Southwest Trip Part I: Barstow to Lees Ferry

posted Jun 13, 2019, 9:29 AM by Paul Wagner
Part I of a three-part summary of our recent trip to the Southwest:

We left our cabin near Sonora in the rain, happy that the few plants in the yard were going to get additional water this spring.  (Little did we know that would continue on and off for the whole trip!)  First night was at Owl Creek Canyon outside of Barstow, one of our regular stops for this part of the country.  $3 a night with our senior pass, and so far we've never had trouble finding a site. 

The next morning we drove through Vegas, with a quick stop at T-Mobile to fix an issue with P's new phone, and then on to camp at Valley of Fire State Park. 
This one really exceeded our expectations.  The landscape was classic red rock, but what really charmed us were the petroglyphs on the Mouse Tank Trail--far better than we expected.  The Fire Wave seemed a bit oversold, but it made for a nice extra mile or two of hiking.  And that night P played a bit of guitar in the campground, only to look up when he was done to see a crowd seated on the road, appreciative of his efforts.  Very sweet.

Day three woke up to a light rain, and we drove through Overton (Do not Miss the Lost City Museum there, a tribute to the Pueblo ruins that were flooded during the hoover Dam construction--a really nice collection!).  We shopped for food in St. George, marveled at the massive new gated communities that surround that town, and camped at Snow Canyon State Park, with free showers! 

We took the rest of the day to clean up and do some minor hiking around the campground. 
Since it rained most of the next night, we woke up to see a waterfall gushing down the slickrock near our campsite.  Pretty cool.  We hiked the Hidden Pinon trail and got caught in a downpour, then hiked Jenny's Canyon and the Pioneer Names, dodging sprinkles all day long. 

Time for Zion.  We started by driving to see the Kolob Creek part of Zion, since that was closed the last time we were here.  It was still showering from time to time, and we decided to pass up the Taylor Creek hike since it involved crossing the creek about fifty times in the first two miles, and the creek was a toasty 38 degrees F. 

For lunch we headed down into Zion Canyon, ate at the brew pub, and then took the shuttle up canyon to hike the River Trail towards the narrows. 

The Narrows themselves were closed due to high water---the Virgin River was a raging torrent thanks to all the rain, and Observation Point, Hidden Canyon, Kayenta, and the Upper Emerald Pools trails were all closed due to rockfalls--so we wandered back into camp for dinner an early night. 

We had loved the Par'us Trail last visit, so the next morning we hiked it again, and enjoyed it just as much.  Took the shuttle up to the lodge to get a sandwich for lunch and then decided to hike Angel's Landing.  Lots of people on this trail, and we were a bit worried about M's sore foot, but it held up reasonably well. 

We made it up to the chains in good order, where M called and halt and P continued on for a bit.  But my goodness there were a lot of people on this trail.  After fighting through the crowds to the first landing, P took a break, started up the second section, and got trapped behind a large group of people who were really struggling.  And then that group me a similar group headed back down the other direction, P bailed.  There was a window behind him, and he took it.  The next day, the Park Service announced that it would be limiting the traffic on that trail, and people were waiting up to two hours to hike it. 

We raced the rain back down the trail, ate lunch at the Grotto picnic area, and then took the shuttle to the Visitor's Center where we bought a couple of books and headed to camp for a nap.  It rained most of the rest of evening, although we did manage to eat dinner outside during a dry spell. 

The next day we hiked the Watchman Trail, which was much longer and more interesting than we had been led to believe.  Again, we were being chased by rain, but avoided most of the sprinkles.  Since it rained most of the afternoon we took that opportunity to go into town and do laundry and shopping, and after a dinner of canned chili we walked around through the entire c
ampground, inspecting all the rigs and systems, before heading to bed. 

Day 8:  Up early and driving out of Zion before the mad rush.  We stopped to hike the upper part of the East Rim Trial, which was simply lovely in the bright sunshine.  From there we drove into Kanab to eat lunch at the Kanab Bakery and buy Idahoan Potato Soup at Glazer's Market--the only place we've been able to find it!  From there we drove to the Toadstool Trail on our way to Page, where we camped at the Waowheap campground, took showers, and found a campsite near a family with a video projector aimed at their RV.  Quite a sight!


We didn't have a plan for the next day, but we wanted to see Lees Ferry, even if we couldn't get a campsite there on a Saturday night.  But we loved the drive, stopped at the new parking area for the Gooseneck,   and found a few sites available once we found the campground.  Perfect.  We loved it.  Hiked part of the Spencer Trail to get a good overview, hiked along the River Trail to watch the rafters, hiked up Paria Canyon a little bit to see the old farming area, and walked out on the Navajo Bridge where we saw a condor perched on the supports of the newer bridge.  Very cool. 

In Part II we head to ruins central:  Chaco Canyon, Aztec, Mesa Verde and Hovenweep.