We’ve Been Boarded…

Arrr Matey we’ve been boarded…sounds like something out of Pirates of the Caribbean but in our case it was our first of the season visitors to the Beach House. Woo-Hoo…We have been looking forward to having friends onboard Beach House and showing them the beautiful San Juan Islands.

After doing what seems like a million projects on board Beach House, I keep saying to Wally that next season we will just get onboard and go. Wally just rolls his eyes and says uh huh. But truly, I think we are ready now to have some serious fun with friends onboard.

Shawn and his delightful daughter Tatum, were in the area looking at colleges and had some time to hang with us for a few days. Shawn and Wally worked at Intel together for over 20 years so it was fun for Wally to reconnect and catch up on all the scuttlebutt at Intel and just spend some time chillin with Shawn.

Being up for an adventure, they stowed their gear on Beach House and off we went for an overnight somewhere. Our crossing on Rosario Strait was a bit lumpy and windy so Shawn and Tatum get bonus points for getting their sea legs so quickly. We were headed over towards Lopez Island but had hopes of getting on the small dock at James Island.

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The view from the hiking trails looking north…that’s Beach House on the left side of the dock.

James Island lies in Rosario Strait just off the eastern shore of Decatur Island and west of the city of Anacortes. Rosario is a big open body of water that leads in to the Straits of Juan de Fuca which goes on out to the ocean. We call the Strait of Juan de Fuca “Juan de Fu*k You” because the weather and water conditions can really get nasty, so we give that area some serious respect. Since James Island is located just on the edge of Rosario the currents around the island are really fast moving. Combine that with some wind and getting on the dock can be a challenge but the crew on the Beach House got lucky. After one attempt to get on the side of the dock that the wind and current were blowing us away from, the boat on the “easy” side of the dock left so we took advantage of the conditions and let it help move us on to that side of the dock.

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James Island is marked on this map by the star so you can see how big that the straits around it are.

The cool thing about James is that it is great for a day trip or overnighter as it is a quick 30 minute cruise from our marina and it is another island in the Washington State Park System that is entirely a park for camping and boating – no private residences. If you are looking for a great camping getaway, you can get to James via a private boat from Anacortes and have your choice of three different camping areas complete with composting toilets but no potable water. The camping areas combine for a total of 13 campsites and are connected by a loop trail. James Island is about 113 acres and has 12,335 feet of saltwater shoreline with some great views of Mt Baker.

The weather was picture perfect plus the wind died down in the evening so we were able to dine alfresco with the sounds of the water rippling out in the channel as our music. Grilled spice rubbed flat iron steak with chimichurri, corn on the cob and a garden salad finished with watermelon. That’s a summer dinner for sure. Nothing tastes better than when its served outdoors with friends at the table… the coup de grace was the wonderful sunset.

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Just another San Juan Sunset!

We spent the next morning doing an easy hike around the island and then had a leisurely lunch at the dock before we made the cruise back to Anacortes. Tatum later wrote in our guest book that she thought the cruise back was good but wasn’t sure as she slept the whole way back! Glad she was feeling so relaxed.

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After finding this tree riddled with big holes, I was hoping to see a Pileated Woodpecker but they were elusive. In the background you can see the currents and whirlpools in the water.

After a trip to fuel the boat, the captain made a perfect docking back at the marina. A wash down for the boat and crew was in order, oh and maybe a glass of grog (ok wine) or two for the older pirates! Our marina is located just on the edge of old town Anacortes so it was an easy walk into town and over to Cap Sante Marina where we had a casual outdoor dinner at Anthony’s Cabana. This outdoor eatery sports two bocce ball courts that overlook the picturesque harbor. It was boys against girls and poor Tatum got the short stick with me on her team. I didn’t suck too horribly but was the only one who ended up with a “sports injury”. The boys won handily but us gals quickly forgot our loss with a big ole scoop of ice cream at the Mad Hatter Ice Cream shop on our stroll back to the boat.

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Hanging at the Cabana.

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That my friends is a single scoop …blow me down!!

Shawn and Tatum packed up the next morning and headed out for two more college tours as we started prepping for the next round of friends….Arrr Mateys it was sure great havin ye on board!

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Bentley gave James Island a 4 paws rating…seriously what dog gets to have a whole island to play on.

Beach House 2017 Shakedown Cruise – Part Two

Somehow six days at Sucia Island just flew and we were ready for a change of scenery.  Beach House’s 2017 Shake Down Cruise – Part One. Jones Island State Park had been our first choice but the wind was not favorable and would be blowing right into the anchorage which is already exposed to boat traffic wake so we decided Reid Harbor on Stuart Island would be a good alternative.

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Beach House underway in New Channel between Spieden and Cactus Islands.

Stuart Island is north of San Juan Island and west of Waldron Island in the U.S. state of Washington and is near the U.S.-Canada border. It is also a great hopping off point to cruise on into the Canadian Gulf Islands, which we are hoping to do later in the summer. The 2.9 square mile island is home to two communities of full and part-time residents, a state park, a one-room schoolhouse, and two airstrips. There is no ferry that stops at Stuart Island, so boat, private plane or kayak is the only way to get there.

 

Picture an island with turquoise inlets and craggy coves. The northern San Juan Islands may not come to mind at first, but Stuart Island Marine State Park could surprise you.

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An aerial view of Reid Harbor at Stuart Island.

There are two harbors where you can fish, crab, dive or swim but yikes, the water is cold so you won’t catch me in the water on purpose! While Stuart can’t compete with Sucia as far as hiking trails, there are some nice short hikes near the camping area or you can hoof it to the Turn Point Light Station outside the park where you can tour the fully restored Light Station. Kayakers can beach boats and pitch their tents in the primitive campsites in either harbor. In the evening, the sky glows red and the sun falls below the horizon often creating some spectacular sunsets.

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Not a cloud in the sky at sunset on this evening so not the most spectacular light show but pretty and peaceful none the less. 

Counting waterways and anchorage areas, Stuart Island Marine State Park is a 433-acre marine camping park with 33,030 feet of shoreline. The park is part of the Cascadia Marine Trail and offers camping and moorage at Reid and Prevost Harbors. http://www.wwta.org/home/water-trails/cascadia-marine-trail/

Typically, we preferred to stay in Prevost Harbor as the sunsets are more spectacular but decided try Reid for a change of scenery. The bonus for Reid is its close proximity via the whaler to Roche Harbor on San Juan Island so lunch at the Madrona Bar and Grill was on the agenda! http://www.rocheharbor.com/marina

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Beach House on the mooring buoy in Reid Harbor.

