Home is where we are parked

Home is where we are parked
Home is where we are parked

Saturday, December 31, 2016

UT -- Heber City, 18 Nov-31 Dec 2016

Map picture
Map picture

First five weeks in Heber City, Utah…

Why we came…

Heber City is a nice town and the surrounding area has plenty of things to do.  More than anything, we came to play in the spectacular Wasatch and Uinta Mountains.

Heber City38-26 Dec 2016

The Provo River and Wasatch Mountains on 26 Dec

The campground…

Mountain Valley RV Resort is outstanding!  It was recently built and was clearly designed by folks familiar with RV’ing.  Sites vary in size and most have a decent amount of space.  The cost,  proportional to the size of the site, is a bit high on a nightly basis, but quite reasonable on a monthly rate.  The laundry and private bathrooms are well laid out and immaculate.  An outdoor hot tub is also available all year long!  Satellite reception is great from all sites, but that might change in a few years as the saplings grow.  Cable TV is also available, and there are plenty of over-the-air TV channels.  The cell phone signal is reliable data and wi-fi is also reliable and usually fast.  Cache, Mike, Loni, Judy, and the rest of the resort crew do a great job of maintaining everything and keeping everyone happy.

When we were here two years ago, about 25 RVs spent the winter at Mountain Valley RV Resort. This year there are about 60 RVs! Some are full time travelers, such as us. We met one lady who is here for medical care. Some have transient jobs, where the RV lifestyle makes it easier for them to bring family along. Yet others are locals who have sold everything, and are embracing the RV lifestyle as a way of downsizing into a tiny home.

Heber City3-26 Nov 2016

Mountain Valley RV Resort plans to open a new section in May

Heber City1-19 Nov 2016    Heber City4-24 Nov 2016

Getting set up for winter on 18 Nov  /  All set up for the winter…two inches of snow on 24 Nov

Nearby towns…

Heber City, elevation 5,600 feet and population ~13,000, has plenty of conveniences.  And if we can’t find something in Heber, then Park City is 15 miles north and Orem/Provo are 26 miles southwest.  The Heber Valley is paradise with dramatic 11,000+ feet high peaks, Deer Creek Reservoir, and the trout-filled Provo River.  We often gaze at Mount Timpanogos and White Baldy peak from the comfort of our toasty home, and are treated to incredible sunrises and sunsets!  Strawberry Reservoir, Utah’s best trout lake, is 24 miles southeast.  Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Ski Resort are just 15 miles north and the rugged Uinta Mountains are a 35 mile drive to the east.  We could easily settle here!

Taking care of ourselves…

Healthcare is one of the biggest challenges in our lifestyle and it’s nice to settle down for a few months and see familiar health care specialists. We have been very impressed with Heber City’s health care system. Our primary care doctor, dentist, and ophthalmologist remembered us from two years ago and treated us great. Their staffs are also competent, helpful, and friendly.

We stayed busy the first few weeks in Heber with doctor visits and tests. Specialists are just a short distance. I had an appointment with a new endocrinologist in Provo, just a quick half hour drive away.

Both Arleen and I arrived in Heber with creaky bodies. My back was sore and Arleen had a gimp. We made an immediate visit to local chiropractor, Dr. Cody Nix, of Heber Valley Chiropractic. His assistant and wife, Jennifer, laid out a care plan for our time here. Dr. Nix practices the traditional philosophy of Chiropractic which is subluxation and structural correction of the spine. We know that under his care we will leave Heber walking tall and ready for backpacking next summer.

One of the keys to staying healthy is working out. That can be a challenge during the winter. So we joined Anytime Fitness, again. We were greeted by Alison, the owner, like we had just seen her yesterday. Her gym will be a great place to shake off the winter blues, get a cardio workout, and lift some weights. Arleen will probably take a few classes such as Zumba and Tia Chi.

