Thursday, May 29, 2014

Viva Las Vegas!

Where else in the world can you visit New York City -

Right across the street from Paris?

I love the attractions in Las Vegas, but a lot of them seem to be shrinking or disappearing altogether. The Bellagio still has their fountains -

Along with their Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

This was in the gardens - it looked like a painting, but was actually made out of living plants.

And the Venetian still has their Grand Canal winding through their expensive shops and restaurants.

Over at Caesars Palace, it looks like Caesar got a lucky ticket!

Caesars still has the Fall of Atlantis Fountain.

The Flamingo has flamingos and other exotic animals -

And even had this cute little RV.

But a lot of the large casinos no longer have the attractions I remember. The saddest thing is that the sinking boat show at Treasure Island has closed permanently. I'll bet next year there will be more expensive shops here.

We did go to a couple shows while in Vegas. The Blue Man Group left a lot to be desired. The most exciting part was at the end when big balloons dropped off the ceiling and toilet paper squirted out of the walls. I'm sure glad I don't have to clean up after the show...

But by far, the best thing we did was go to see "Jersey Boys," the Broadway musical based on the lives of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. WOW!!!! Best show ever! Pictures and video aren't allowed during the show, but I got this photo at the curtain call. To see a video of pieces of the show, click here.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Climbing Up to Where the Angels Land

To me, Zion Canyon is one of the most beautiful places on earth. And one of the most popular hikes is up to the top of Angels Landing, that big thing on the left side of the picture.

The hike starts out with a walk along the river, then starts climbing up some switchbacks. This trail was built in 1926 and is paved most of the way.

Time to rest and admire the gorgeous scenery!

After the switchbacks, you hike up and through "Refrigerator Canyon." This is the view looking back to the valley.

You then come to "Walter's Wiggles," a set of 21 steep switchbacks.

At the top of the switchbacks, you arrive at Scout Lookout, having climbed about 1000 feet at this point. This photo looks out over Refrigerator Canyon back to the valley.

There was a ranger there teaching people about California Condors. I mentioned I had seen one without a number or radio transmitter, and he told me that was impossible this time of the year. Guess I showed him....

He let me flap around with the condor feather he's holding, and it was amazing how much wind resistance it creates.

The beautiful view from Scout Lookout. You can see how far we've climbed.

At this point, you have 2 options, other than turning around. You can continue up to Angel's Landing, another 500 feet strenuous climb.

The paving ends here. The rest of the climb is along a steep, narrow ridge with support chains anchored intermittently along the route. I've been up there 4 times already, and had another easier, and just as pretty, route in mind.

Instead, we turned left at the fork and continued on the West Rim Trail. It's a much easier trail, and you get the same views.

You can look over at Angels Landing -

And even zoom in on the people going to the top.

Okay, so I lied a little in the title to this post. But if you want to see the post where I actually went to the top, it's here.

Friday, May 23, 2014

A Town Named for Virgins?

We moved on to the West side of Zion National Park to a nice spot 2 miles north of the town of Virgin, UT on the Kolob Terrace Rd. It's a primitive campground along the river, on private land. The caretaker originally wanted $20 a night each, but we found out that is highly negotiable. We settled on $50 each for the week.

The area around Zion has gotten like Moab. All public land is closed to camping, except in campgrounds, which are always full.

One hike I really wanted to do on this side of Zion is the hike to Hop Valley. I had attempted it once before but didn't make it to the valley. So this time we cheated. We drove on a dirt road about 1 1/2 miles paralleling the trail, then cut over through the brush .4 miles to the trail. Saved a little over a mile each way.

By doing this, we missed the uninteresting part of the trail, and almost immediately got to the scenic part.

After a while, the trail started to descend into the valley, and the scenery got even better.

And we got a great view of the valley.

Now, if we can just find the car...

Also on this side of Zion is the ghost town of Grafton.

It was a Mormon town in the 1860s and only lasted a few years, before everyone moved to safety in the larger town of Rockville.

Pretty scenery and rusty stuff, though....

Phil loves to go driving on dirt roads, so we did a lot of that, too.

Glad he didn't want ME to move that rock...

And rocks weren't the only thing we found on the road!

In town is a cute little commercial fake town, with a Virgin Jail. We also got a kick out of the real Virgin Fire Department.

Next - a trip into Zion Canyon...

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Hiking Around Marble Canyon

We went on several short hikes from our perfect camping spot 2 miles south of Marble Canyon, AZ. We first walked down Badger Canyon towards the Colorado River.

But we only went about a half mile before we ran into a big dropoff.

They must have some nice flash floods here - this looked like a headlight from an old car.

So we turned around and went back to the road and went up canyon a ways.

Prince's Plumes were blooming everywhere. They're one of my favorite flowers.

This looks like snow, but it's not. Anybody know what it is? Calcium?

They we went up three canyons near where we were parked.

They didn't go very far, but had some really interesting geological features.

The white layers in this rock can be cracked off.

Check out this unusually carved rock.

And then the next day, we walked up Cathedral Wash, located between Marble Canyon and Lees Ferry. Once again, the Prince's Plumes were outstanding.

We had a wonderful view of the Vermillion Cliffs, with its unique rock formations.

And remember the California Condor I saw without a number or radio transmitter? Well, I sent this picture to the condor gurus, and they were very excited. Basically, they think this is the baby from a polygamous condor group that they had been watching. Highly unusual - only the second time it's been known to happen. This "little" guy has 2 mothers and 1 father. The trio shared parental duties, and got along fine.