The cruise over to Stuart Island was beautiful and uneventful which is just how we like it to go. We had a choice of mooring buoys or a dock so we choose the option of a mooring buoy as sometimes a neighbor free buoy is just perfect. The cool thing about hanging on a mooring buoy is that you rotate with the wind and current so your view is constantly changing. This can also be a huge bummer if the weather is stormy or unsettled so sometimes a dock is your friend. Being on a mooring buoy is more secure than anchoring so we always take advantage of them if they are available at state marine parks.

A mooring is really nothing more than a really heavy weight with a tether, typically a chain, also known as ground tackle, which then attaches to a float known as a mooring ball. The boat is then attached to this simple system with a line, more properly called a pennant. Boats that are moored are most commonly located within a designated mooring zone. The moorings are ideally spaced far enough apart to keep boats from hitting each other. When the wind changes direction all the boats swing together, their bows always facing into the wind.

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This sailboat is tied off to an older style mooring buoy.

I am the designated driver when we are anchoring or grabbing a buoy. I love the challenge of getting the boat lined up and stopped so the Wally can reach out over the bow of the boat and grab the mooring buoy ring with the boat hook.

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It’s not always a piece of cake to get hooked up to one of these. One time                                  we couldn’t find the boat hook and Wally had to grab the ring with a broom.

There is plenty to do on or around Stuart Island. We hiked the trails around the state park and the “secret” trail out to the now defunct school-house.

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This is the original school which is now a museum.

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This is the newer but now defunct school which closed in 2013. There are not enough children attending to support keeping it open. Stuart Island families must transport their children to San Juan Island via boat each day to attend school.

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The only shopping opportunity on Stuart Island is the two community treasure chests. It is on the honor system, you can take an IOU and send a check later! The proceeds go to maintain the school property.

Exploring in the whaler is always fun too and we found Gossip Island on this trip … it must be the smallest island in the park system. You can walk completely around this tiny island in 5 minutes. Bentley loved exploring and watching the birds!

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Exploring tiny Gossip Island.

One afternoon we took the 8 mile whaler run to Roche Harbor on San Juan Island for lunch on the deck at the Madrona Bar and Grill. It is a really quaint little village with some good walks, a bit of shopping, great people watching and the mega-yachts moored in the marina are fun to gawk at.

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The gardens in front of the historic Hotel De Haro are spectacular.

The whaler runs at top speed of almost 30 miles so we can zip around just about anywhere we want to go, if the weather is fairly settled. Bentley loves riding shotgun on the bow when we toddle around the bays on our cocktail sunset cruises. Every dog we have had loves the whaler and the bow is always their rightful spot.

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Bentley beaching the whaler on Gossip Island. I think he is wondering if he could grab that really big stick!

Four days passed way to quickly and really we didn’t have to go back to our marina but the Captain was anxious to get back and do all the annual maintenance chores on the engines. We are expecting a series of guests on board so getting all of our chores done means we can go back out and play the rest of the summer. So back we went, despite having plenty of food in the refrigerator and cases of wine onboard.

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Heading back to Anacortes with the whaler in tow…what a gorgeous day!

 

 

Beach House’s 2017 Shake Down Cruise – Part One

After a long seven month absence from the boat, we needed to do a shake down cruise to all get re-acquainted. Beach House was on a monthly boat watch program while we were away chasing 70 degree weather but even with all the systems being run, we knew there would be some regular maintenance and perhaps a few opportunities to practice the 5 whys.

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This beautiful sunset was the reward for a windy, rainy day at the dock.

The five whys goes back to our first cruise on the Beach House in 2015…Why isn’t the Espar heater working, why are we out of water already, why is smoke pouring out of the Espar heating exhaust, why does is smell like an electrical fire in the galley, why aren’t the battery’s staying charged…Yep, that sure was a fun week. To be honest I called it the five “what the F@#k’s”. Little did I know at that point about the actual problem solving technique until a very smartie boating friend explained it to me. It’s great to cruise with an engineer and a high-tech quality control mechanic.

The 5 Whys is an iterative interrogative technique used to explore the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a particular problem. The primary goal of the technique is to determine the root cause of a defect or problem by repeating the question “Why?” Each answer forms the basis of the next question.

Even knowing the five whys might be deployed, we were uber excited to get out of the marina and back in the San Juan Islands. Despite the severe weather warning for Thursdays, we got under way early on Wednesday for Sucia Island where we would be joined later by friends.

Leaving the marina we had a fitful start when an air bubble in the hydraulic steering system cause us to lose steerage just out of the fairway. Wally and I wear these geeky headsets when we are leaving or docking the boat so we can communicate about what’s going on as we are on opposite ends of the boat. I am usually handing the whaler and making sure it is behaving as he backs the boat out of the slip. We were out of the slip, headed down the fairway and the boat seems to be handling oddly, so I ask Captain Wally what’s going on. The Captain Wally calmly says in my ear…I think we have a steerage issue. Me: what type of issue. Him: well I don’t think we have any steerage. Me: don’t think or don’t have…as we are floating towards the marina wall. YIKES!!! Luckily, we were able to get safely over to an outside dock and the air bubble was cleared. I gotta say it was a bit of a heart racing experience that left me wanting to pop a beer despite the fact it was only 9:30 am. Okay, that was the first what the F@*K, oops I mean why!

Once out on the water, it was calm, no wind and the cruise to Sucia Island was uneventful..like boating on a pond. The sky was dark and moody when we cruised out of the marina but there was blue skies in the horizon. Bentley and Sucia did great on the cruise over. By lunch time we were tied on the dock and they were both laying in sun spots in the enclosed cockpit area. Yes, there was a beer consumed at lunch!

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I love Sucia Island State Park and yes, Kitty Sucia is named after the Island. Among the northernmost of the San Juan Islands, this horseshoe-shaped island is accessible only by watercraft. Boaters venturing into its coves and harbors quickly discover why Sucia Island is considered the crown jewel in the state marine park system and a boating destination that’s world class.

The main island, surrounded by picturesque rocks and smaller islands, gave pause to the Spanish explorers who navigated its waters in 1791. They called it “sucia” or “foul,” a nautical term describing navigational obstacles such as the rocks around the island. Ha-Ha, our kitty is foul!! The island and its waters are, in fact, pristine, and the satellite rocks make for interesting diving, kayaking and fishing.

