Another epic meet-up! Had an awesome time,even though I could only stay a couple days.But a great couple of days it was!
Left Palm Springs, California on Thursday morning, and since my route goes right by Joshua Tree National Park, decided to stop by to see the effect of the government shutdown.
The visitor center at the west entance had a big closed sign in the window.The parking lot was open, and full of a large group of Harley riders disappointed the park was closed.
Went to the north entrance at Twentynine Palms and ran into a couple from Austria, who had paid alot of money to have their campervan shipped to the US, and had planned to visit a bunch of National Parks. JTNP was the first stop, and she was asking why the park was closed.I tried my best to explain it. She said their next stop was Grand Canyon. Told them that was closed too. They were very disappointed to say the least. Ran into this situation all along the trip.
Got back in the car and headed across Amboy Road to Roy's Motel /Cafe on Route 66 in Amboy.Stopped in to buy a Coke and the storekeeper inside could have been actor Ray Liotta's twin brother!(remember the movie Goodfellas?)
Stopped at the famous now fallen shoe tree, and just up the road the bra and shoe tree.I guess its a form of desert graffiti.
Crossed I-40 into the Mojave Preserve and found the park roads and Kelso depot blocked off too.Rangers were patrolling the park.
Headed over Cima Road to join I-15 into Vegas.
Vegas to Escalante was a fairly uneventful run.Love the 80 mile per hour speed limit on I-15 above St George!Stopped in Cedar City for gas. I had planned to head up Hwy 14 and maybe drive to the top of Brian Head Peak, but a look up the hill showed signs of snow, both falling and on the ground. Hmmm, plan B.
Decided to head up to Hwy 20 and over. Hit snow flurries just over the pass and continued to Panguitch.
The ride thru Red Canyon before Bryce was nice as always.The trailhead to Mossy Cave at Bryce looked like a crime scene with all the police tape and traffic cones.The park was definitely closed.
Rolled into Escalante and checked into the Prospector Motel where many of the TA folks were staying.Tried calling other TA people and found out my cell service was sort of pathetic! Finally got a hold of Red Rox who gave me directions to the vacation house where the dinner was.
Several in the group had rented a great house on the edge of town which held everyone for dinner.
Got to re-unite with old friends and meet some new ones too.
Next day, several in the group went out canyoneering. The rest headed out on a driving trip on Hwy 12 to Boulder.
I got a ride with Red Rox, MRP and the pooches.PNJM and Pixie hopped in Kbec's car.
First stop was the incredible overview just outside Escalante, then a quick stop at Kiva Koffeehouse for a drink and snack.
What a view that place has. Someday I'll get lucky and get a reservation at the Kiva Kottage just below the restaurant.
As we were getting ready to leave, someone noticed a harmless little snake had slithered in the door! The girl working there escorted him back outside , and he went back into the bushes.
Back on the drive,RedRox was calm and drove the Hogback without incident!
We stopped and toured the Anasazi Museum in Boulder, then headed out to drive the Burr Trail out to the cattle guard viewpoint.PNJM found out what a cattle guard was. Guess there are not too many in New Jersey!
What a great drive that is. Very pretty. We stopped at a little canyon, where Kbec hugged a giant tree and everyone took pictures.
The view where we stopped before we turned around is spectacular.This road is the back way into Capitol Reef and continues on for miles. We ran into a couple TA members from the east coast (Boston?) driving a Mustang convertible with the roof down and the heater on full blast.It was cold out there just stopping for pictures!
We wound back to Boulder and had a nice lunch at the Burr Trail Grill. The turkey BLT was great.
The group split up here. PNJM and Pixie rode back with Red Rox to Escalante. Kbec and I took the Kbecmobile and drove the Hells Backbone Road up to the Hells Backbone Bridge and did the full loop back to Escalante.Thanks for driving Kbec.
We ended up back in Escalante just in time for the group dinner at the Slot Canyon Inn, which has an outdoor restaurant.
The dinner was nice, but it was a little cool outside!! Even with heaters.But the owners were very friendly, as were the dog and cat who greeted you at your car.The cat eventually slept on my lap after dinner. It was great to see the Tet14 and Mrs Tet, as they had just driven in from Palm Springs.
The night was very dark, and I had looked forward to staying out to see stars, but I was freezing, so I took a quick look at the Milky Way before hopping in the car to head back to the motel.
The next day was a hiking day for me.
Everyone teamed up in cars for the drive to the traihead. Got a ride in Mr Zig's new Cherokee. Nice!
We all headed out on the hike and came to the first big obstacle. A rather imposing dropoff of maybe 50 feet or more that required a steep drop down the front, or a hike around via the hills.
After getting everone down or around, we kept on hiking down to a small slot. There was evidence of a lot of water in the wash recently, as the bushes has debris up to the tops of them.
We played around and ate lunch, then had to hike out to make our 5:30 dinner reservation at Hells Backbone in Boulder on time.
The dinner at Hells Backbone was very good.Its pricy, but worth it.For being in the middle of nowhere, it was odd to see the numbers of people waiting to get in. Not sure where everyone comes from!?
After dinner we headed back to the vacation house for drinks and chit chat. SJG and Wings and company had plans for the Grand Canyon north rim, but with the shutdown had to alter plans.
Where is Tet?! Ask Tet!
He was on that problem immediately. He had so many places to recommend (with exact mile markers!)that I doubt they will even miss seeing the GC. Tet is fun to watch in action. A true master of travel!!
I had to leave the next morning, so had to say my good-byes. So great to see everyone.
The next morning I headed off to Bryce. Powell Point looked awesome in the morning light.(great place to go if you ever have the chance). I had never been in the back way to Bryce from Tropic before. Went out the dirt road to the trailhead(passing a park ranger truck on the way) and saw the usual police tape and barricades. Ran into a couple from England there, who like many , was disappointed with the closure.
Stopped in at Rubys for a minute. The place was a ghost town at 11AM. That was so odd to see.
Off to Zion...
Stopped for a picture at the Thunderbird in Mt Carmel of the Ho'Made Pies sign! Then pressed on hwy 9 to Springdale. All the possible pull overs were barricaded, so no stopping allowed.
Pulled into the Zion Canyon Brew Pub for a beer and burger.Great stuff! Beautiful view from the patio.Hope the businesses are not hurting too bad from the shutdown.
I was in a hurry to get going because I wanted to try a new route home. Rather than the Virgin River Gorge and I-15, at St George, I took off toward old Hwy 91 which is an alternate route to Mesquite. It goes over the mountains rather than down the canyon. Cool route.
I took the side route called the Mojave Desert Joshua Tree Road Scenic Backway. I had read about this road before, but forgot where it ended up, so I had to think about not going the full route, as time was getting short.Turns out I went about half way on it and turned around.It was dirt, I was in a low slung rental, so I didn't press my luck.
The views from above down to St George is worth the drive alone. The Joshua Trees are closer to the other end of the road where it meets Hwy 91 again a few miles from the Arizona state line.
If you are in Utah, and want to see Joshua Trees, this is the place.
The drive from Vegas back to Palm Spings was uneventful. Traffic was light on I-15 (how odd) but I took Nipton Road exit and headed back thru the Mojave Preserve via Morningstar Mine Road.Near Cima you could see a very long train in the distance.I wanted to wait at the Kelso Depot to watch the train go by, but a park ranger was politely asking people to leave the property. Stupid government shutdown again!
Headed back to Amboy (saw Ray Liotta again!) and bought a T-shirt and Coke and got into Palm Springs just after dark.
It was a short but sweet trip. Great to see everyone.Can't wait till next year.