Prepping for winter…

This will be our third winter setting up in a cold location where subzero temperatures occur each year. This requires extra precautions on our part to prevent frozen pipes and avoid other crazy things caused by extreme temperatures. (Our clothes freeze together in the closets and the front door freezes shut!)

First, we move any summer recreation equipment, like kayaks, under the trailer. Then we attach our skirt. We had the skirt made four years ago at RVskirting, now in Peyton, Colorado. It is made of vinyl coated polyester with high tensile strength.  With no additional heat source, the temperature under the trailer can be up to 30 degrees warmer than the outside air!  It reduces our heating costs considerably.

The skirt has straps that we would ideally stake into the ground. However, at Mountain View we are on a cement pad. So the next best option is to line the skirt with weights. Two years ago we discovered that empty milk cartons filled with water make perfect, yet cheap anchors.

The most important step is the water connection. In the past, we have used heat tape and insulation. This year, we invested in a heated water hose. We found that we can stay attached till we get into the single digits. At that point the line freezes where the hose attaches to the RV.

We also add extra insulation where ever we can: outside hatches, around the slide seals, under the sinks, and the back of some cabinets. Our biggest challenge has been the hot water pipe that runs between the bathroom and kitchen sinks. It tends to freeze when the temperature drops into the single digit temps.

I traced that water line and found the problem behind some drawers. There were open gaps between the outside cable TV connection, an outside electric outlet, and the inside water lines. I sealed those gaps and lined that wall with added insolation. So far the pipe hasn’t frozen!

We also put Frost King Shrink plastic on most windows and the back entry door. It makes the interior less drafty and it feels a tad warmer.

We have to take extra heating precautions too. Our normal 30 pound propane bottles “freeze” in extreme temperatures. They also empty in just four days when it stays cold. To combat these problems we borrow a 100 pound bottle from the RV resort. The bigger bottle won’t “freeze” and gets refilled roughly every three weeks. We also use a small electric heater to help keep us warm. Electric and propane cost us roughly $100 each month during winter!

Condensation can also cause all kinds of problems. No matter how cold it gets, we keep the bathroom vent and small kitchen window open a quarter inch or so.

Weather summary for our first five weeks…

Average high temp: 37F     Average low temp:  12F     Average snow:  14.6 inches

Record high temp:  68F      Record low temp:  -34F     Record snowfall:  66 inches

Observed high temperature:  51F

Observed low temperature:  -4F on 27 Dec  **The temperature under the trailer was 27F!**

Measured snow:  16.5 inches

NOTES:  The skirt added nearly 25F of warmth on the coldest mornings!  Overall, temperatures varied considerably and precipitation was above average.  The lower elevations got quite a bit of rain and average snow.  Snowfall in the mountains started off slowly, but got above average by 11 December and stayed above average the rest of the month.  Winter sports enthusiasts like us, were happy!

Wx - 8 Dec - UT basin snowpack    Wx - 11 Dec - UT basin snowpack    Wx - 25 Dec - UT basin snowpack

Utah snowpack on 8, 11, and 25 Dec (Click any picture for more detail.)


Thanksgiving festivities…

Coming back to Mountain Valley RV Resort was like coming home. We were greeted by Cache, Judy, Loni, and Mike. A few days after we arrived, the Resort hosted a Thanksgiving potluck meal. About 60 other folks shared in the wonderful meal and good conversation.

Joyce, who we met in the Resort two years ago, now lives in the local area. We have stayed in close touch ever since. She graciously invited us over for Thanksgiving dinner. First, we took Joyce’s four legged friend, Torrey for a good walk in her neighborhood. After the chilly walk, we enjoyed gin marinated turkey thighs and cauliflower stuffing. We look forward to seeing Joyce and Torrey throughout the winter.

A few days after Thanksgiving, we met my cousin, Tif, her husband Juan, and four of their daughters for lunch in Provo. They live in Nevada but drove four hours to shop! It’s a little crazy to us but we were glad to spend a couple of hours talking and laughing with them.

