a budget will not determine what kind of RV you can afford. Both motor homes and trailers can be had cheaply and in the used market, size is not quite as determinate in price as is condition and how well you shop.

Trail and I had a pretty hefty budget to work with. Essentially whatever we got from the sale of our house and our commuter car would be channeled into buying our RV. We were determined to go debt free in the process so we bought everything with cash rather than credit. All said and done we spent around $135K on our RV (new) and tow vehicle (used).

A lovely view of Tatooine, err I mean Death Valley.

The price of a 30′ Airstream and Dodge Ram 1500: 140K.  A lifetime of views like this one: Priceless.

Almost there, just a little bit longer

We’ve looked at the many types of RVs on offer, we have meditated on our needs and desires. Now we try and put those two things together and come up with a focus for your shopping.

Coming Soon: What Type of RV to Buy: Part 3

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Zion’s Emerald Pools & Kayenta Trail

Hiking Zion’s Emerald Pools

The trail to Emerald Pools is a Zion National Park signature hike and a must for any first time visitor. It’s just across from Zion Lodge and can get very crowded during summer months. Thoroughly blessed with stunning scenery, I could see myself coming back to the area year after year despite the heavy tourist traffic. Waterfalls splash serenely into crystal-like mossy green pools while canyon tree frogs sing their chorus in the background. The trail to the Lower Emerald Pool is paved and very popular with families and tour groups. It is about a half-mile to reach the alcove of the lower pool. Looking up, I can see that there’s a spring seeping from high above the sandstone cliff. The wind turns the falling water into sprays on to lush hanging gardens lodged tightly in cracks within the rock. The trail dodges behind two waterfalls, which spill from a terrace wich houses the middle pools. I’m told that the waterfalls swell in early spring from snow melt, and are reduced to a trickle by summer – a good enough reason to visit in any season.

Middle Pool

Middle Pool

Beyond the alcove, the trail gets more difficult and steps up and around to bring you on top of the cliff that you just walked under. Up a few switchbacks and winding around monolithic boulders, the trail lead to the middle pools, which are actually shallow streams that cross the trail and go on to form the waterfall for the lower pools. At the higher of the middle pools, there are more canyon tree frogs than we can count. I could spend all day here, practicing water photography while frogs serenade me, but it’s very crowded here with tourists so we didn’t linger over long.

Canyon Tree Frog

Middle Pool Canyon Tree Frog Bleating a Song for the Lady Frogs

The final leg of the hike is hard, but my reward is the final pool with a 300-foot cliff pouring water from above. I find a nice shaded boulder to relax and have lunch. The hike up is a bit rough and fewer people are willing to brave it in full sun. The pool is framed by colossal cliffs on three sides. I notice that people come in waves, so I might have a chance at a good photo shot.

Blissful shade against the Upper Pool Cliff

Blissful shade against the Upper Pool Cliff

On our way back down, I’m am stunned by a beautiful view of Red Mountain Arch framed by Lady Mountain on the south and The Spearhead to the north. We take a side step to the lower of the middle pools, hoping to take the Middle Trail back to the Lodge, but its washed out. But before we head back we enjoy the overlook down to the lower pools and Zion canyon itself.

View from the Middle Pool

Stunning View from the Middle Pool

Kayenta Trail

We exit Zion National Park’s Emerald Pools area via Kayenta Trail, which leads northward deeper into Zion and towards The Grotto. This trail runs along the west canyon wall of Zion and provides a great view of the Virgin River. Another easy hike, but it has the kind of views you normally saw on Zion postcards. The trail leads down to a bridge which you can cross toward The Grotto, or you can go further north and on to Angel’s Landing. Meant for the fit and stout of heart Angel’s Landing Trail, is high up with narrow points near steep drop-offs. One day I’ll go, but for now, we head back toward The Grotto and The Lodge.

The View South From the Kayenta Trail

Lovely View of Zion National Park looking South on the Kayenta Trail

Hitch on the Kayenta Trail

Hitch on the Kayenta Trail

Hitch at the Upper Pool

Hitch at the Upper Pool

Tall Pano of Upper Pool Falls

Tall Pano of Upper Pool Falls

Obligatory Selfie on the Kayenta Trail

Obligatory Selfie on the Kayenta Trail

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Zion National Park: Riverwalk Trail

Zion National Park is pretty popular and received some 3.6 million visitors alone last year. Not as much as Grand Canyon’s 5.2 million visitors, but still a sizable number. The key to visiting Zion is knowing what you want to do when you get there. I only had a vague idea of what was available at Zion, so my first stop was to the Visitor center to grab some maps and hiking books.

