Western US 2017, Part 2

Wednesday 20170913

We were not able to get a full day at Bryce because Erin needed to get back to Boston for a wedding, which she didn’t know about when we planned the trip. So we re-arranged the schedule a bit to put her on a plane from Salt Lake City the next morning. But we made the best of our trip to Bryce. Unlike Zion, but more like the Grand Canyon, you are mostly looking down from the top of the cliffs into a canyon. But it isn’t that far down, and you could walk down. We didn’t really have time for that, though. Like in Zion, they have shuttle buses that take you around, so we parked and took the bus to the first observation point.

Bryce Canyon is not really a canyon, it is more like a natural amphitheater, with some spectacular rock formations called hoodoos, which are formed by erosion. There is a rim trail along the top of the cliffs, and we did part of it, but the first section, from Bryce Point to Inspiration Point, was just too dangerous looking to us, So we got back on the bus to get to Inspiration Point. From there we follwed the Rim Trail to Sunset Point. There we went down into the canyon a little ways following a trail called Wall Street. Going back up, we followed the Rim Trail to Sunrise Point. From there we walked past the Horse Corral to the Lodge, and got lunch. Then it was time to hit to road again.

Salt Lake City is a 4 hour drive from Bryce, which is why we had to cut our day there short. We got to the Hampton Inn by the airport, and discovered I was off by one day when I made the reservation, and they only had one room available, so the three of us needed to bunk up together. So we dropped our bags, and got dinner. Then we went to check out the Great Salt Lake since we were there. It is kind of interesting, but I wouldn’t make a special trip to see it. But after that it was back to the hotel.


Thursday 20170914

We drove to the Salt Lake City Airport and dropped Erin off to get her flight back to Boston. Now it was just Cheryl and I. Our original plan had been to head for Mesa Verde in Colorado from Bryce Canyon, but the detour to Salt Lake City made us change our plans. Instead we had a 7-hour drive to Vail, Colorado ahead of us. But as we went down the Interstate we saw signs for Arches National Park, which is in Moab and seemed to be just off the Interstate. We decided it was too good to pass up, so made another detour to check it out. Arches is unlike Zion or Bryce in that you drive your own car. So we stopped in at the Visitors’ Center, and picked a few spots to check it out. We couldn’t really be leisurely since we still had the rest of the drive to Vail ahead of us, but we could spare a couple of hours, and you never know if you will get another chance. The park is basically more spectacular rock formations caused by erosion, but in this case forming, of course, arches. Like so much of the Southwest on this trip, it seemed like every time you turned a corner there was another incredible view. But we noticed the clouds rolling in and a promise of rain. Then we spotted lightning to the south of where we were. The park rangers we had talked to on this trip all said that if you see lightning in these places, take it seriously and get under cover. So got back in the car, and drove back to the Visitors Center.

As we drove, the rain started to pour, and it was impressive. Because we were on a rocky plateau, there was no place for the water to go but down as a torrent. We suddenly realized why the road had a deep channel alongside: it was to take the water away. And the torrent was picking up rocks, which made us hope nothing would happen to the rented car. We got back to the Visitors Center, and the rain was now forming a waterfall down the cliff face. We waited a bit for the rain to slow down, then got back on the highway to Vail. In Colorado even the Interstate is a roller coaster as you go through the Rocky Mountains. We looked at the steep grades and decided to never try taking an RV on these roads. We have been thinking of buying one to get away from the Michigan winter when we retire, but Colorado may be off of our list of places to visit with an RV. Plus the winter there is probably no great improvement over Michigan anyway. Eventually we got to the resort where we had booked a room, called Antlers at Vail. I think it was mostly a ski resort, but we were there before the ski season. We dropped our bags, and went into Vail to find dinner, then it was time for bed.


Friday 20170915

We got up and went into Vail in search of breakfast. We found it, and met a couple from Texas who had been through Hurricane Harvey, which happened the previous month. So that was an interesting conversation. Vail was having an Oktoberfest event at the time, so there were booths of various kinds around the town. We decided to take the gondola to the top of the mountain, where we went for a very nice hike. It was interesting to be in a completely new type of environment: no more Desert Southwest, hello Forested Mountains! While we were hiking I told Cheryl to stop, and pulled a card from my pocket and gave it to her. She was taken aback for a moment, then figured it out. September 15 is our wedding anniversary, and I had a card for her. And what better place to deliver it than on a mountain top in Colorado! She then accused me of planning it, to which I replied that I was a Project Manager, and planning is what we do. This was our 38th anniversary. Then a younger woman came walking by, and we asked her to take a picture of the two of us on top of the mountain. She gladly did so, and then told us that it was also her anniversary, and that the man and small child nearby were her husband and child. What a coincidence!

We walked back to the gondola station, and decided to sit for a bit and relax. In winter this would all be people skiing, but now it was people hiking and people riding mountain bikes. I don’t think going down a mountain on a bike is something I would want to try, but they seemed to enjoy it. Then we took the Gondola back down the mountain and walked around the town a little. We found a statue of Albert Einstein, sittin on a bench, so we joined him. Then we decided to look around the area some more. We found the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, commemorating a very athletic President who loved to ski in Vail. And next to it there was the Betty Ford Alpine Garden. We loved the garden. Then we found the Vail Nature Center, which had some trails which led to nature exhibits. That rounded out our day in Vail, so we got in the car and headed for Denver, where checked into a Hampton Inn.


Saturday 20170916

We got our breakfast in the hotel, then headed to Estes Park to visit the Rocky Mountain National Park. This would be the 5th National Park we visited on this trip, and couldn’t be more different to the other four. Five days before we had been roasting in Zion, and now we needed our winter gear. It was not just a bit of rain, there was snow and sleet both. Like some other National Parks, once we entered the park we needed to park the car and take a shuttle bus. We went up the mountain to a trail that went around Bear Lake, which is where the sleet and snow hit us. We hiked all around the lake, then found a trail that took us to Alberta Falls. From there we followed a trail down the mountain to Sprague Lake, and took a hike around that. Finally, we heard that a herd of elk had been seen in the Moraine Park section, so we took the shuttle back down, got in the car, and drove over to take a look. A lot of people and cars were there, and indeed a herd of elk. We were watching them from a distance. but they started coming across the road that all of the cars were on. We stayed in our car, which was the sensible thing to do, but some idiots got out of their cars to get closer, until a big male started to charge them. No one got hurt, but a couple of them deserved to. Then it was back to the hotel, dinner, and bed.


Sunday 20170917

We had arranged to meet up with Sheila for dinner at her house, so we spent the morning relaxing. It had been quite an adventure, and a little rest would do no harm. We did go to Sheila’s in the afternoon, and were joined by our nieces Sarah and Samantha. It was a lovely dinner, and the conversation was great. We moved from Massachusetts to Michigan in 1981, so we both know that somehow when you move away people expect you to come back and visit them, not that they will visit you. And we all have our own lives and things we need to do. I just knew that I wanted Sheila to have me come to visit her. A few years back she did come to visit me, so I owed her. Anyway, we had a good time, and then went back to the hotel.

Monday 21070918

Up early, bags packed, and off to drop off the rental car. We got a shock when we found out how much they were charging us, but there did not appear to be anything we could do about it. We will never do business with Avis ever again. Then it was off to the airport to fly home. It had been a fantastic trip, and I would not let Avis ruin it for me. Spending a few days with Erin was great, we saw parts of the country we had never seen and which were awesome. I want to go back to all of those places, because we barely scratched the surface going from place to place daily.

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