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“Our pictures are our footprints. It’s the best way to tell people we were here.”~ Joe McNally

We left the peaceful beauty of Bryce Canyon and headed on our last driving day to Zion Nation al Park located in Soutwestern Utah. The prominent feature of the park is Zion Canyon. It is the most visited National Park in the US. For the first time in its history, Zion National Park welcomed more than 5 million visitors in 2021. I think that they all visited this weekend. There was no parking to be found as we traveled one of the windiest roads I have been on, and I would have paid extra for guard rails!

After a harrowing drive on Zion Mount Carmel Highwy that I hope to never recreate, we found the parking for the shuttle was full and so we made the best of it and found a lovely place for lunch, for as Gary Persico says, “You gotta eat.” Here are my photos from the parking lot of Zion. It was certainly breath taking (especially the drive), and if you choose to visit, I would go very early in the day.

“National parks and reserves are an integral aspect of intelligent use of natural resources. It is the course of wisdom to set aside an ample portion of our natural resources as national parks and reserves, thus ensuring that future generations may know the majesty of the earth as we know it today.”
~ President John F. Kennedy, World Conference on National Parks, 1962

Our travels via the “Beast” (our van) has been wonderful. We have been blessed with good weather or as we refer to it another “Peggy Sunshine Day” for the entire trip. It has been interesting and educational and more impactful than just a check off the old bucket list of things to do. It has been fun, we laughed. we have met our step goal every single day, and we have made memories, really lovely ones.

We all treasure memories because they allow us to relive delightful times in our lives. Memories become stories that we tell hundreds and thousands of times throughout our life. The beautiful thing about our memories is that, not only are they beautiful to us, they are also beautiful to others.” ~ Author unknown

“Should you shield the canyons from the windstorms you would never see the true beauty of their carvings.” ~Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Today we traveled to Bryce Canyon. If you have never been there, you should add it to your bucket list. It was never on mine and I am glad I got to see it in person. It is like no other place on earth.

“Wowza, wowza, wowza.” ~ Tom Haas

Bryce Canyon National Park is located in southwestern Utah. The major feature of the park is Bryce Canyon, which despite its name, is not a canyon,  but a collection of giant natural amphitheaters. It is distinctive due to geological structures called Hoodoos, formed by frost weathering and stream erosion of the river and lake bed rocks. The red, orange and white colors of the rocks provide spectacular views. It was named after Ebenezer Bryce who settled there in 1874,

“Stepping out onto any lookout, you are invited to connect with an amazing example of some of the most unusual terrain on this planet, making you feel as though you are stepping foot on the edge of another world.”

~Stefanie Payne from A Year in the Natioanl Parks: The Greatest American Road Trip

“Take a road trip, and make some unforgettable memories.” ~ Author Unkown

“You can’t understand the magic of Bryce Canyon until you see it. Nature is Art.” ~ Author Unknown

You are not a tree. You are not bound

to the ground you walk on. You have

wings and dreams and a heart full of

wonder. So pick up your feet and go.

Spread kindness like a wildflower

wherever you go. Fall in love with the

life you live, and always leave people

better than you found them.

Drewniverses, from Tumblr

 “Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” ~ John Muir

Today we traveled to Navajo Upper Antelope Canyon. It is a slot canyon on Navajo land.   It includes five separate, scenic slot canyon sections on the Navajo Reservation, referred to as Upper Antelope Canyon, (or The Crack), Rattle Snake Canyon, Owl Canyon, Mountain Sheep Canyon, and Lower Antelope Canyon (or The Corkscrew). Antelope Canyon was formed by the erosion of sandstone due to flash flooding. Rainwater, especially during monsoon season, runs into the extensive basin above the slot canyon sections, picking up speed and sand as it rushes into the narrow passageways. Over time the passageways eroded away, deepening the corridors and smoothing hard edges to form characteristic “flowing” shapes. It is unlike any other place I have ever seen.

We hiked through the canyon after the bumpiest jeep ride ever, but the beauty of the canyon at every single turn was well worth the soreness.

“If there is heaven on Earth, it’s Antelope Canyon.” ~ Unknown

The colors on the rocks from the light shining through the openings takes on a surreal quality and if you imagine and look hard enough you can see the shapes of birds, people, etc.