Zion Visitor Center

Zion Visitor Center: designed from the ground up using green technology, both new and ancient including the convection cooling towers.

Many of those who come to Zion are climbing and canyoneering — these are sports that require ropes, helmets, and sometimes wetsuits. The reward with that kind of effort and endurance are stunning views seen by very few people. With trail names as Fat Man’s Misery and Key Hole Canyon, you can understand why these places are hard to reach. Having officially hit the road last December, we are far from fit, so we stick to easy and moderate hikes for now.

Riverside Trail is easy but still wonderfully pretty

Riverside Trail is easy but still wonderfully pretty

From April to October, no private cars are admitted past Canyon Junction on Zion Scenic Drive. So we left the truck at Visitor Center and took the shuttle to our first hike: The Riverside Walk at Temple Sanawava. In theory, this easy 2-mile in-and-out trail should take an hour and a half to walk, but you will most likely take longer, we certainly did. It’s hard to not stop and look. Fremont cottonwood, velvet ash, and bigtooth maples flush with green. This strip of land lies between monstrous cliffs of red sandstone. The sound of Virgin River rushing in the background, and in just a few hundred steps from the shuttle stop, you can see the bluish-green water flowing quickly over rocks and under green drooping trees.

Sig on the RIverwalk

Hitch on the Riverwalk

Looking up, we could see hanging gardens upon the cliff face. These abundant assemblages of plants are only found where small seeps or springs flow forth from the shady cliff recesses far above ground level. I can see frilly ferns, sprouting orchids, colorful monkeyflowers, and spring blossoming primroses. It’s so strange to see distinctly wetland plants in what I know is an arid desert, but they are protected here by the cliffs and fed by fresh spring water. At the bottom of the cliff, the spring water collects in a pond where canyon tree frogs more likely heard than seen. They make a loud goat-like trilling song that rings through the canyon.

Spring & Hanging Garden

Spring & Hanging Garden

Along the way, there are points where we can wander to the banks of the river. If you’re lucky you’ll see wild mule deer and wild turkeys that love to frequent the riversides. We only caught glimpses of fluttering butterflies and ground squirrels with near-domesticated attitudes on this hike.

Squirrels beg like cats

Squirrels beg like cats by tapping you on your leg while you sit. The fine for feeding them is $100, resist temptation.

At the end of the Riverwalk Trail is The Narrows. This is the narrowest section of Zion Canyon, where the walls are a thousand feet tall and the river as little as twenty feet wide. This part of the hike is very popular to the bi-pedal tourists. To hike The Narrows, you must walk in the Virgin River and wade upstream. The only time you can hike this part of the trail is summer and fall, when the river’s water level is passable. For us, it’s Spring and the snow melt and rainfall are so much that the water is unsafe to wade in. By the way, there’s a big sign at the Visitor Center that lists trail closures, be sure to read that before your hike.

The high canyon walls taunt me. The cold river water scares me. I want to go forward and see things I’ve never seen before. I know it’s better to turn back and come another day. Another day indeed.

The Narrows is Blocked by High Waters

The Narrows is Blocked by High Waters

Zion Hanging Garden on Glistening Cliffs

Zion Hanging Garden on Glistening Cliffs

Zion Canyon Tree Frogs

Zion Canyon Tree Frogs

Sig in the Shuttle

Hitch in the Zion National Park Shuttle, full scruffy mode engaged!

Zion Shooting Star (Dodecatheon pulchellum)

Zion Shooting Star (Dodecatheon pulchellum)

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What type of RV to by: Part 1

When you decide to get an RV for a full-time lifestyle like ours, or just for going on vacation, the options can be overwhelming. Ultimately, you will make your decision based on many factors and long consideration but hopefully, I can help lay out your options and sift through the choices.

The approach I recommend is this.

  1. Learn about what options are out there
  2. Think about what your desires and limitations are
  3. Find the option that best fits your desires and limitations

Your Options: A Taxonomy of RVs

I think understanding RV options is best approached as a taxonomy: a series of subdivisions of related vehicles. The first division is between two large families: Trailers and Motorhomes. Each has unique qualities, and within each family, there is a huge range of options.