Heber City1-22 Nov 2016

The RV resort hosted two holiday potlucks

Heber City8-24 Nov 2016

We had an enjoyable Thanksgiving walk with Joyce and Torrey near Park City, Utah

Heber City9-24 Nov 2016

Torrey and I crested a hill and had a great view of Jordanelle Reservoir and the Heber Valley in the distance

Heber City10-26 Nov 2016

It was great to spend time with my cousin and her entertaining family on 26 Nov

Park City Mountain Resort…

We have season passes for Park City Mountain Resort. When we were here two years ago, Canyons and Park City had just merged. Since then, Park City and Canyons were linked with the new Quicksilver Gondola. They now have bragging rights as the largest ski resort in the United States with 7,300 skiable acres.

We only have to go six times for our season passes to pay for themselves. We went four times in December because we were bogged down with responsibilities and were “blacked out” during the peak holiday season the last six days of the month.

During our stay two years ago the area had record low snowfall and record warmth. This year started off a bit slow, but mountain snowfall was above normal by 11 December and stayed that way the rest of the month. Park City Mountain Resort’s December 2016 snowfall was 111 inches. At the end of the month, they reported a base of 42 inches.

On 8 December I went snowboarding…

Arleen wasn’t feeling well so I headed to Park City alone. Only a few ski runs were open with mostly manmade snow. The runs were halfway decent and the crowds were thin. I just did five runs and called it good. I was happy that my skills weren’t too rusty after taking last year off!

Heber City - 8 Dec 2016 - ski    Heber City11-8 Dec 2016

Snowboard route at Park City  /  First day on the slopes with my season pass!

On 9 December we went snowshoeing…

Our friend Kevin joined us for our first snowshoeing adventure of the year. Kevin, one of our inspirations, is a professional photographer AND he is starting up a Mountain Fitness enterprise. As part of his new business, he is going to be documenting our way of life over the next 12 months with writing, videography, pictures, and interviews.

To kick start the project we took Kevin snowshoeing with us up on Daniels Summit. In Kevin’s words, “Weather was perfect, snow was good, conversation was lively and interesting, and we had lots of fun.”

Two years ago we had to hike up the dirt road and put our snow shoes on near the top due to sparse snow. Not this day! There was a good 18 inches of powder on the road and more than that on top.

Heber City - 9 Dec 2016 - snowshoe    Heber City14-9 Dec 2016

Snowshoe route near Daniels Summit with Kevin  /  Enjoying a glorious day!

Heber City19-9 Dec 2016

Our hero, Kevin, making it look easy

Heber City18-9 Dec 2016

Kevin, Arleen, and I on a snowshoeing adventure

On 12 December we went skiing/snowboarding…

A bunch of snow had recently fallen and more ski runs opened up. Arleen felt better and she was eager to test her “ski legs”. We headed to Canyons on a blue bird day with mostly calm winds, pleasant temps, and empty slopes.

First, we rode up our favorite ski lift: Orange Bubble Express. It’s covered and has heated seats! Then we made our way to the Sun Peak Express and did multiple laps on two different runs. We ended up totaling nine runs and racked up almost ten thousand feet of vertical descent. We both felt good and had a great day!

Heber City - 12 Dec 2016 - ski    Heber City23-12 Dec 2016

Ski route at Canyons  /  A fun day on the slopes!

Heber City21-12 Dec 2016    Heber City22-12 Dec 2016

Headed up the mountain at Canyons  /  Comfy temps, bright blue skies, and good snow…perfect

On 13 December we went snowshoeing…

We parked near the Lodgepole campground at Daniels Summit. We made our way to the Foreman Trail but not directly. Now we know the proper route!

There was about two feet of mostly untracked powder. We took turns breaking trail around the campground and decided we did not enough day left to do the Foreman Trail. That’s alright.  The nearly two mile route around the campground through the deep snow wore us out enough!