“The colors of the rocks and canyons almost seem too beautiful to be real.” ~ Unknown

We took another bumpy jeep ride when leaving Antelope Canyon behind and traveled on, stopping at Navajo Bridge.

Navajo Bridge is the name of the twin steel arch bridges that cross the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon National Park.

We traveled on to Utah, settled briefly in our hotel, went for a delicious dinner at Sego, and then headed to our next adventure called Smores and Stars. This may have sounded better in the brochure than in reality. But we always make the best of it. Enjoy an evening around the campfire in a beautiful location. This tour takes you into a private canyon, which has been used often as a filming location. There, you’ll meet a herd of Texas longhorns, gather around the campfire, make s’mores with homemade marshmallows, and learn all about the star-studded night sky.

After a day of hiking and climbing in and out of the beast (our car), I was not pleased to climb into the jacked-up whatever it was to arrive at our destination. The moon was out in full force so we could not see the stars as clearly as we wanted. My initial impression was to get me the hell out of here as Ken, our guide drove us into a herd of longhorn cows where he fed them graham crackers from the car window.

We arrived at the campfire and made smores, where a real cowboy, named John, told tall tales. He had what appeared to be a real gun and so I did not make any trouble.

Having a campfire and roasted marshmallows, to me that sounds like Heaven.” ~ Randy Orton

My trusty iPhone took better photos than my camera, and there was a dilapidated barn-like structure that had been used in movie sets (or so we were told).

We gazed upon the stars and the beautiful landscape which was peaceful and a perfect night.

“For my part, I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.”

~ Vincent Van Gogh

“A lake is a landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is Earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Lake Powell is an artificial reservoir on the Colorado River.  It is a major vacation destination visited by approximately two million people every year. It is the second largest artificial reservoir by maximum water capacity in the United States behind Lake Mead, storing 25,166,000 acre-feet of water when full. However, Lake Mead has fallen below Lake Powell in size several times during the 21st century in terms of volume of water, depth, and surface area.

Lake Powell was created by the flooding of Glen Canyon. The reservoir is named for John Wesley Powell, a Civil War veteran who explored the river via three wooden boats in 1869.  For the past two days we have explored some of the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley, created by the power of water, today we took an incredible three-hour cruise to see a different creation by water.

“Water is the driving force of all nature.”~ Leonardo da Vinci

There were surprisingly many boats on Lake Powell. This enormous reservoir is often described as one of the best places in the world for water sports. Skiing, wakeboarding, and cliff diving are extremely popular. Many people tow their own boats to the lake. Many who houseboat on the lake also rent, or bring a ski boat. Anchor the houseboat somewhere and use it as base camp, then use the ski boat to explore and play.

Lake Powell is hemmed by the Glen Canyon Dam, which generates hydroelectric power via the dam’s water flowing through the dam back into the Colorado River. If the water levels drop to levels below the intake pipes, the water flow will cease to turn the hydroelectric turbines, and the dam won’t generate any power.

“This lake exceeds anything I ever beheld in beauty.” ~ Percy Bysshe Shelley

The canyon walls of Lake Powell had images of birds, alligators, green dragons, and sharks if you used your imagination.

“Make your heart like a lake with a calm, still surface and great depths of kindness.” ~ Lao Tzu

“Every hundred feet the world changes.” ~ Roberto Bolaño

Today we traveled to Monument Valley National Park. The valley is a sacred area that lies within the territory of the Navajo Nation Reservation. It is a region of the Colorado Plateau characterized by a cluster of sandstone buttes, the largest reaching 1,000 ft above the valley floor. Yesterday, at the Grand Canyon I found myself looking down into the crater, and today I felt my eyes pulled upwards towards the monuments that went high into the sky.

Every turn seemed to be a photo opportunity. As Peggy Persico said, “Each park is individually spectacular and unique.”

We saw some Navajo hogans. A hogan is the primary, traditional dwelling of the Navajo people. Other traditional structures include the summer shelter, the underground home, and the sweat house.