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A view of Sucia Island from the top of  Mt. Constitution on nearby Orcas Island.

On April 10, 2012, part of a femur bone from a theropod dinosaur was discovered in a rock on the island. (Theropods are a group of meat-eating, two-legged dinosaurs, including T. rex and Velociraptor.) The 80 million-year-old fossil was spotted and excavated by paleontologists at the Burke Museum. Fossil collecting is strictly prohibited in this and all Washington state parks so leave your excavation tools at home!

Known for its emerald waters and forested trails, its magnificent sunsets and sandstone formations, Sucia Island is prized by locals for its off-season beauty and solitude. We have been here often in the off-season only to have the entire island to ourselves. Since I now possess a Washington State Drivers License, does that make me a local?

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Mushroom Rock in Shallow Bay…we have pictures of all of our dogs there.

The entire island is a state park boasting a 564-acre marine park with 77,700 feet of shoreline, abundant camping and moorage. The main island and several smaller islands comprise the “Sucia group.” There are no services on Sucia Island, but there is potable water, composting toilets and over 10 miles of excellent hiking trails with stunning water views. For a mere $190 we purchase an annual moorage/parks pass, which gives us unlimited usage of all the state marine parks in the San Juan Islands. What a dealsky!!

Fishing, crabbing , clamming and shrimping can all be done in this area of the San Juan’s depending on the season. We came with a full freezer and refrigerator so we weren’t doing any foraging on this trip. Instead, our plan was to get re-acquainted  with the boat and try to remember where the heck we had stored everything. Our summer guest calendar is starting to fill up (it’s not too late if you have not made your reservations) so we are trying to get ship-shape for guests.

Beach combing is seriously awesome on Sucia and there are some great tidal pools to explore as well. We found some beautiful starfish on one of our expeditions and I was vindicated when I actually found a blue starfish …yes, it looks very much like the one I insisted we have on our boat lettering.

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What…is that a blue Starfish???

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Why yes it is!!!

Hiking is also great on Sucia and we all hit the trails everyday. We did a hike on a new section of trail that provides a loop trail between Shallow Bay and Fossil Bay. It was fun chatting with the hard-working group from Americorp who are building the trail and camping on the island. The total hike was about 3.5 miles, through the lower woodland area on a service road which takes you to Shallow Bay, then around the north point on the new section, where the trail hugs the waterline and returns you back to Fossil Bay. What a great addition to the existing trail system here, I think every point on the main island now has a trail. Click here for a trail map of Sucia.

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A big thanks to the gang from Americorp for this brand new trail.

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The first paws to hit this new trail. Mr. I  Don’t  Like to Hike Anymore had a great time too!

The whaler needed a good run as well, so we fired it up and ran the 5 nautical miles over to Matia Island. Another very cool, small marine park is on this island as well as a bird preserve. There is a short hike around the island but no pets are allowed so Mr. B had to stay home on this outing. For more info on Matia Island click here.

Our big bird excitement during our stay on Sucia was the discovery of a heron rookery and the big, bad juvenile eagle that was determined to have heron sushi for dinner. The strange clacking sounds and the constant presence of numerous herons on the small island just in front of our dock got me curious. We took the whaler, circumnavigated the island and using the binoculars we were finally able to spot not one but two fully occupied heron nests. They were so well camouflaged that even with the zoom lens on the camera, we couldn’t get any good pictures of the heron chicks.

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This juvenile bald eagle is likely to be 2-3 years old based on size a feather coloration. He is sitting just below the heron rookery.

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The heron nests are so well hidden in a gray, dead tree. The second one which you can’t see in this photo was buried deeper in the foliage to the left. 

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Check out the sentry watching over the nest which is occupied by an adult and chicks.

We had 6 great days on the dock at Sucia, enjoying time with friends and meeting some great new folks. A big thanks to Mike and Shannon on Pocket Change for the 4 dozen fresh shrimp they gifted us. The seafood paella was enjoyed by everyone and the special ingredient was not only the fresh spot shrimp but the shrimp broth I made with the heads and shells which gave the paella a deep, rich flavor.

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Spot shrimp just out of the ocean.

 

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Paella with shrimp, scallops and smoked oysters, so good!!!

Bentley gives Sucia Island a resounding four paw rating…running on the beaches, beach combing and riding in the whaler were some of his favorite activities when he wasn’t napping in the sun. Kitty Sucia agrees but preferred sun bathing on the boat, watching birds and the sparkly water.

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No sparkly water to watching this day…only sideways rain!

Good news, so far only one why…sweet! Stay tuned, the cruise isn’t over and we are headed to Stuart Island next.

 

Back Home in Anacortes Washington

After 7 months on the road and a quick 10 day visit to Portland we pulled into Anacortes in the Road House and I immediately felt we had arrived home. Wally and I have been coming to Anacortes for over 15 years to go boating but in general, we didn’t often spend much time in town. Provision the boat, purchase fishing licenses at Ace Hardware, have dinner out coming or going and that’s about it. There has been the occasionally staycation on the boat in the marina but we have usually been anxious to get out on the water.

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Looking across inner Fildago Bay at Anacortes 

I have always felt a calm sense of peace when we drive over the bridge on Hwy 20 and Fildago Bay majestically appears. This time when we rolled into town in the Road House, I felt that same sense of calm peace but this time I felt like we had come home. It was great visiting Portland, spending time with friends and visiting some of our favorite haunts but it doesn’t feel like home anymore so I was truly ready to head north to a smaller town with a less hectic pace. Over the years we have made quite a few friends boating so we are also looking forward to reconnecting with those folks, either in town or on the water.

The past 3 ½ weeks have been spent getting moved on to the Beach House and getting the Road House tucked away in a storage lot in Anacortes. It has been an interesting process as the boat has always been set up  for short cruises. Load groceries, clothes some wine of course and off we would go for a few days or a week at most. This time it is a bit different as we were re-evaluating everything we have onboard and trying to make room for more “stuff” that we will need as live aboards for the next 4-5 months. Just storing pet food for extended cruises takes some creativity not to mention the 4-5 cases of wine we have to squirrel away too.

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Sorting, re-organizing and moving SOME of this stuff onto the Beach House. Bentley is worried…

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Yikes, what a mess

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Zen out after all that chaos…Sunset at the marina

Even though the Beach House is moored in a covered slip there was plenty of winter grime to wash away and a long list of annual maintenance chores that we need to do. With two diesel engines, a water maker, a diesel heating system and a generator to keep all of our systems going, Captain Wally has plenty of chores to do. In addition, we tow a 13 foot Boston Whaler as our tender (think of it as our car on the water once we anchor somewhere) so we had to wash, wax and maintenance it as well, then get it into the water.