Behold, the world of Recreational Vehicles revealed!

Behold, the world of Recreational Vehicles revealed!

Trailers: This is any RV that you tow behind another vehicle. When towing them you ride in the tow vehicle. When you arrive at a location you detach and set up your trailer, then roam around in your tow vehicle as desired.

Advantages: The trailer has no engine to maintain, so if your truck is in the shop you can still live in the trailer. You can park the trailer and take your tow vehicle nearly anywhere in the back-country. Usually inexpensive if you already own a tow vehicle. Ideal for short drives with long stops.

Motorhomes: These are RVs which have their own power and which you drive from place to place. You can even tow another trailer or small vehicle behind many motorhomes.

Advantages: Faster set up and take down of your campsite, can be as easy as just parking. If you tow a small car, it can easily go into urban areas where a large tow vehicle or your RV cannot. Passengers can be in the RV while on the road. Ideal for long drives with short stops. They are generally easier and perhaps safer to drive than most travel trailers.

This is a custom motorhome built on a semi-truck chassis.

This is a custom motorhome built on a semi-truck chassis.

Type of Motorhomes

Motorhomes have three main types and a few sub-types. The divisions are primarily based on the type of vehicle frame the motorhome is built on. Most folks think of them as just Small (Class B), Medium (Class C), and Large (Class A). They cost more than a similar sized trailer because they include an engine and driving controls.

Class A motorhomes: These are based on a large bus or commercial truck chassis. They are the largest motorhomes and most often resemble a large bus. The driver tends to sit high in the front of the vehicle with large windows. They tend to be very tall, very heavy and have the most room inside. They are also the most expensive type of RV you can buy.

Advantages: They are the largest motorhomes with space enough for distinct rooms inside. They often have a great selection of amenities. They tend to give the driver a great view of the road and scenery.

This diesel pusher is among the smaller ones on the road.

This diesel pusher class A is among the smaller ones on the road.

Among class As there are some distinct Sub-types: The Diesel pusher, and the Conversion.

Diesel pusher: This is a Class A that has a diesel engine at the rear of the vehicle, much like a commercial or tour bus. They cost considerably more but have a quiet and powerful engine giving you a luxury ride. They also tend to be very fancy due to the high price bracket they occupy.

Conversion: This is when someone takes a school bus, semi-truck or similar vehicle not originally meant as an RV and turn it into one through customization. The more money or time you spend, the nicer it tends to be. Often popular with the budget minded and the do-it-yourself crowd. The advantage is either that you save a lot of money or can customize it any way you can imagine.

A large vintage bus conversion.

A large vintage bus conversion.

Class B motorhomes: You might think class B is the medium size but this is not the case, they are the smallest motorhomes. They are built on a van or short bus chassis. Accommodations tend to be cramped and amenities limited, but they maximize mobility compared to other motorhomes.

Advantages: They can often go down roads, tunnels and the like that larger motorhomes can’t. You can generally park them on a city street if needed. Super easy to park and set up. They are by far the easiest type of RV to drive.

A classic camper van with accordion roof.

A classic camper van with accordion-roof.

Class C motorhomes: Class Cs are the middle of the road motorhomes. They are typically built on a heavy duty truck chassis. Often they are as tall as a Class A but generally not nearly as long. They typically have a full range of amenities, but space is fairly limited inside with a single room + sleeping loft.

Advantages: You get a full featured living space at a lower cost than a Class A and easier to drive than a travel trailer. Tends to be the sweet spot in the motorhome world between price and amenities.

The classic modern class C, swooshes and all.

The classic modern class C, swooshes and all.

Truck Campers: A truck camper is when you take a normal truck, and buy a camper that sits in the truck bed. The camper can be detached (with some effort) and sit by itself while you drive the truck away. Sizes vary as widely as the size of the truck the camper fits in from light trucks to super-duty trucks. Space in the camper tends to be similar to a Class B or small Class C, but amenities are often more limited and overall quality/durability tends to be lower.

Advantages: You get the ease of driving found with a Class B or Class C but can detach the camper as you might with a travel trailer and take the truck off roads or up steep grades for adventure. They also can be pretty inexpensive if you already own the truck.