“I think that is what a national park is all about. It gives people breathing room. It gives people a tranquil atmosphere. It gives them an opportunity to be a part of nature, You’re just part of it all.”~ Juanita Green”

We were invited to watch a Navajo woman demonstate the art of weaving. She explained that it takes months to create a woven wall hanging. Nothing is rushed.

We went to a lovely rock formation, with openings in the ceiling where our guide Roz played the flute beautifully

“For me traveling is all about seeking new adventures and making travel memories. And these adventures become even more fun when you can share them with a good friend.” ~ Author Unknown

“If you listen
midst the silence of the valley
the voices of the Elders from the monuments
whisper down,

“You are welcome here.
This land to which we were entrusted
by the Great Creator of all things
is ours to tend,
is ours to share,
is ours to enjoy,
but not ours to keep;

for we pass it down to our children
with the same admonition

and in what seems a barren setting,
abundant in desolation,
lacking in precipitation,
we look to the monuments
whose beauty stands as a reminder
that in such a harsh place
we are not forgotten
by Him”

Monument Valley by Preston Bigler

“There is nothing so American as our national parks… The fundamental idea behind the parks… is that the country belongs to the people and that it is in the process of making for the enrichment of the lives of all of us.” ~ President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1934

Today we left Winslow Arizona where of course we took some time to stand on the corner as the song goes.

Well, I’m standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona And such a fine sight to see It’s a girl my Lord in a flatbed Ford Slowin’ down to take a look at me ” Take It Easy by The Eagles

We arrived at the Grand Canyon and had a lovely lunch in the lodge in the Roosevelt room and then began our sightseeing. You almost can not describe the Grand Canyon or capture its wonder in pictures.

“You cannot see the Grand Canyon in one view, as if it were a changeless spectacle from which a curtain might be lifted, but to see it, you have to toil from month to month through its labyrinths.”

~John Wesley Powell

There is such outstanding beauty in every direction and although I tried to photograph it, no photo gives it justice.

The canyon and adjacent rim are contained within Grand Canyon National Park. President Theodore Roosevelt was a major proponent of the preservation of the Grand Canyon area and visited it on numerous occasions to hunt and enjoy the scenery. Nearly two billion years of Earth’s geological history have been exposed as the Colorado River and its tributaries cut their channels through layer after layer of rock while the Colorado Plateau was uplifted. In the half day, we had in the park, we touched upon just a small piece of it, you could spend weeks or longer seeing the different rock formations, the way the sunlight changes the landscape.

Beautiful doesn’t begin to describe it. A flower is beautiful. But this is beautiful the way that a person is beautiful- terrifying with its jagged edges, yet seductive with its crevices that hide so many secrets.”
~ Jeri Smith-Ready Requiem For The Devil

“The petrified forest is a lot of dead trees in the desert that have turned to stone. Here’s a good specimen.” ~ Gabrielle Maple in The Petrified Forest

Today we visited our first National Park on this trip. The Petrified Forest National Park is an American national park in Navajo and Apache counties in northeastern Arizona. It is named for its large deposits of Petrified wood. The park cover about 350 square miles which includes semi-desert shrub and eroded and colorful badlands. It was a lovely sunny day and a great trip from Aburqurque along the interstate.

God bless the hikers and the bikers that travel through the park. I had enough trouble exiting and entering our car also known as “the beast.” There were spectacular views from the Painted Desert Overlooks.

Long ago the region was covered by a dense forest and mighty rivers cut across the terrain. Water caused by heavy flooding forced dead trees to float to a low-lying swampland. In the deep quagmire of the swamp and having, in effect, been hermetically sealed, the trees were subsequently covered by layers of sediment. Thus their further decomposition was halted. As the trees piled deeper and deeper into the swamp the petrification process began. Mud, sand, and volcanic ash settled above the trees that gradually absorbed minerals from the surrounding moisture. Hundreds of fossilized trunks developed that today are scattered across the prairie. They were incredible to view and pictures do not do them justice.