Heber City - 13 Dec 2016 - snowshoe    Heber City26-13 Dec 2016

Snowshoe route around Lodgepole Campground  /  We’ll do the 2.5 mile long Foreman Trail next time

Heber City24-13 Dec 2016

Two feet of untracked snow

On 20 December we went skiing/snowboarding…

Our next trip to Canyons coincided with school Christmas break. The slopes were more crowded and the increase of kids was obvious. In addition, a hard base layer had formed due to some rain and ice pellets a few days before.

We parked next to a truck that looked familiar.  Sure enough, our friend, Gary, walked up to us with a big smile!  We chatted briefly about the previous two years and made plans to hook up soon.

We left the crowds behind by the time we got up to the Peak 5 lift. We did four meandering runs past multi-million dollar homes in the exclusive Colony neighborhood. Those two mile long, two thousand foot vertical drops added up quickly and wore us out! We totaled over 14,000 vertical feet that day.

Heber City - 20 Dec 2016 - ski    Heber City28-20 Dec 2016

Ski route at Canyons  /  Posing near the bottom of the Peak 5 lift

Heber City27-20 Dec 2016

We ran into another one of our heroes:  Gary

On 22 December we went snowshoeing…

We went back to the Lodgepole campground near Daniels Summit.  Since our last visit, 18 inches of new snow had fallen.  Our previous tracks were completely hidden under the new snow.  

We had plenty of time to do the entire two and a half mile Foreman trail.  We broke trail the entire route.  It was slow and tiring, but also fun.  It was one of the most physical workouts we’ve had in awhile! 

The new snow was very pretty.  It completely covered small bushes making odd shaped, smooth, mounds. Campground fire rings looked like giant white donuts.  The trees were draped in white cloaks and it was peaceful.  We cleared two and a half feet of piled snow to sit at a picnic table and scooped out a pit to comfortably relax our tired legs.

We really enjoy snowshoeing the Foreman Trail.  It’s convenient to our home, gets lots of snow, is a great workout, and is quite pretty.  We are eager to see if the next big storm covers our tracks again.

Heber City - 22 Dec 2016 - snowshoe    Heber City31-22 Dec 2016b

Snowshoe route on the Foreman Trail near Daniels Summit  /  We broke trail for three miles…it was tough!

Heber City30-22 Dec 2016

The weather was brisk, but that didn’t stop us from having fun

On 25 December we woke up to snow and had a Christmas meal on the ski slopes…

We woke up on Christmas with seven inches of new snow. The ski slopes are often surprisingly empty and very enjoyable the first couple of hours Christmas morning. We planned to be there at opening, do a few runs, and then have a meal on the mountain. Unfortunately, we had a couple of delays, like clearing snow around our home, and arrived with the big Christmas crowd.

The weather was frigid. The temperature was around 10 degrees and winds were gusting to 30mph causing wind chills well below zero…yuck! We went directly to Lookout Cabin, half way up the mountain, and enjoyed a great meal. We descended Doc’s Run, one of our favorites, to the bottom and declared it a fine Christmas adventure!

Heber City33-25 Dec 2016    Heber City35-25 Dec 2016

Mike and I clearing 7 inches of pretty snow on Christmas morning!

Heber City - 25 Dec 2016 - ski    Heber City37-25 Dec 2016

Christmas ski route at Canyons  /  We had a great meal at Lookout Cabin


We will stay in Heber City until the first week of April and then we’ll spend the summer in eastern Oregon and central Idaho.  We look forward to some great adventures!

Parting shots…

     Wx - 8 Dec 12Z - Canyons ensemble plume    Wx - 11 Dec - Park City snow stake

Ensemble forecast product for snowfall  for Canyons /  12 inches new snow on 11 Dec at Canyons!

Heber City39-26 Dec 2016

Ice and snow along the Provo River on 26 Dec


Sunday, December 11, 2016

UT -- Virgin & Zion National Park, 26 Oct-16 Nov 2016

Map picture
Map picture

Three weeks in Virgin, Utah…

Why we came…

To explore Zion National Park!