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Captain Wally launching the ‘Whaler”…our water taxi is ready to take us anywhere.

Happily, we all seem to have transitioned to the boat with little difficulty. Bentley and Sucia are totally enjoying the morning sun in the enclosed cockpit. Wally and I had a great time at our recent annual marina picnic. The Beach House passed it’s annual Power Squadron Vessel Safety check which is a free service provided every year at the picnic.

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Sucia Kitty enjoying the morning sun and bird watching

Anacortes is a great town for walking and biking, so despite the long chore list we have also been out enjoying walking or biking everyday. One of our favorite after dinner walks takes us west along the shoreline where the sunsets can be utterly amazing.

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This photo captured the true sunset colors, not one bit of enhancement was made. The colors lasted about 3 minutes before fading away. What a spectacular view looking into the San Juan Islands. 

Heck, we can even walk into Old Town, grab a beer and burger at The Brown Lantern Tavern, fondly know as “The Brown”.

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The Tommy Thompson multi-use trail which crosses over Fildago Bay

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“The Brown”

Anacortes has some nice restaurants and A Town Bistro offers a killer, made to order Clam Chowder that I love. Made with local clams from Taylor Shellfish cooked in the shell with house cured bacon, cream, fumet, celery, onions, potatoes and black pepper served with warm focaccia – OMG, to die for.

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A Town Chowder….so good. This is what beckons me into town

Oh, and the great Farmers Market on Saturdays…I am really lovin life in Anacortes, in case you hadn’t caught that yet!

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A delicious dinner with bounty from the Farmers Market and arugula from our friends the Millers. The frittata was made with fresh farm eggs and morel mushrooms with carmelized onions on the bottom.

As much as I am loving being in Anacortes, the call of the water beckons and we have been looking forward to our first shake-down cruise. So stay tuned, we are off the dock and having a ball at Sucia Island State Park.

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Beach House on the dock at Sucia Island State Park

A Winolicious Week in Walla Walla

 

Walla Walla Washington is a bucolic farm town, home to some of the finest wines in the country, three colleges and has a special place in our hearts. Wally spent his college years at Walla Walla University getting his engineering degree (and mostly staying out of trouble) so it is always a walk down memory lane for him when we roll into town.

We celebrated Wally’s 50th birthday in Walla Walla eight years ago so it seemed like a fine place to celebrate our 25th Anniversary and spend time with friends during the Spring Wine Release Weekend. The Road House was parked at the Blue Valley RV Park, an easy bike ride into downtown Walla Walla which boasts over 30 wine tasting rooms. Downtown is small and quaint so plan some time shopping and strolling along Main Street.

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Downtown Walla Walla in the winter is quite festive too.

This farming community has really evolved over the last 25 years but the look and feel are still small town. No traffic jams, no road rage and a slower pace of living make it really attractive as a potential future place to live. But for now, we are in town to enjoy seeing friends, taste some great wines and celebrate our 25 years of mostly wedded bliss.

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The view from the patio at Garrison Creek Cellars

Walla Walla has long been known as one of the most fertile agricultural areas in the nation, producing such crops as wheat, asparagus, strawberries and the famous Walla Walla sweet onions. However, it’s as wine country that Walla Walla is most celebrated. With more than 120 wineries representing a wide range of varietals, we just keep coming back to see what’s new year after year.

First order of business is always a trip to the Ice-Burg Drive In for a burger, fries and a chocolate shake – guaranteed to put you into a food coma but oh, so delicious!!! The “Burg” is an institution in Walla Walla and it is always fun to chat with people at the communal outdoor tables and hear about their childhood memories of eating there.

 

 

While we are on the subject of restaurants, I am so impressed with the culinary scene these days in Walla Walla. We had a great anniversary dinner at Brasserie Four which is a small intimate French Bistro serving simple, elegant but unpretentious food. Chef/Owner Hannah MacDonald herself is originally from Walla Walla, but she moved to Paris for her first year of college. She lived with a French family full of extraordinary cooks, who helped her develop her love of food. She then made her way back to the states, where she graduated from Western Culinary Institute in Portland, OR. She moved back to Walla Walla and opened Brasserie Four in 2008.

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Chef Hannah at work creating beautiful food.

Olive Market Place and Café is another great choice for lunch, whether you dine there in the old brick building or grab a box lunch to go and have a picnic at a local winery, you won’t be disappointed.

On our last night in Walla Walla the entire wine gang enjoyed a great meal at The Whitehouse Crawford which is an institution in Walla Walla. The building itself is a old brick warehouse that is listed on both the Washington Heritage Register and the National Register of Historic Places. I love the warehouse feel and the old mill equipment that still remains in the building.

We visited a lot of winery’s and drank some great wine, a few standouts for the week were Isenhower Cellars, Walla Walla Vintners, Maison Bleue and Garrison Creek Cellars which really is just the tip of the iceburg as far as great WW wineries. Dang, I guess we will just have to go back again!

 

Besides drinking great wine, Walla Walla has some great bicycling opportunities. Rural farm roads that meander through rolling wheat fields, Walla Walla is one of  Washington’s top road cycling destination. The nearby Blue Mountains offer experienced riders steep climbs and sharp turns to attack, while the flat lands and paved trails that run through Walla Walla’s historic neighborhoods and farmlands are perfect for when you just want to cruise. We opted for cruise mode taking an easy ride on the flat Mill Creek trail out to Bennington Lake which was an easy connection from the Blue Valley RV Park. This 7 mile ride was a small pre-emptive strike against the high calorie wine consumption day.

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The Mill Creek trail is a really pretty ride.

As usual, time flies when you are having fun. We had a great time with the wino gang which dates back to the late 90’s in Portland, Wally reconnected with two colleague buddies, plenty of great wine was consumed, tales were told, delicious meals eaten, there was only one minor head injury (not me, yay) and a general good time was had by all! Good-Bye for now Walla Walla.

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P.S….

Winolicious is really a word, one frequently used in my vocabulary especially when tasting wines but for those of you needing further confirmation – here ya go:

-licious

forming adjectives denoting someone or something as delightful or extremely attractive. “Winolicious”

The rugged beauty of Zion National Park

It is believed the first people to explore what is now Zion National Park entered the canyon looking for food. Thousands of years later more than 4 million people come from around the world to feed more than their bodies. Most visitors today come to nourish their souls by some mystic power that these towering red rocks walls hold.