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” ~Confusscious

“A national park is not a playground. It’s a sanctuary for nature and for humans who will accept nature on nature’s own terms.” ~ Michael Frome

“Be the sunshine and lift everyone up like a hot air balloon.”~ Unknown

Today we got up at 4:00 A.M. in order to attend one of the highlights of our trip, the Balloon Fiesta. The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is a yearly hot air balloon festival that takes place in early October. It is a nine-day event and has over 500 hot air balloons each year far from its humble beginnings of merely 13 balloons in 1972. This year was its 50th anniversary and despite last evening’s events being canceled due to high winds, and a chance of cancellation today, we were fortunate that when the sun rose over the mountains, a rainbow appeared in the sky, the winds died down and the balloon fiesta began!

“Just think of happy thoughts and you’ll fly.”

~ Peter Pan

The process of being up close to the balloon teams and seeing all the teamwork that goes into laying out the balloon, untangling the ropes, filling the balloon with air from a giant fan to become airborne was amazing.

“The man who goes up in a balloon does not feel as though he were ascending; he only sees the earth sinking deeper below him.” ~Arthur Schopenhauer

The sounds of the propane filling the balloons, the cheers of the crowds when the balloons become airborne; the sights of them rising higher and higher and being in the middle of it felt breathtaking. it was as if one was surrounded by joy.

“Don’t just fly, soar!” ~ Dumbo

It felt as if my camera had a mind of its own, just one more photo, it would say, and then we would spy another beautiful balloon in flight and I had to take another dozen photos.

“The balloon seems to stand still in the air while the earth flies past underneath.”

~Alberto Santos Dumont.

Today was an unforgettable day, one for making memories! I’ll leave you with a few more of my favorite photos and one of my favorite songs!

Wouldn’t you like to ride in my beautiful balloon?
Wouldn’t you like to glide in my beautiful balloon?
We could float among the stars together, you and I
For we can fly

Up, up and away in my beautiful, my beautiful balloon

The world’s a nicer place in my beautiful balloon
It wears a nicer face in my beautiful balloon
We can sing a song and sail along the silver sky
For we can fly

Up, up and away in my beautiful, my beautiful balloon

Suspended under a twilight canopy
We’ll search the clouds for a star to guide us on
If by some chance you find yourself loving me
We’ll find a cloud to hide us, keep the moon beside us

Love is waiting there in my beautiful balloon
Way up in the air in my beautiful balloon
If you’ll hold my hand we’ll chase your dreams across the sky
For we can fly

Up, up and away in my beautiful, my beautiful balloon
Up and away, up, up and away, up, up and away.”

Up Up and Away by Dionne Warwick

“I take all day to climb mountains and then spend about 10 minutes at the top admiring the view.” ~ Sebastian Thrun

 Today we went to Sandia Peak which is part of the Cibola National Forest. The Sandia Peak Tram runs through the foothills in Albuquerque through five natural life zones to the top of the Sandia Mountains, which are more than 10,000 feet above sea level. The elevation literally takes your breath away.

The tram was crowded (I imagine Covid is a thing of the past) and we were so lucky that there was a power failure and so it needed to reboot and we hung for 10 long minutes in a packed sardine car.

But it was worth it when you got to the top ( safely).

The ride down the mountain was uneventful and enjoyable.

Every experience is made better when one can share it with good friends. Martin Luther King had a famous quote about the mountaintop. but Tom Haas says everything so eloquently.

“We’ve been to the mountaintop and back down again.” ~Tom Haas

“When you start to feel down, it might just be time to change your altitude.” 

“Only two things I know about Albuquerque – Bugs Bunny should’ve taken a left turn there. And give me a hundred tries, I’ll never be able to spell it.” ~ Jimmy McGill

We arrived safely in Albuquerque on Thursday after getting up at 3 am for a 6 am flight and caught up on sleep. We connected with our traveling friends and spent a lovely day yesterday in Sante Fe. After a challenging time with the Avis rent a car we loaded into our giant Ford Transit van, nicknamed the Beast, which will be our transportation for almost two weeks.

“The drive to Santa Fe on I-25 is mildly zen. There are public road signs that say “Gusty Winds May Exist”. This seems more like lazy philosophy than travel advice.”

~ Chuck Klosterman

The city was lovely, quaint, and clean, we had a relaxing day despite feeling short of breath from the altitude of 7000 feet! Blue skies and great friends make for a wonderful beginning to a much-anticipated trip.