An old school truck camper.

An old school truck camper.

ATV motorhomes: This is something of a new subcategory of motorhomes. These are specially built RVs that have high ground clearance, large tires, and powerful engines. They are designed to drive off-road into the back country. Generally, you sacrifice living space and styling for the greater mobility and durability the vehicles are designed for. You will also pay a pretty penny for such vehicles as they are generally not mass-produced.

Advantages: You can take your home into the backcountry with you.

Look out wilderness here comes the all terrain RV.

Look out wilderness here comes the all terrain RV.

Types of RV Trailers

With a definition of anything you can tow, trailers come in a dizzying array of sizes and options. I’m going to limit myself to those that are designed for living or camping in rather than anything you might tow on an outing. I’m going to tackle these starting with the largest, and moving to the smallest.

5th Wheels: The name of these refers to the type of hitch they use. A 5th wheel hitch sits in the bed of a truck and the trailer sits down on top of it. This type of hitch is very stable and can support a lot of weight, thus, 5th wheels tend to be the largest and most luxurious trailers you can buy. A large 5th wheel can easily have more room than a Class A motorhome with multiple rooms, king beds, fireplaces, the works! The bigger the trailer, the bigger the truck you will need to safely tow it and the fewer places it will fit.

Advantages: The range of interior options in 5th wheels is staggering. Some are set up to contain motor-bikes or jet skis. Some have decks that fold out. Others can sleep a dozen people. They are also easier and safer to tow than a travel trailer due to the special hitch.

A classic 5th wheel, though not a particularly large one.

A classic 5th wheel, though not a particularly large one.

Park Models / Classic Travel Trailers: This is a pretty wide category but it covers anything bigger than a teardrop but which uses a traditional end to end hitch. Generally, these travel trailers have a full set of amenities like toilet, kitchen and some kind of shower. They may have slide outs and can be pretty roomy, though generally smaller than their 5th wheel counterparts. The bigger they are, the trickier they are to tow. A really big travel trailer is probably the most challenging RV to drive safely.

Advantages: Compared to 5th wheels which require a truck, you have more choice in tow vehicles, especially if it’s a smaller trailer. This often means more options on where you can travel. If you do have a truck you can use the truck bed for storage as the hitch is under the truck bed rather than inside of it. You also generally have all the comforts of home in a classic travel trailer.

A "camp model" travel trailer.

A “camp model” travel trailer.

Teardrops and Ultralights: These are trailers that generally but not always forgo amenities like kitchens and bathrooms and focus on a sleeping area and perhaps a place to sit. Typically they have a single area that is multi-purpose. The designs are often quite clever and economical.

Advantages: You can often tow them with a small SUV or larger car rather than a Van, Truck, or heavy duty SUV. They are small and thus easy to tow. Gas mileage may actually be pretty decent as where most trailers are in the 5-10 mpg zone. They can often be parked in a normal camping space that has road access.

Teardrop trailers sure are cute!

Teardrop trailers sure are cute!

Expandable Trailers: These are trailers that are very small when being transported, but fold out or expand when parked to provide a place to rest and sleep. Amenities are typically very limited, normally just sleeping or sitting accommodations though sometimes a very limited camp kitchen is incorporated. The real weakness here is their flexible design means limited insulation and weather resistance. They fill the void somewhere between a trailer and a tent.

Advantages: They are very easy to tow, and thus you can tow them with nearly any type of vehicle. They can also be stored in a garage or yard when not in use instead of lurking in your driveway. They can also have a fair bit of interior space compared to their weight and so may be roomier than a teardrop style trailer.

Like tiny foam dinosaurs, expandables grow before your eyes.

Like tiny foam dinosaurs, expandables grow before your eyes.

Special Category: Tiny Homes

Tiny homes have gained a great deal of popularity and a good number of them are either built on some kind of trailer chassis or can be mounted to one so that they can be moved from place to place. They can be difficult to discuss simply because there is such a huge range of designs on offer. Some easily transported, some only with great difficulty.

Typically the advantage of such a home vs a trailer or motorhome is that they are built more like a real house. They feel like a house and have sturdy insulated walls like a real house as where most motorhomes are a challenge to keep warm in the dead of winter of cool in the height of summer.

