I made it to Moab, Utah! What a great trip it has been so far…despite hitting some rain and hail early on, it’s been a blast.
I left last Tuesday morning, May 7th…my plan was to head to Gardnerville, NV to stay a night with my cousin who lives there. I was taking Highway 50 as it was quickest way. I had considered postponing the trip by a day because the forecast for the Sierra Nevada was thunderstorms. I checked the Caltrans website and looked at the live webcam for Echo Summit and was not thrilled with what I saw…
But the forecast was the same for the next day and I figured that maybe by the time I reached the mountains it would be mid-day and maybe the weather would warm up and clear. I decided to go for it. Things were going fine until just past Placerville when I began hitting fog and a heavy mist. I stopped and put on my blue and white rainsuit, which is a little big on me and makes me resemble the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. Not a good look.
As I climbed higher it got wetter and the fog was so thick in some places I couldn’t see more than 20 feet ahead of me, which was pretty scary. But I just took it easy and luckily the tires I had (love my Michelin PR3s) had good traction on the wet roads. There was still quite a bit of snow up there but none on the road, thank goodness. Once I got on the other side of Echo Summit, it actually stopped raining and roads were fairly dry, although it was cold!
I made it safely to my cousins and to celebrate we hit a local happy hour. We were all tired and hit the hay early…my next day was a pretty easy 3 hour cruise down Highway 395, which is one of my favorite drives. On one side you have high desert smelling of sage, and the other side of you are the gorgeous snow-capped Sierra Nevada.
Spent the night in Bishop at Brown’s Town campground, and then to Las Vegas…originally I had planned to go to Valley of Fire State Park, which is about 30 minutes past LV. But since it was going to be a long driving day I decided to stay in a hotel, and actually found one in North Las Vegas called Santa Fe Station for $25 a night and it got good reviews. It did end up being a long day, over 300 miles, going through Death Valley over two 4000+ foot passes and then to Furnace Creek, where it was 91 degrees, which is not too bad for Death Valley.
Made it to North Las Vegas and the hotel, and it was actually a surprisingly nice casino/hotel. Especially for 25 bucks! My room was big with 2 queen beds, and there were several restaurants a movie theater and a Starbucks. I’d definitely stay there again.
Fortified with a venti triple shot latte, I hit the road the next morning by about 8…I had booked a site in Bryce Canyon NP but the weather was calling for snow showers so I decided to stay in Zion NP, which is always warmer being at a lower elevation. Unfortunately the campground in the park was full but luckily I found a spot in an RV campground just outside the park entrance.
Zion is such a gorgeous place, I never get tired of it…I didn’t hike as I am planning on coming back to Zion for a couple of nights after my birthday in Las Vegas, so I just walked around the town of Springdale, which is right at the entrance to the park.
27 years ago when I was in college (yes, I am old) I spent an entire school quarter backpacking through southern Utah with a UC Extension program called the Sierra Institute. We took trips ranging from one to two weeks through Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, the Escalante River canyons and our last trip was in Zion. Utah has changed a lot since then, some good changes, some not so good. When we hiked through the canyons of the Escalante River, the area was all BLM land then and they were running cattle through the canyons, and was subject to mining and other uses. In 1996 President Bill Clinton established that area (1.8 million acres) as the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which is great as that designation nixed the Andalex Coal Mine that was propsed for that area. In a future post I will show some pictures that I took from when I was there-it’s a spectacular area.
But boy has Springdale changed! It used to be a sleepy little town with a couple of motels and restaurants, rocks shops and houses. I remember walking by this old man’s house where he had set up a table by the sidewalk with old peanut butter and jam jars now filled with clover honey from his bee hives. Each one had a price scrawled on masking tape and there was a coffee can with a handwritten sign directing you to leave the money in the can. I bought a small jar for a dollar and it was delicious.
Now Springdale is full of chain hotels, lots of pricey restaurants and pricier galleries. It’s still beautiful but very touristy now. And expensive. And I didn’t see anyone selling honey in their front yard.
I’m in Moab now, and will be for a couple of days. Then I head to Mesa Verde National Park. Stay tuned for my next installment!