Heading into Canyon Country

Just as we were checking out of Treasure Island, Paul decided to invest $35 in the slots.  There’s an old saying about “a fool and his money”, and the proceeds of his investment can be seen below.

Treasure Island Las Vegas

When I called Cedar Breaks National Monument to see if they were open for the season, I learned that the road was still closed as there was 6 feet of snow.  Good thing we called ahead.

We made our escape from the Treasure Island parking garage and made an immediate left on Highway 15 heading north to Zion National Park.  

Las Vegas to Zion Hwy 15

Outside of the city limits, the landscape along the way was very arid and it seemed like we were driving on the surface of the moon.  The vegetation was very sparse as far as the eye could see.

Before long, we started searching for a place to have breakfast.  One of the ground rules for the trip was “no eating at chain restaurants”.  Because we were driving through the middle of nowhere, we thought it might be wise to bend the rules a little.  (Starvation being our alternate option.) We stopped for coffee and breakfast burritos at a Jack in the Box.  Since J.I.T.Bs are not found in Maine, and what we ordered had sort of a southwestern flair, we though it would still qualify as something “local”. Halfway through the so-called meal, we both thought we would have been better off sticking with the original plan of “no chains”.

In the J.I.T.B parking lot, I took advantage of the daylight to view the damage to the rental car roof.  This was a 38 caliber bullet hole, expertly identified by a former member of Cumberland County’s finest.

Dodge Charger Bullet Hole

Back on Highway 15, we crossed into a sliver of Arizona and the highway wound through an awesome canyon for a couple of miles.  It resembled Franconia Notch in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, minus the trees and waterfalls.  This was a taste of what was to come for the next 2000 miles.

Next stop: Super Walmart in Mesquite, Utah, for the provisions we’d need to survive 9-plus days in remote desert conditions. We bought water, assorted drinks, snacks and sunscreen to go along with wilderness survival items we brought from Maine: a Blackberry,  two cell phones, a laptop with Verizon broadband card, Motorola two-way radios and two GPS units – one for the car and a handheld, AND a Weight Watchers “Points” Pedometer. We were eager to escape to the wilderness and were now totally prepared to “get away from it all”.

Walmart Mesquite Utah

 We arrived at the Visitors Center in St. George Utah in record time. A very kind and knowlegable lady gave us about 15 more pounds of brochures and recommended a place for lunch: the Bear Paw Cafe, which garnered mixed reviews.  She said that we shouldn’t miss the Kolob Canyon area in Zion and recommended that we should skip the Kolob Reservoir within the National Park to save 60 miles of driving.  In hindsight, this was outstanding advice as the Kolob Canyon itself was spectacular and we were already putting in a long day. The extra 60 miles would have really been pushing it. 

Continuing north on 15 after lunch, we reached higher elevations and the vegetation changed, or I should more accurately say that it appeared.  There were many green juniper trees in this area against red soil.

At Exit 40, there was a Zion National Park visitors center. I presented the National Park Pass which saved us $25, and got the first two (of many) stamps for the passport book. 


We then hopped into the Charger and drove into the Canyon on the scenic drive.  At first, it was just more of the same old juniper trees.  No big whoop.  After about a mile we swerved around a bend and lo and behold saw a jaw-dropping view of gigantic dome-shaped rocks pointing toward the heavens.  The more we traveled on this road, the more dramatic the scenery became.  These are known as “Finger Canyons”. 


We met a couple of cross-country travelers who hailed from Waterford, Maine, practically next door neighbors. They were taking a 5-week trip tenting and living out of their car.  Ah retirement!

We drove another couple of  miles to the end of the scenic road and then retraced our steps back to Highway 15 heading south through the villages of  Toqueville, La Verkin, Virgin and Rockville.  In Rockville we banged a right on Bridge Street, crossed the iron bridge and forged ahead on treacherous dirt roads to Grafton, the Ghost Town I had read about on the Backpacker.com forums. 





After snapping a few thousand pictures, we headed to Springdale to spend the night.  Springdale has an outdoorsy, funky vibe, and has a great free shuttle system. We ate pizza and salad at the Pizza and Noodle Company and then went looking for a place to roost. 


We found a room at the Terrace Brook Lodge for 59 bucks, well within budget!



As it was getting dark, we drove as to the Zion Visitors Center to see if we could secure a spot on one of the Ranger Programs the following morning but it was closed.

On a side note, our $59 room ended up not being the most glamorous place in Springdale. The wind howled through the place like a siren and you could hear the pipes banging all night. I guess you get what you pay for.

On the other hand, this did give us an opportunity to snap a picture from the balcony of our friend Barry who drove his tractor 2707 miles to greet us!


Click here to read all about tomorrow’s adventures in Zion, the first of many National Parks on this trip!

Published in: on April 24, 2009 at 6:37 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I can’t begin to tell you how unbelievably jealous I am of you two…what an incredible journey thus far! Keep the pictures coming so that I can live vicariously through them and while you’re at it you may wish to throw in a couple of food pictures to remind me people are still eating out there. Paul’s cell phone debacle triggered my repressed memory of being bagged with scissors in the Switzerland airport (who’d of thought someone could find such a weapon when it was snuggled nicely in my backpack with a giant Toblerone Bar).

    Miss you guys!

  2. What a thrill to read of you trip..The pictures are wonderful. Don’t see to many other folks in your photos.?? The weather must be nice.. Got up to 91 deg. here today. Cooler tomorrow ..
    Continue to enjoy the blessings that come with your trip.

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