Virgin14-31 Oct 2016c

The campground…

Zion River Resort RV Park was excellent!  Sites varied from relatively tight back-ins to spacious, long pull-throughs.  The place is well maintained and well run.  We had full hook-ups, a nice laundry room, and decent wi-fi (slow during peak times).  Verizon cell phone is very weak, but there is a booster in the office.  There was even a nice pool and hot tub.  Though the campground is next to highway 9 which gets tons of day-time traffic, it was peaceful at night.  Winter is mild in this part of Utah so the area is popular with RV’ers.  Zion River Resort has excellent “”Snowbird” rates down to $395 a month for a roomy pull-through if you commit to a five month stay.  They expected 60 “seasonals” this winter!  It’s a nice to place to stay in an incredible part of the country!

Virgin47-6 Nov 2016

We were very comfortable at Zion River Resort

Nearby towns…

The campground is in Virgin, population 600 and elevation 3,600 feet.  There isn’t much in Virgin, but there is a good grocery store and a few restaurants seven miles west in La Verkin.  Hurricane is another three miles south of La Verkin and has even more options including a big Walmart.  St. George, 30 miles southwest of Virgin, has just about everything.   Most important, the west entrance to Zion National Park was 12 miles east of the campground.


Zion National Park…

Virgin100-13 Oct 2013

From the park’s web page:

Zion National Park encompasses some of the most scenic canyon country in the United States. Within its 229 square miles are high plateaus, a maze of narrow, deep, sandstone canyons, and the Virgin River and its tributaries. Zion also has 2,000-foot Navajo Sandstone cliffs, pine- and juniper-clad slopes, and seeps, springs, and waterfalls supporting lush and colorful hanging gardens.

With an elevation change of about 5,000 feet-from the highest point at Horse Ranch Mountain (at 8,726 feet) to the lowest point at Coal Pits Wash (at 3,666 feet), Zion's diverse topography leads to a diversity of habitats and species. Desert, riparian (river bank), pinyon-juniper, and conifer woodland communities all contribute to Zion's diversity. Neighboring ecosystems-the Mojave Desert, the Great Basin, and the Rocky Mountains-are also contributors to Zion's abundance.

Whether walking along the Virgin River and looking up 2,000 feet at the craggy cliffs or standing on top of the East or West Rims and looking down 2,000 feet at the ribbon of green along the shimmering river, Zion National Park is spectacular.  Then add the quiet wilderness and amazing landscape of the Kolob Terrace and Kolob Canyon, all with excellent hiking trails, and it’s our favorite Utah national park!

On 31 October we hiked to Observation Point with Tony and Stef…

We had been 12 miles from the gate of Zion National Park for five days and had not ventured into our favorite Utah park. We were waiting for two of our best friends, Stefanie and Tony, to join us before we ventured there.

We are honored to have Stef as a guest blogger for her and Tony’s visit.

“Ambitious companies hire Stef to craft persuasive online content.” For more information on her talents, see her web page: http://stefaniefrank.com/.

Written by Stef:

The Magic of IRL

I recently saw a headline on social media that implied it’s hard to make friends once you’re out of your 20s. Whether that’s generally true or not (I didn’t bother to click), I know without a doubt that in some instances, people click instantly. And the friendship that results has a magical quality to it. The catch: the “click” takes place In Real Life (IRL).

In 2013, Arleen and Shawn were wintering at Lake Mead. I met Arleen through a mutual friend on social media. Arleen was seeking a referral to a bike shop - and some information I was able to pass along led to her buying a new bike. YAY! That could have been the end of the connection. But something told me to take it further. Sure enough, Arleen and I clicked instantly when we met IRL - a friendship sparked and has lasted long after their short stay at Lake Mead.