The real disadvantage is they are not generally built to travel. They are made of heavier materials and are often not balanced for towing considerations. This makes towing them both more difficult and dangerous. That said, they come in such a staggering range of styles and features you may well find one that is designed to be towed and yet retains the style of a small home.

Yes, it has wheels, but its not what you would call aerodynamic.

Yes, it has wheels, but it’s not what you would call aerodynamic.

So many options!

Whew, that’s a lot of different types of vehicles. Now you may instantly see the one that sounds great to you, or it may be a bewildering mess of possibilities. Either way your next step is to do some self-assessment on what your needs and desires are.

Coming soon: Continue to Part 2

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Horseshoe Bend in Glen Canyon

I’ve seen Horseshoe Bend a few times in photographs on the National Geographic website, but when we got to Arizona I started seeing the image quite frequently in magazines and in art shops. If you’re wondering, Horseshoe Bend is a horseshoe-shaped meander of the Colorado River, just 5 miles downstream of the dam and 4 miles south of Page, Arizona.

You will not be alone on Horseshoe Bend

You will not be alone on Horseshoe Bend

We went just after our tour of Upper Antelope Canyon. There’s a dirt parking lot which gets crowded fast, but since it was threatening rain, it’s not that crowded. The trail is 1.5 miles roundtrip and takes about 45 minutes to walk, despite the sand.  And boy, there’s a lot of sand on the trail. It’s old sand, according to the sign: about 200 million years ago this sand was part of the largest system of sand dunes in North American. These “sand seas” are known as ergs. The ergs were eventually hardened by water and minerals into Navajo Sandstone – a layer that’s amazing uniform and very smooth. This layer of sandstone stretches from Arizona to Wyoming, and it can be over two thousand feet thick in some places. Wind and water turn the Navajo Sandstone turn the back into the sand. Given another 200 million years, I’m sure it will turn back to stone. Pretty amazing stuff, even if it gets in your shoes.

The Walk to Horseshoe Bend

The Walk to Horseshoe Bend

Walking on the trail to Horseshoe Bend, the view is rather deceptive and before you know it you’re looking down a 1000 foot cliff at the Colorado River. Man oh, man is it a drop once you reach the edge. Hitch often describes the physical effects of his vertigo. I must admit, that at this height and being on an outcrop of rock looking down sets my little lizard brain off. But there is a mighty reward for this risk: a stunning view of the river and the canyon below.

Just another hundred feed produces a pretty good shot

Just another hundred feet produces a pretty good shot

I’m no pro at photography, but with a bit of effort, a wide angle lens, and a steady tripod nearly anyone can get a pretty good shot.  On this day, I brought my 35-16mm wide angle lens. Its one of the few times where I wish I had something that went to 14mm. If you’d asked me, on that day I would have given anything for a 15mm fish-eye lens.  Thank goodness for digital storage; it means I can take tons of images from all angles of the cliff. I’m also glad I brought my neutral-density filter, which I always pack with me when I know that there will be an overcast that day. Looking down into the canyon, I can tell that much of the area doesn’t get direct light, except at midday at high summer.

But there always comes a time to put away the camera, just enjoy the view. Amid the selfie-stick waving tourists, its hard to find your bit of peace in a fantastic place, but it’s possible.

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Touring the Canyons of Lake Powell

As we drove up to Wahweap Bay, we both let out a long sigh-like “wow”.  We beheld shimmering blue-green water and cresting rocks of white, red, pinks and oranges. Much like the Grand Canyon, Glen Canyon was carved by Colorado River some 5 million years ago but much of it is filled by the waters of Lake Powell, a reservoir created by Glen Canyon Dam. Unfortunately, due to high water use and drought, Lake Powell is at its lowest point.  From shore, you can see a white bathtub ring which is caused by the calcium carbonate and other hard minerals in the water that attach themselves to the red sandstone.

Wahweap Bay from Camp

Wahweap Bay from Camp

A day before our tour we ominously watched police boats and a rescue helicopter searched the bay for any survivors of a capsized boat.  Sadly, I later learned that they had found the body of a man who drowned in that boating accident.