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A friend of mine asked if I was tired of looking at red rocks yet! Seriously, Utah is a spectacular state and no, I was not tired of looking at red rocks or majestic views. Here it is almost six weeks later and I am still struggling with how to capture in words the raw, rugged beauty I saw in Zion Canyon.

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Zion National Park and its 229 square miles of towering cliff walls, narrow canyons and absolutely stunning scenery lie about 300 miles from Salt Lake City and 160 miles from Las Vegas, making it an easy destination to reach from all over the world. The park was actually established in 1909 and named Mukuntuweap National Monument, Zion National Park was established in 1919; the Zion National Monument of the Kolob Canyons area was proclaimed in 1937 and added to the park’s boundaries in 1956. One could easily spend a weeks in this area, I wish we had stayed at least two weeks.

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When Zion National Park was still Mukuntuweap National Monument, 1,000 people visited in 1915 and in 2016 over 4 million people visited the park. This makes Zion is one of the most popular national parks in the country and while is was busy during our visit in late April, the summer months can see crushing numbers of visitors so my advice would be to go in the shoulder seasons.  The well organized shuttle system helps control the chaos that would ensue if visitors were still able to just drive in. The shuttle system operates seasonally each year from the spring through the fall.

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Get the most out of your time in Zion by doing some homework and figuring out what you wantb to see and do while visiting the park. Our first stop was at the Visitors Center where we chatted with a Park Ranger who was happy to answer our questions and generally delighted that we had a week to explore the area. Many people rush through these national parks in a day and truly don’t stop long enough to really absorb all the beautiful secrets they hold. Seriously, there is a sign at the visitors center explaining what to do if you only have three hours at Zion.

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The small town of Springdale which is just outside the south entrance of the park is loaded with great restaurants and lodging choices. There is also a great city shuttle which gets people to the park visitors center from 6 different stops along Hwy 9. We stayed at the Virgin River RV park which is about 6 miles from the park entrance and out of the fray of visitors. Our site backed up to the roaring Virgin River and while it was one of the busier, tighter places we stayed, it was a great base camp for visiting the area. Bentley was not a fan of this RV Park but he did enjoy a few days at the near by Doggie Dude Ranch. He came home one day with dirt up has nose and was happily exhausted!!

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Our first order of business after stoppping at the visitors center was to take the 90 minute shuttle ride to the end of the canyon and back to get a feel for the area and what we wanted to do for the next week. Since we had friends joining us on this part of our adventure, we wanted to get the lay of the land so we could hit the ground running when they got there.

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The scenery is OMG gorgeous and it was really hard not to get off the bus and explore further that day but we did come up with a game plan for the next 5 day days. Petal to the metal once our friends arrived, we checked out the park museum and movie, hiked the Weeping Rock Trail, the Narrows Trail, Upper and Lower Emerald Pools, had beers at the Zion Lodge, walked in the meadow below the Court of the Patriarchs and did the lower Virgin River Walk.

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Another absolutely spectacular side trip is the ten-mile drive from the Zion entrance to Mt. Carmel, where it hooks up with Federal Hwy. 89. So glad we opted NOT to do this drive in the Road House when we came over from Bryce.  The twisting, hairpin roads, switchbacks, slickrock and sweeping views with seasonal waterfalls would not have been fully enjoyed by either the navigator or the driver.

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There are numerous spots where you can pull off the road in a smaller vehicle for a better view or to take a short hike which will give you a more up close experience with many of the highlights seen along this amazing stretch of road.

The man-made feature that draws attention is the 1.1-mile-long Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel, which was carved through a sandstone cliff as part of the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway project. Constructed between 1927 and 1930 to ease travel between Zion, Bryce and Grand Canyon national parks, a route known as the “Grand Circle Tour.”

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This area is a geological wonder, domes of slickrock, hoodoos along the way that look like giant mud people and the Checkerboard Mesa on the south side of the road at the eastern boundary of the park along Hwy. 9 will have you gaping in wonder. Eons of freezing and thawing created vertical cracks, while erosion by wind and rain accentuated the horizontal bedding planes of this distinctive petrified Navajo sandstone mountain so that over time a pattern of irregular crosshatches emerged, creating the checkerboard effect.

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Our week with friends flew, hiking the many trails inside the park, exploring Kolob Canyon in the northern part of the park, a day trip to Kanab and Bryce Canyon all kept us busy and happily exhausted at the end of each day.

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We are hoping to see more of Utah this fall when we make the migration south.

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The rugged beauty of Zion National Park

It is believed the first people to explore what is now Zion National Park entered the canyon looking for food. Thousands of years later more than 4 million people come from around the world to feed more than their bodies. Most visitors today come to nourish their souls by some mystic power that these towering red rocks walls hold.

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The beautiful walk along the Virgin River is a great way to soak in the beauty of the lower park of the park.

A friend of mine asked if I was tired of looking at red rocks yet! Seriously, Utah is a spectacular state and no, I was not tired of looking at red rocks or majestic views. Here it is almost six weeks later and I am still struggling with how to capture in words the raw, rugged beauty I saw in Zion Canyon.

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The warm, rich colors are almost sensory overload.

Zion National Park and its 229 square miles of towering cliff walls, narrow canyons and absolutely stunning scenery lie about 300 miles from Salt Lake City and 160 miles from Las Vegas, making it an easy destination to reach from all over the world. The park was actually established in 1909 and named Mukuntuweap National Monument, Zion National Park was established in 1919; the Zion National Monument of the Kolob Canyons area was proclaimed in 1937 and added to the park’s boundaries in 1956. One could easily spend a weeks in this area, I wish we had stayed at least two weeks.

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Our hike into Kolob Canyon which is in the northern, less visited section of the park was certainly a highlight of the week. My friend Tanya is a petite woman but wow, you could almost miss her in this picture.

When Zion National Park was still Mukuntuweap National Monument, 1,000 people visited in 1915 and in 2016 over 4 million people visited the park. This makes Zion is one of the most popular national parks in the country and while is was busy during our visit in late April, the summer months can see crushing numbers of visitors so my advice would be to go in the shoulder seasons.  The well organized shuttle system helps control the chaos that would ensue if visitors were still able to just drive in. The shuttle system operates seasonally each year from the spring through the fall.

