More Southwest Parks – Oct 2016

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Bryce Canyon National Park

This driving trip of the southwest started out as a planned visit to Las Vegas NV for the Conservation Lands Foundation’s Friends Grassroots Network Rendezvous (big name for a gathering of conservation minded folks; we were there representing the Friends of the San Pedro River). It soon turned into a chance to see more national parks and monuments in Arizona, Nevada, and Utah – not to mention visiting cousins Bob and Pam Deichmeister in Prescott, AZ.

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We started out stopping at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument in Coolidge, AZ, an impressive “great house” of the ancient Sonoran Desert people. We’ve driven near here how many times? and finally stopped in to take a look. The awning, by the way, is to prevent the deterioration of the 650-year-old structure.

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Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

From there it was up to Prescott, where we spent a fun couple of days visiting Liza’s cousins, cycling the very nice Prescott Peavine Trail, checking out Watson Lake, and enjoying both Bob’s fine paella and eating out at the fun El Gato Azul downtown.

En route to Las Vegas, we stopped at Hoover Dam. A bit sad to see how low the water level in Lake Mead has dropped.

The next couple of days were in Las Vegas…I know a lot of people seem to have fun there, but it’s not our thing. The conference however was excellent, and the accommodations at the Mandalay Bay very nice, even if they did try to charge you extra for everything. Personally I think the best thing about Las Vegas is visiting the Hofbräuhaus, especially at this time for Oktoberfest. We had a lovely outing on Sunday morning to nearby Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area as well.

Leaving Las Vegas (yay) we headed to St George, our base for a couple of days to visit Zion and Bryce National Parks. Lovely cycling in Zion on the Pa’rus trail and the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive (which now has virtually no vehicles on it, just shuttle buses and cars going to the lodge).

Bryce Canyon got short-changed a little bit, as we arrived there in the late afternoon, but the views from the rim drive were, as always, spectacular. (See photo at the top of this page.) The drive back to St George was mostly via the scenic state hwy 14 past Cedar Breaks, nearly to 10,000 ft, to Cedar City, then back on the interstate to St George.

From St George it was on to Flagstaff via the Grand Canyon. Getting there we got in another national monument, Pipe Spring, where we learned some interesting Mormon and Paiute (Kaibab band) history; then made it to the north rim of the Grand Canyon and had lunch at the always beautiful Grand Canyon Lodge.  The road into the north rim showed the ravages of a wildfire just from this June/July, but the aspens higher up already had their fall colors on display.

Once away from the north rim, the drive to Flagstaff gave us the gorgeous long view of the Grand Staircase, now part of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Bryce Canyon sits atop the Grand Staircase, which then steps down past the pink, gray, white, vermilion, and chocolate cliffs.

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Robert at the Vermilion Cliffs

Quick note about Flagstaff – we stayed at the Twin Arrows Indian Resort and Casino, about 20 miles to the east. Very nice room (rivaling the Mandalay Bay IMHO), much lower cost. It’s a bit out of the way but really a nice place to stay.

Just a few more monuments awaited us on the final drive home – have to use that park pass! Walnut Canyon National Monument was close to Flagstaff, with a beautiful steep canyon and cliff dwellings; and Montezuma Castle National Monument preserves ancestral Pueblan cliff dwellings overlooking Beaver Creek, near Camp Verde.

This trip was eight days, and we packed a lot in … already talking about what we can do next time, and where we need more time. Bryce Canyon always gets short-changed, and it would be nice to get into Cedar Breaks. Still haven’t made it to Canyonlands, Arches, Capital Reef … clearly more driving trips are in our future!

A full photo gallery – I know, there are a lot here already, but there’s more! – can be found here.

Also, I know fans of Buddy Bison will know that he was indeed along on this trip. You can see Buddy’s adventures over on his facebook page.

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Buddy Bison at the Narrows in Zion