Not to be daunted by wind, rain, nor portent, we boarded our tour boat. Aboard we donned headphones with receivers so we could hear audio descriptions of viewpoints. We decided to brave the elements and took a seat on the open top-deck, while many others took shelter below.  I was eager to see side canyons held within Lake Powell, and though there are 96 of them, the tour only offered sights of two: Antelope Canyon and Navajo Canyon. From the Wahweap Bay, our captain took us on a circuitous route southward toward Glen Canyon Dam and around Antelope Island.  Glen Canyon Dam is second highest concrete-arch dam in the United States, the first highest being awarded to Hoover Dam.

Glen Canyon Dam From Behind

Glen Canyon Dam From Behind

Antelope Canyon, Lake Powell side, is a total length of 10 miles. White walls rise up from the water and give way to red capped sandstone. There are holes or pockets seemingly scooped out of the stone. Our captain tells us that these pockets use to hold clay deposits which were worn and washed away leaving the holes. Its surprising how fast the the walls narrows, and the boat can only navigate 4 miles of the canyon before turning around.  You’re probably wondering, is Upper Antelope Canyon the same as Lake Powell Canyon?  The use to be, but now they are 4 miles apart, the upper canyon located south only joined by a sandy wash.

Sig in Antelope Canyon

Sig in Antelope Canyon

Our boat moves along the south side of Antelope Island and onto Navajo Canyon. where the walls are 600 feet above the water. One of the longest of Lake Powell’s 96 major side canyons, it is also one of the only side canyons to have been a tributary of the Colorado River. There are twists turns that last for 15 miles and walls covered with Navajo Tapestries — markings formed by iron oxide and manganese residue left by water eroding from above and draping down the sides. Along this route is the 50/50 Wall, where the rock is above you, it is equally deep below you in the water.

Navajo Tapestry created by water, erosion, and oxidation

Navajo Tapestry created by water, erosion, and oxidation

Spinning around the captain takes us out of Navajo Canyon to the Utah Side of Antelope Island. and through Castle Rock Cut. This pass was carved by the National Parks Service and serves as a shortcut to Wahweap Bay.  The boat ride along here provides a great view of Castle Rock Butte.

Castle Rock Pass as the Sun Finally Comes Out!

Castle Rock Pass as the Sun Finally Comes Out!

As we pick up speed back toward dock, I realized we’ve only seen a tiny bit of Glen Canyon and Lake Powell.  There are 96 major canyons, much of them only accessible by boat. I know one of them is home to Rainbow Bridge, a national monument, and the world’s highest natural bridge.  I begin to wonder how many arches, caves, slot canyons, and other rock formations are hidden within this national recreational area.  I sigh and mentally add Lake Powell as a place I must revisit at a later date.

 

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Upper Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon lies in the great Navajo Nation wherein meanders down from the hills into lake Powell. Antelope Canyon has a few different bits and pieces and the bit we explored is referred to as Upper Antelope Canyon. The canyon got its name, according to our native guide, because back before the Glen Canyon Dam the Antelope used to use it for shade in the summer allowing the natives to make easy prey of them.

We booked a tour with Antelope Clot Canyon Tours. I had some initial concerns as they run their operation out of an old gas station in Powell that frankly looks run down with not much love put into it. I set my expectations appropriately and proceeded in good faith. Prior to the trip, we provided entertainment in the form of two young men performing a native hoop dance. Neither Trail nor I had seen one performed or knew anything about it. The dancers use wooden hoops while dancing to create figures of animals and objects, always in motion and using more and more hoops as the dance progresses. I was both impressed and entertained. The two young men were both skilled and charismatic in their performance. Apparently they finished in the top 20 at the annual national competition in Phoenix.

The dancers were great, the parking lot where they performed, not so much.

The dancers were great, the parking lot where they performed, not so much.

After this we boarded a brightly painted truck, sitting in the truck bed on benches with a plastic tarp overhead and to each side where there were semi-transparent window sections. Again my expectations were deflated a bit. It was windy, noisy, cramped and hard to see. If I was supposed to admire the scenery from here it was not going to be much fun. Entering the reservation we struck out through an unpaved sandy wash with fine dust coating everyone and everything.

I was relieved when we arrived at our destination and exited the truck. Happily nothing we were here to see was to be seen while in the truck. Before us was a sandstone cliff face with a great fissure running from top to bottom. This clearly was where we were headed and on foot. Our colorful native guide Leonard Nez gathered us up and got us underway into what would turn out to be a natural hall of wonders.

