November 4-10, 2019
Why the title Life On the Rocks? Well, we’ve been enjoying lots of red rock hiking these days. But also because RV life, just like life back at home, has its rocky moments.
Fairyland Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park
Back in week three of our 2019 snowbird adventures, we spent a few days in the Bryce/Red Canyon area. It was the first week of October and the area was packed with tourists, particularly the popular view points and trails in Bryce Canyon National Park. I absolutely love Bryce, but we only did one short hike there because we didn’t want to deal with the crowds. Suffice it to say, I did not get my Bryce fix.
As we began week two of our stay in the St. George/Zion area, I mentioned to Jason that I’d love to run up to Bryce and hike one of the trails into the amphitheater. It was just a couple hour drive, the weather would be perfect (upper 50s and sunny), and I suspected the crowds would be thinned out (I was correct, we only saw half a dozen parties on our hike). As with most things, if it involves having fun, Jason was game.
We made the beautiful drive through Zion National Park and up highway 89 to Scenic Byway 12 through Red Canyon and into Bryce Canyon National Park. The drive alone was worth our time. First order of business when we arrived in the park was for me to get my National Park Passport stamped at the visitor center. Then we were off to the Fairyland Trailhead which is located at the end of a spur road just to the north of the visitor center.
Our adventure began at Fairyland Point, elevation 7,758′. We have hiked this trail once before and recommend doing the loop in a clock-wise direction. The trail begins with fantastic views down into the amphitheater with its hundreds of hoodoos and far reaching views to the east into Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. As you descend 1,700 feet, the hoodoos grow taller and taller around you. It is quite humbling being surrounded by these massive spires.
From Fairyland Point, it was 4.0 miles down to the spur trail for Tower Bridge. At half way into the loop, this makes a great spot for a break before the climb back out of the amphitheater. While having a snack in the shadow of Tower Bridge, we were visited by a bold and chatty Steller’s jay.
From Tower Bridge, it was a 1.5 mile climb up to the Rim Trail. At over 7,000′ elevation, the air is pretty thin making the climb feel like a real workout. The good news is the scenery is a great distraction and provides ample excuses to stop for photos.
Once up on the Rim Trail, the remaining 2.5 miles of trail is easier along the top of the plateau. There were some pedestrian sections of forest, but we also continued to have stunning views to the east and into the amphitheater.
The great thing about this hike is that it receives a fraction of the visitation compared to Navajo Loop, Peekaboo Loop, and Queen’s Garden just to the south, yet you get still get those phenomenal Bryce views. Those trails are significantly shorter and are a better option for those not up to a 8 mile loop. All of these trails have a climb which will be a workout for the average person given the fact that you are hiking at over 7,000′ elevation.
Red Reef Trail, Red Cliffs National Conservation Area
While most tourists to SW Utah head straight for Zion National Park, there are countless outdoor opportunities outside the park. Just to the west of the park, approximately 45,000 acres of public land have been set aside in the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area to protect the threatened Mojave Desert tortoise and other at-risk native plant and animal species. The conservation area encompasses two wilderness areas, Red Cliffs Recreation Area, and over a hundred miles of non-motorized trails. Click here for a map of the area hiking trails.
Red Cliffs is just a short distance from our home base. There are several trails here we hope to hike and the Red Reef Trail was at the top of my list. The trailhead for Red Reef is located in the Red Cliff Campground. It takes hikers past sculpted red rock formations, rock art, and up a beautiful wash that was dry for our visit but holds water during the wet season. Our favorite stretch was the moki steps we had to navigate in order to get up and around a dry fall.
Back in the campground, we wandered up the Silver Reef Trail and took a spur trail to some dinosaur prints. We continued past the prints following a faint trail that looped around past more dino prints and back to the campground via the Anasazi Trail. While these weren’t the best dinosaur prints we’ve seen, it was neat to unexpectedly find them in such a stunning environment.
Jake & Indy’s 13th Birthday—A Not so Happy Birthday for Jake
As we were approaching Jake and Indy’s 13th birthday, Jake started acting especially crabby toward his brother. Jake is becoming a little more brooding and reclusive in his older age, but he is still a very loving cat who shares a special bond with his brother. Jake never picks on Indy unless something is wrong. In the past, it has always been a broken or abscessed tooth.
We knew this would happen on the road. One of the cats would get sick and we would be in a strange area without the boy’s regular veterinarian. While the boys don’t appreciate their vets back home, we do. With Liz Davies at Colton Vet and Amy Wallace at Clarkston Vet, we’ve never had to worry about the care the boys were receiving. Now, we were on our own.
I did a Google search for vet clinics in the greater St. George, Utah and found two clinics in Hurricane with excellent reviews. I studied both websites and discovered that both of the vets at Zion Veterinary Hospital were graduates of Washington State University where I had worked for nine years (Go Cougs!). They looked young, but their reviews were exceptional and we’d have the WSU connection. I called on Thursday morning and, despite being a very busy practice, they squeezed us in that afternoon.
Thanks to a busy waiting area with several barking dogs, Jake was quite agitated by the time we met Dr. Kristen Lucibello making it difficult for her to perform any kind of examination. We discussed Jake’s behavioral changes and what had precipitated these changes in the past. She and I agreed that it was highly likely Jake had another bad tooth, but the only way to confirm that was to put him under. For as busy as the clinic was, I was afraid we’d have to wait several days or even weeks, but she made Jake a top priority and worked him in for the following day—the boy’s 13th birthday.
I felt horrible whisking Jake off to the vets on his birthday, but it was the right call. Dr. Lucibello found a molar that had cracked causing part of the tooth to break off exposing the pulp. This can be quite painful and was likely the cause of Jake turning into Mr. Crabby-pants. They pulled that tooth as well as two small front teeth which were loose and could cause future problems. At 13 years old, Jake has now lost all four canine teeth, a molar, and two front teeth.
Aside from having bad teeth, both boys are doing great for 13 years old. Jake and Indy ended their birthday with canned food and lots of love. Jake was still a little out of it that night, but over the following week he made a speedy recovery and he is back to his lovable self.
The other big event for the week was finally taking the motorhome to a shop to get the refrigerator repaired under warranty. We’d had intermittent issues with the refrigerator on propane during our two weeks of boondocking outside of Escalante, Utah in October. Finally, we were in an area with an authorized Norcold repairman who would be able to get us taken care of under warranty. How did that go? Well, that is a story of its own and I’ll write about that in a separate blog post when it is completely resolved!