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The visitor center is architecturally beautiful and the educational component makes it well worth spending some time there.

Get the most out of your time in Zion by doing some homework and figuring out what you wantb to see and do while visiting the park. Our first stop was at the Visitors Center where we chatted with a Park Ranger who was happy to answer our questions and generally delighted that we had a week to explore the area. Many people rush through these national parks in a day and truly don’t stop long enough to really absorb all the beautiful secrets they hold. Seriously, there is a sign at the visitors center explaining what to do if you only have three hours at Zion.

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The beauty of Zion is hard for me to capture in words but is certainly etched in my mind.

The small town of Springdale which is just outside the south entrance of the park is loaded with great restaurants and lodging choices. There is also a great city shuttle which gets people to the park visitors center from 6 different stops along Hwy 9. We stayed at the Virgin River RV park which is about 6 miles from the park entrance and out of the fray of visitors. Our site backed up to the roaring Virgin River and while it was one of the busier, tighter places we stayed, it was a great base camp for visiting the area. Bentley was not a fan of this RV Park but he did enjoy a few days at the near by Doggie Dude Ranch. He came home one day with dirt up has nose and was happily exhausted!!

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The Road House all snugged in at the Virgin River RV Park.

Our first order of business after stoppping at the visitors center was to take the 90 minute shuttle ride to the end of the canyon and back to get a feel for the area and what we wanted to do for the next week. Since we had friends joining us on this part of our adventure, we wanted to get the lay of the land so we could hit the ground running when they got there.

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The Narrows, with the Virgin River flowing at full capacity. This area is actually hikeable in the summer months.

The scenery is OMG gorgeous and it was really hard not to get off the bus and explore further that day but we did come up with a game plan for the next 5 day days. Petal to the metal once our friends arrived, we checked out the park museum and movie, hiked the Weeping Rock Trail, the Narrows Trail, Upper and Lower Emerald Pools, had beers at the Zion Lodge, walked in the meadow below the Court of the Patriarchs and did the lower Virgin River Walk.

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Another absolutely spectacular side trip is the ten-mile drive from the Zion entrance to Mt. Carmel, where it hooks up with Federal Hwy. 89. So glad we opted NOT to do this drive in the Road House when we came over from Bryce.  The twisting, hairpin roads, switchbacks, slickrock and sweeping views with seasonal waterfalls would not have been fully enjoyed by either the navigator or the driver.

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Yikes, I would have lost my lunch if we had tried to do this in the Road House towing Ernie Equinox.

There are numerous spots where you can pull off the road in a smaller vehicle for a better view or to take a short hike which will give you a more up close experience with many of the highlights seen along this amazing stretch of road.

The man-made feature that draws attention is the 1.1-mile-long Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel, which was carved through a sandstone cliff as part of the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway project. Constructed between 1927 and 1930 to ease travel between Zion, Bryce and Grand Canyon national parks, a route known as the “Grand Circle Tour.”

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The mile long tunnel is an amazing peice of work done between 1927 – 1930 for a the cost of $503,000. Good grief, most houses costs that much or more now!

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I loved the peekaboo views through the arches that were carved into the sides of the tunnel.

This area is a geological wonder, domes of slickrock, hoodoos along the way that look like giant mud people and the Checkerboard Mesa on the south side of the road at the eastern boundary of the park along Hwy. 9 will have you gaping in wonder. Eons of freezing and thawing created vertical cracks, while erosion by wind and rain accentuated the horizontal bedding planes of this distinctive petrified Navajo sandstone mountain so that over time a pattern of irregular crosshatches emerged, creating the checkerboard effect.

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Checkerboard Mesa is just one of the stunning visual sites along the Hwy. 9 drive. The only disappointment for me was not seeing any Big Horn Sheep which are often spotted in this area.

Our week with friends flew, hiking the many trails inside the park, exploring Kolob Canyon in the northern part of the park, a day trip to Kanab and Bryce Canyon all kept us busy and happily exhausted at the end of each day.

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It’s easy to forget this is high desert and these beautiful wildflowers were just starting to make an appearance in the higher elevations of Kolab Caynon.

We are hoping to see more of Utah this fall when we make the migration south.

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See ya again soon Utah!!! XXOO….

Bryce Canyon – Part Two

Our week at Bryce Canyon National Park flew by. We spent the last part of our stay there exploring the park on our bikes and hiking. In case you missed part one or the mid-week drive on Scenic Byway 12, you can click on these links to catch up – Breathtaking Bryce Canyon – part one or Add Utah Scenic Byway 12 to Your Bucket List.

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The bike path through the park provides a great alternative to riding the shuttle but keep in mind the elevation ranges from 7,200 to 9,000 feet inside the park which means sea level dwellers are going to be sucking some serious wind along the ride. Me, I just went slow and managed to survive but we have been living at 4,000 – 5,000 feet for the last month, which helped a bit.

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There are some great options to ride inside and outside the park. The Red Canyon to Bryce Canyon Bike Trail is a paved trail that starts at the West entrance of Red Canyon on Scenic Highway 12, running for more than 6 miles past hoodoos and red rock formations along Scenic Highway 12 to the top of the canyon. The rest area at the top of Red Canyon has restrooms and large parking area. This is also the connecting point for the Thunder Mountain Trail. This popular mountain bike trail parallels highway 12 back to the bottom of Red Canyon, making a great looping connection. The paved trail continues East for another 14 miles along Highway 12 across the Paunsagant Plateau, turning South on Highway 63, continuing through Bryce Canyon City & Ruby’s Inn, and connecting to the new Bryce Canyon multi-use path.

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We choose to ride the new trail which begins next to the Bryce Canyon Shuttle Parking and connects to Bryce Canyon National Park. The trail runs past the Visitor Center, Sunrise Point, Bryce Canyon Lodge, Sunset Point, and ends at Inspiration Point.

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A stunning vista from Sunset Point

It was a beautiful ride with many great places to stop and enjoy the incredible views of Bryce Canyon. Biking was fun but hiking in Bryce is seriously amazing! In addition to hiking part of the Fairyland Trail which takes you down inside the canyon, (that’s means you have to hike out fyi) we really enjoyed hiking the Rim Trail from Bryce Point to Sunrise Point.

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Hiking on the Fairyland Trail

The advantage of hiking the rim this direction is that you are going down hill! Sweet…really at this elevation you need to plan your route unless you enjoy needless suffering!