Pretty early on tin the canyon, the camera makes it look brighter than it really is.

Pretty early on tin the canyon, the camera makes it look brighter than it really is.

The canyon is carved out of sandstone by floodwaters that rush through during flash floods, grinding away at the walls and washing tons of sand in and out of the canyon. The result is better seen than described but I’ll give it a go. The walls of the cavern are a bit like if you took the waves of the turbulent ocean, froze them in time, sanded off the foam, turned it on its side such that two oceans faced side by side one another. The stone ripples and turns both with rounded curves and angular points, all in a kind of suspended fluid motion. It is both seemingly random, and clearly of a system driven by the relentless certainty of physics and nature.

Waves of sand and light, it's an otherworldly place.

Waves of sand and light, it’s an otherworldly place.

What you can see with your eyes is impressive and fulfilling, but when you use the eye of the camera to view the cavern it blazes to life like a world aglow with an inner fire. Cameras love this place for some reason. Due to the relative darkness, the aperture stays open longer and the light is amplified in magical ways creating the kinds of pictures you see here. Just point, hold the camera still and take the picture. Nearly anywhere you point the thing you get some jaw dropping images.

They call this shot "the dragons eye." Nearly every formation or view has a name.

They call this shot “the dragon’s eye.” Nearly every formation or view has a name.

Not shockingly pretty much everyone on the tour has their camera out snapping away. While we were on the regular tour, others there were on photo tours and had tripods set up to capture the wondrous images. All in all, it’s a narrow canyon and things get pretty crowded. The guides do an admirable job keeping it all moving along but it does make you yearn for a chance to get the place all to yourself, to bask in its awesome in some kind of solitude, it almost cries out for it.

Trail found the canyon a very spiritual place. Can't say I disagree.

Trail found the canyon a very spiritual place. Can’t say I disagree.

Let’s get back to our guide for a moment. Leonard clearly loves his work. His energy is infectious and if you looked up colorful native guide in a Hollywood casting book you could well see his picture grinning back at you. He’s taken the time to learn the names of the cave formations and phrases like “let’s go” in Japanese, German, and Mandarin, relishing the opportunities to use them. Knowing all the best picture spots he’s more than happy to take your camera, get the settings right for the canyon, and snap some quick shots for you of the more famous sections of the place. He also plays a mean triple flute and has a pretty wicked sense of humor. All in all a perfect guide.

The man, the legend, Leonard Paz and his magical triple flute.

The man, the legend, Leonard Nez and his magical triple flute.

Before too long we’d reached the end of the slot canyon and had to head back, this time trying to move quickly and stay out of other folks shots who are working their way in. We were treated to a sunbeam in one of the rooms on the way back, a perfect beam of sunlight at just the right time of day shining down through the dust. Folks swarmed around it like moths to a flame and our guide kicked up more dust to help it stand out for us. Dust is pretty much a constant in the canyon, gently filtering down from above as the wind blows sand over the lip of the place. We were very glad to have worn our wide brim hats but the cameras needed a good cleaning afterward.

Tourists worship at the altar of "the perfect shot."

Tourists worship at the altar of “the perfect shot.”

Another dusty and bumpy ride back in the truck and our trip came to an end. All in all, the great guide, amazing pictures, and the sheer beauty of the place made it worth every penny and any inconvenience. We were told that lower Antelope was equally amazing, though a bit different in shape. Perhaps next time we are in the area we will find out how it compares.

Light, color, shadow, action!

Light, color, shadow, action!

 

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Glen Canyon River Trip

While at the Grand Canyon visitors center I’d read that tour guides ran calm water rafting trips from Glen Canyon Dam down the Colorado river through Glen Canyon. The Grand Canyon itself is mostly white-water rafting and the trips are both expensive and take multiple days to complete. The Glen Canyon option, while not as stunning as the Grand Canyon sounded a little more in our budgetary ballpark. We made such a trip the basis of the next leg of our journey.

We booked our river trip with Colorado River Discovery. They offer a 3-hour river adventure, starting at the dam, stopping off to look at some native petroglyphs, heading down to Horseshoe Bend, then back up to the dam. I imagined a sunny day on the river, staring up at the canyons around us in wonder and awe. That’s not exactly how things went.

Pre-trip, viewing Glen Canyon Bridge. You can see the tour rafts below.