Social media and texting make it easy to keep a connection going. Of course that’s not the same as being IRL with someone. Which is why catching up with Arleen and Shawn on their recent visit to Zion National Park was one of the highlights of my year. Everyone raves about Zion - and rightfully so. For me though, the magic of that weekend was spending time with Arleen. And Shawn. And, of course, Tony!

Nearly 4,000,000 people visit Zion National Park each year. Most of those people go between mid-May and mid-November. To ease the increasing congestion, visitors must use a shuttle service to access the six-mile Zion Canyon Scenic drive.

Stef, Tony, Arleen and I boarded the shuttle early on Monday morning and disembarked at the Weeping Rock stop.

We were greeted in the parking area by a flock of wild turkeys. These birds know where to hide out for Thanksgiving!

A lone hiker caught us as we climbed the switch backs. After leap frogging each other a couple of times, we chatted and introduced ourselves. Wes was from Kansas and had come to Zion for a week of hiking.

We chatted as we climbed and enjoyed the incredible scenery together. Wes hung out with us the rest of the adventure and we’re glad he did! He fit in well with our little group.

Stef: Observation Point is an amazing trail. 4+ miles straight up, with the scenery transforming the higher you go. There are a lot of turns on this trail and part of the fun is peeking around each turn to see what eye candy the canyon will serve up next.

The trail was challenging enough for me to stretch out of my comfort zone a bit - but not so difficult as to grind me down to a pulp who has nothing left at the end of the day. The weather was perfect, the scenery was grand, the company was out of this world.

The hike reconfirmed what I need in my life: time with great friends who I trust implicitly, the fitness and health to accomplish what I want, when I want and how I want, and the peace of mind to enjoy both.

There’s no denying life is complicated - so much is out of our control.

Which is why spending time IRL with friends in majestic settings is so important. Thanks Arleen. And Shawn. And Tony. And Wes.

We sat at the top, 2,000 feet above the valley, for at least an hour taking in the view, sharing observations, eating lunch, and attempting to capture the incredible scene with our cameras.  It was a great adventure with great friends!

Virgin-31 Oct 2016-hike    Virgin8-31 Oct 2016

Hike route to Observation Point  /  Being silly with Stef and Tony

Virgin2-31 Oct 2016    Virgin3-31 Oct 2016

The canyon narrowed between high sandstone walls

Virgin10-31 Oct 2016    Virgin11-31 Oct 2016    Virgin12-31 Oct 2016

We had a lot of fun exploring the narrow slot canyon

Virgin4-31 Oct 2016

About half way up the trail to the Observation Point

Virgin15-31 Oct 2016b

Wes, Stef, Arleen, Tony, and I roughly 1,500 feet above the Zion River Valley

Virgin14-31 Oct 2016c

The view from Observation Point, 2,000 feet above the Zion River Valley

Virgin7-31 Oct 2016

A great adventure with some great friends!

On 1 November we explored Snow Canyon State Park with Tony and Stef…

Tony has fully explored the southwest. He and Stef have ridden their bikes in Snow Canyon State Park. We mentioned that we had seen Kit Carson’s inscription, an old west gun slingers grave, and a volcano cinder cone there. This was all new to Tony and he was eager to see these unusual things himself!

We drove about nine miles north of St George on Highway 18 and parked at a pull out near the volcano cinder cone. We would save the tough scramble up the volcano for last.

First, we crossed the highway and carefully navigated through cactus, deep sand, and over sharp volcanic rocks and boulders. And then a dry sandy wash provided a brief easy route. We enjoyed reading numerous animal tracks in the sand.

Finally, Arleen and I recognized the sandstone cove where the inscription was: “Kit Carson 1869”. Just below that, inscribed on another rock is “U.S. PARKS SERVICE”, which to us adds a degree of authenticity. Many explorers and westward immigrants left their names written or carved along their trails. Kit Carson traipsed all over the west. It’s amazing to think that he was in that same spot nearly 150 years ago!

Next we dashed back across the highway and skirted the east side of the cone. We passed through a few gates that allowed easement through private property. Then we followed ATV trails up and around to Lava Ridge. It was easier to take the long way on the ATV trails rather than navigate cross-country through rugged desert.