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Seriously, no barriers

The hike along the rim took us up close and personal with the grandness of Bryce. Much of the hike is truly right along the rim, with nothing between you and a 1,200 foot drop into those magical spires. Because we can travel on the weekends, we enjoy being in places on the less busy days and our hike along the rim was just that. We saw a few couples and one family on our 5 mile walk, not bad for a big national park! Being able to stop along the way and enjoy the sheer vastness and beauty is a gift.

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Another great look over the edge of the rim

Another great, short hike was the Mossy Cave Trail, which depending on the season, takes you to a beautiful waterfall and a cave with a hanging garden. This trail is in the northern section of the park, located on Highway 12, approximately 4 miles east of the intersection of Highways 12 and 63. Look for a small parking area on the right-hand side immediately after crossing a little bridge. The Mossy Cave itself is at the end of a short trail. Here too you can see hoodoos and windows without having to hike a steep trail.

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Beautiful hoodoo’s

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Plus a waterfall

At first, this canyon known as Water Canyon, might look like any ordinary Bryce kind of canyon. It’s not. From 1890-1892 mormon pioneers labored with picks and shovels to carve an irrigation ditch from the East Fork of the Sevier River, through the Paunsaugunt Plateau, into this canyon. Ten miles and an elevation drop of 1,500 feet – wow, what sheer determination to settle in this beautiful, wild area of the country.

Every year since its completion in 1892 (except during the drought of 2002), this canal known as the Tropic Ditch has supplied the communities of Tropic and Cannonville with irrigation water.

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This part of the ditch may have had some help from Mother Nature

All that exercise sure works up an appetite and when we are not enjoying our own culinary creations it is is fun to step out for dinner. There aren’t many great dining options in Bryce City, which is just outside the park so we decided to try the restaurant at Bryce Canyon Park Lodge one night. I really enjoy cooking and to be modest, I don’t suck at it but sometimes you just want someone else to cook and do the dishes! Our meal at the lodge was good. Yay, someone did the cooking and dishes which was much appreciated but the food was not spectacular. So advice for those foodies out there…just enjoy a modest meal with no cooking or dishes!

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FYI, there are not many great grocery store options in or around Bryce Canyon either so any of you who are planning a trip here in an RV or are camping, make your grocery stops in another nearby town like Cedar City or St. George.

So last but not least, how did Bentley rate his stay near Bryce Canyon National Park? He loved Ruby’s RV Campground. Lots of open space, places to play ball and run off leash, grass lawn right outside his coach with a sprinkling of deer poop – that’s doggie nirvana! National parks aren’t very dog friendly and he doesn’t really even like to hike so a four paws up rating from Bentley.

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Add Utah Scenic Byway 12 to Your Bucket List

Scenic Byway 12 spans a route of 124 miles, and travels through some of the most diverse, remote and ruggedly beautiful landscapes in the country. It is home to two national parks, three state parks, a national recreation area, a national monument, and a national forest and damn fine restaurant that is worth the trip for lunch or dinner alone!

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Mossy Cave hike just outside Bryce Caynon on Scenic Byway 12

For all you motorcycle enthusiasts …Marsha Crest and David Lytle, this is a dream ride, bucket list material really! Even traveling in a car like we were, still bucket list worthy! Along the way you will also discover that Scenic Byway 12 takes you through memorable landscapes, ranging from the remains of ancient sea beds to one of the world’s highest alpine forests, and from astonishing pink and russet stone turrets to open sagebrush flats. If you are lucky, like we were, you might see deer, elk, wild turkeys, golden eagles and turkey vultures.

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A sneak peek into Capitol Reef National Park

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Leaving the Red Rock Overview

The big bonus for us was that this drive would take us to Torrey, when Capitol Reef National Park is just nine miles down Hwy 24. Capital Reef had been on our trip itinerary until is snowed just before we had planned to drive there from New Mexico. So, we were excited to get to see it, even if for a few hours.

Byway 12 could be done in segments using Boulder as a base camp but is also doable as a long day trip where you can just take in the highlights like we did. We got started around 9:30 am, armed with the Byway 12 guide brochure which you could download here as well – Byway 12 guide.

This drive is full of amazing points of interest – 26 to be precise in the guidebook. With all these stops along the way, know you can’t and don’t want to speed through it, because 12 is about time—landscape that has been carved through geologic time, human evidence of historic and archeological times, and wonders that have survived over time until today.

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Another example of the crazy diverse terrain just outside of Escalante

Since we were starting the drive out of Bryce Canyon City our first stop was the Escalante Interagency Visitors Center. The very helpful ranger pointed out some great day hikes for later, gave us another handful of brochures and also informed us that the side drive we wanted to do – Hell’s Backbone Scenic Drive was still covered in snow at the highest elevation. Double Damn, but probably just as well as we certainly couldn’t have done that 44 mile back country drive the same day. I was intrigued by the drive as the construction of Hell’s Backbone Road was completed in 1933 by Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), allowing vehicle traffic between Escalante and Boulder for the first time. The 12 byway didn’t exist either so getting around in this part of Utah was limited to horse or wagon. Hell’s Backbone Bridge, a photographers dream, allows travelers to pass above Sand Creek with views of the spectacular Box-Death Hollow Wilderness Area. Well, another time when the snow has melted.

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Hell’s Backbone Bridge

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Hogsback portion of Byway 12

Stopping to take in all the viewpoints and the breath taking scenery, was working up an appetite and I was excited about our lunch stop – Hell’s Backbone Grill. With a name like that I bet you are envisioning a quintessential biker bar with pools table and Budweiser on tap. No so much – This charming restaurant sits on the grounds of the Boulder Mountain Lodge and is a true farm to table restaurant.

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Charming isn’t it?

Jen Castle and Blake Spalding are chef-owners of this highly acclaimed and award-winning restaurant, operate their restaurant following Buddhist principles, with a commitment to sustainability, environmental ethics, and social and community responsibility. They serve organic, locally produced, regionally and seasonally appropriate cuisine, growing many of their own vegetables and fruits organically in the restaurant’s two gardens and on their six-acre farm. They feature dishes made with fruit from Boulder’s heirloom orchards and rely largely on local ranchers for the grass-fed and -finished meat they serve.

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The grounds around the Restaurant and Inn are just beautiful in the spring

Okay, Hell’s Backbone Grill is my kind of restaurant and to find it in one of the most remote towns in the US, Boulder Utah, population 180 was just karma I figure. We both really enjoyed our meals and lingered over dessert. Their cookbook, “With a Measure of Grace” is filled with tempting recipes and the beautiful story of how the chef-owners have created a place for their restaurant in community very unlikely to embrace outsiders, made its way home with me.