Pre-trip, viewing Glen Canyon Bridge. You can see the tour rafts below.

You start out at their headquarters in Page, Arizona where you can grab some drinks or shop for adventure merch or tourist geegaws. From there they load you in a large bus that takes you to the base of Glen Canyon Dam. The bus ride itself is pretty interesting; it drives out of town and into a two-mile-long, incredibly dark tunnel maintained by Homeland Security complete with gun-toting guards and security barricades.

Arriving at the base of the dam you don hard hats, walk under the bridge spanning the canyon above, and hurry off to the rafts waiting below. Here we met our intrepid young river guide, a member of the Navajo nation, who’d been called in at the last minute from a fly fishing trip to take us downriver. We were also greeted by some cantankerous weather. While sunny, we could see storm clouds brewing in the distance and a stiff wind began to blow.

Here we are, about to start the 3 hour tour. What could go wrong?

Here we are, about to start the 3-hour tour. What could go wrong?

As we set sail on our 3-hour tour things started normally enough. We snapped pictures of the dam, got some general info from our good natured guide and generally enjoyed ourselves. Before very long however the weather made good on its threats and we found ourselves buffeted by strong cold winds along with a good bit of freezing rain and hail. Our guide tried to shelter us against the cliffs but we all got nicely soaked and frozen by the time the storm cloud blew past.

I stowed the camera during hail and rain, but here is the hard evidence.

I stowed my camera during hail and rain, but here is the hard evidence of our trial by ice.

No sooner had the weather eased off than we came across another raft in our expedition that had gotten caught up on the shoreline with a broken prop and no way to push out from the rocks. We, of course, tried to come to their rescue, our pilot jumping out into the water to lend them a hand. Local fishermen also swung in to assist. Some of their passengers had to abandon ship and go with the fishermen so the raft would be light enough to get off the rocks.

These are the folks we came to rescue.

These are the folks we came to rescue.

Unfortunately in trying to rescue the other raft, ours busted its prop on the rocks as well. Again our guide showed he was worthy of the challenge and had spare props on hand, apparently the fist time in 3 years he’d needed to use them. Pushing out from the bank a new problem emerged. The motor, which he’d raised up to get near the shore, would not descend back to its proper position, and so we had no propulsion and were now drifting down the river powerless.

And these are the folks who rescued us. All wet and cozy!

And these are the folks who rescued us. All wet and cozy!

Another of the rafts then had to come to our rescue, shoving our raft about to maneuver it safely to a sandbar where we were bid to leave our intrepid guide behind and pile into the other raft to continue our journey. Lucky for us they normally leave lots of extra room on the rafts so doubling up was perfectly safe, if not especially comfortable. Soggy and crowded our new guide continued the tour of the canyons features and landed us where we could use the bathroom and check out the native petroglyphs.

Its not graffiti if it's hundreds of years old.

It’s not graffiti if it’s hundreds of years old.

By the time we’d finished our little excursion our original guide had been rescued, gotten his ship back into shape, and arrived to take us on the final leg of the tour down to the spectacular Horseshoe Bend. The weather even decided to give us a break and the sun came out from behind the clouds to ensure we got a great look at the majestic canyon walls. It was a bit less kind on the return trip as the boat sped back up the river into a stiff headwind. Still damp from the hailstorm, it was a cold and blustery trip back up the river.

Our dutiful guide explains the use of the orange seat cushions.

Our dutiful guide explains the use of the orange seat cushions.

One reward for our hardship was getting to see a waterfall in the canyon on the way back, one that is only there shortly after a stiff rain has come through. We were told back at the visitors center we were lucky in that we would likely get to see one of these on our trip, in hindsight their way of saying, “you all are going to get rained on today.”

Rare Waterfall

Rare Waterfall pouring from Glen Canyon Walls

All in all the trip was really a fun time. While never in any real danger, there was definitely a sense of adventure through the whole thing. Both our guide and all the tourists in our boat had a great sense of humor about everything that happened and genuinely seemed to enjoy the challenge and surprises as much as we did. It also built a bit more camaraderie among the group than you might normally find on a short day trip. It wasn’t just a tour, it was a little adventure!

Trail and Hitch boldly accept what adventure has to offer!

Trail and Hitch boldly accept what adventure has to offer!

 

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