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Backbone BLT – applewood smoked bacon, organic romaine, sun dried tomato spread on the house-made sage flatbread with a small mixed green salad – SOOO good!

After a very satisfying lunch and stroll around the grounds at the Boulder Mountain Lodge, we had to get back on the road since we were really only halfway through the drive. It would have been easy to linger all day or just stay for a while. If your tempted, here are a a few links to check out –  Hells’ Backbone Grill  and Boulder Mountain Lodge

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The next portion of the drive took us up, up, up Boulder Mountain through an alpine forest to over 9,000 feet. Groves of aspen trees mixed with the alpine pines creating an ever changing vista. The fall colors on this portion of the drive would be amazing, so think about that when your plan your trip! Just don’t wait to late as the restaurant in Boulder closes for the season in October!

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These groves of Aspen will paint a stunning fall foliage picture

As breathtaking views of the rugged, rainbow-hued landscape stretching out below. The mountain was first plotted on an 1872 map by Almon Thompson, the cartographer with the John Wesley Powell Survey. However, the area was already well known to various Native American people, who left behind evidence that they lived and thrived in the pristine hills and hollows. Rugged and remote, this area of Utah would have been a hard and unforgiving place to settle.

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This picture was with digital zoom and turned out like a watercolor – kinda cool for a bad photo!

Of course we stopped at every scenic overlook, but when we arrived at Torrey we didn’t linger but just continued on to Capitol Reef National Park. Very different from the spirals at Bryce Canyon, the words massive, huge, and towering came to mind as we drove into Capital Reef.

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Gooseneck Overlook

The signature feature of Capitol Reef National Park is the Waterpocket Fold, a 100-mile-long monocline, or fold, in the Earth’s crust that towers as much as 2,000 feet above its eastern base. There is much to do and see here in this quarter million acre park. And all we really had time to do was drive through. Along the Fremont River, there are ancient pictographs and petroglyphs painted or carved into the sandstone by some of the area’s early native inhabitants hundreds of years ago.

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Can you just see how the massive plates of earth were pushed up

More recently, 19th-century settlers colonized a village they called Fruita, named for the fruit orchards they established under the crimson and cream-colored Wingate and Navajo sandstone cliffs. Visitors today still enjoy the “fruits” of those efforts during summer and fall when they pick and sample the harvest of peaches, apricots, plums, pears, and apples. The old Fruita Schoolhouse and Historic Gifford Homestead, pioneer dwellings that provide a glimpse of 19th-century Utah farm life, are located along Highway 24 near the park campground. For more info check out this link – Gifford Homestead.

Among the park’s sights are the Chimney Rock pillar, the Hickman Bridge arch, and Capitol Reef, known for its white sandstone domes. In the north are the towering monoliths of Cathedral Valley. The cool thing about Capital Reef National Park is that you are able to just drive through and into many of the towering canyons where some great trail heads start.

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One of the sandstone domes

 

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This is hiking and backpacking paradise 

There is no entrance gate and fees are paid on the honor system at the small visitors center. I suspect that this incredible park gets a fraction of the visitors that the other more well known Utah parks get. The funding for the park is obviously less but the park staff and volunteers are clearly proud of their park. I would love to come back here and do more exploration in a season that isn’t marginal and plagued by late snow storms.

You can learn more about the park by visiting the National Park website – Capitol Reef National Park.

Since we had Mr. Bentley in the car and it was actually really warm in some of the canyons, we only did some short walks. Soon it was time to hit the dusty trail back and we choose just to retrace our path back along Byway 12 instead of taking a longer loop.

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Boulder Mountain high plateau

It was truly just as beautiful on the return, seeing things from a different perspective made the trip back really as enjoyable. Luck was with us and we did see three adolescent elk near Boulder Mountain on the return drive. No great photos of them to share, so really you do need to add this drive to your bucket list and see them for yourself.

 

Breathtaking Bryce Canyon – part one

We arrived at Ruby’s RV Park in Bryce Canyon City mid-day last Sunday and quickly got the Roadhouse set up in our spacious site. It is great to have real grass again after months in the desert. Chores done, pets all situated and there was still time for a trip into Bryce Canyon Park as Ruby’s is just a mile outside the park entrance.

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Look at all that green grass!

After a quick stop at the Park Visitor’s Center to get the lay of the land we anxiously headed out. I knew Utah was chock full of spectacular red rock scenery and sure, I have seen some pictures of Bryce Canyon but nothing is better than seeing it yourself. The entrance to the park doesn’t reveal its splendors so I was simply awe stuck at the first scenic viewpoint.

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The views from Sunset Point

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Snow still at the highest point in the park

Our first few hours in the park was spent just driving the 18 mile road and stopping a each viewpoint to take in the jaw dropping beautiful vistas.

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Aqua Canyon

We had hoped to do a short 1 mile hike at Rainbow Point but the snow at the higher elevations was more than our tennis shoe clad feet wanted to traverse.

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The Bryce Canyon Lodge sits serenely in the pine forest not far from many hiking and walking trails. Built between 1924 and 1925 using local materials, the lodge is an excellent example of National Park Service Rustic design. It is the only remaining completely original structure of the lodges designed by Underwood for Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

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The following day, we took the free park shuttle from Ruby’s to Sunset Point where the trailhead for the Navajo loop started. This hike also connects to the Queens Garden trail which is rated easy with less than 700 ft of elevation gain. Easy is a good way to start when you are hiking at 8,000 feet. As usual we did not get a really early start so by 10:30 there were plenty of people on the trails.

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Hiking down into the canyon on the Navajo Trail

That did not take away from the spectacular scenery where you could get close to those massive hoodoos.

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Yes, you walk right between all those spires!

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Visual overload is what I would call this hike! Four miles of nothing but stunning red rock formations, dotted with green pine trees. At some point, I just had to soak it all in and not worry about taking the perfect picture.

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The Queens Garden trail takes you right through the rocks!

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The terrain in the canyon valley changes at every turn

The rocks are sculptured into all sorts of shapes and there really is a formation that looks like the queen on her throne. Can you find her in this next picture?

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There she is…the Queen

The last part if the hike was a bit of huffing and puffing as we climbed the 700 feet back up to the canyon rim. Shady switchbacks were a welcome place to stop, gaze at the natural wonder of Bryce Canyon, oh yeah, and catch your breath!