It was wonderful to leave the deep sand behind and climb up the slick rock to the top of one of the points on the ridge. From our perch we had a great view of Snow Canyon’s impressive pink and white cliffs.

At last, we came across the remnants of the “human” skeleton. We contemplated whether the skeleton was real and decided that it was just various animal bones arranged like a human. Regardless, we enjoyed the mystery and the nearby views. Tony had fun looking at the Geocache too.

Finally, we walked back to the Cinder Cone and tackled the rocky and steep trail to the top. We rested awhile on the rim of the long dormant volcano and took in the expansive view. Then we slid down the rocky trail back to our vehicles.

We had a wonderful lunch in St George and shared some final stories and laughs. We look forward to them and Glenn and Marge visiting us again for more IRL experiences!

Virgin-1 Nov 2016-hike    Virgin25-1 Nov 2016

Hike route in Snow Canyon State Park  /  Hiking to the top of the Cinder Cone

Virgin16-1 Nov 2016    Virgin17-1 Nov 2016

“Kit Carson 1869” is inscribed on the rock (click the pictures for more detail)

Virgin20-1 Nov 2016b

Arleen, Stef, and Tony looking out over Snow Canyon State Park

Virgin21-1 Nov 2016    Virgin22-1 Nov 2016

Is this a real human skeleton?  /  Tony posing with something from a nearby geocache

Virgin18-1 Nov 2016    Virgin27-1 Nov 2016

The Cinder Cone is in the background  /  Posing on top of the Cinder Cone

Virgin28-1 Nov 2016

Taking a break on the Cinder Cone

On 3 November we explored the ghost town of Grafton, Utah…

Tony always has a folder full of information for us. On this trip he had pictures and even a rubbing from the Grafton cemetery. The pictures so intrigued us that we went to see the cemetery and the ghost town for ourselves.

Grafton Utah was settled by five Mormon families in 1859. They built homes, dug irrigation ditches, and planted crops. The last resident left in 1945. During that time the residents endured floods and Navajo raids. Four films, including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid have been filmed in the area.

Grafton is on the other side of the Virgin River and downstream from Rockville, Utah. As the road changes from pavement to dirt, a sign asks drivers to reduce their speed: “If there is a plume of yellow dust behind you, you are driving too fast”.

We drove by the cemetery to the remnants of the ghost town. Along the way, we could see the old fences with wagons and other relics.

At the town site, we saw that they had wisely chosen a site that was back dropped by the mountains and temples of Zion National Park. The area is desert but the Virgin River provided year-round irrigation. We explored the few buildings that remain and tried to visualize ourselves toiling an existence from the arid earth.

Next we went to the cemetery. There we saw the headstones that attested to the difficulty of the pioneers lives. Several were just infants. Three members of the Berry family were killed during a Navajo raid. However, “many Paiutes were loved and respected by Grafton settlers.” Some of them are buried here, too.

Virgin33-3 Nov 2016    Virgin31-3 Nov 2016

A Grafton home built in 1862  /  Another Grafton home built in the 1870s

Virgin41-3 Nov 2016

The Grafton cemetery where people were buried 1862-1924

Virgin34-3 Nov 2016    Virgin36-3 Nov 2016

An old wagon  /  Cedar Pete was a Paiute Indian buried around 1890

          Virgin37-3 Nov 2016          Virgin39-3 Nov 2016

A couple of the ornate headstones  /  Three people were killed by Indians on 2 April 1866

On 5 November we fly-fished Kolob Reservoir…

Kolob Reservoir sits at an elevation of 8,107 feet. That’s 4,500 feet higher than our base camp in Virgin. Since it was late fall, we waited for a nice warm day to kayak and fish the pretty lake.

It was only 23 miles up Kolob Terrace Road but the road winds up through the terrace and took us nearly an hour to get there. But it was a very scenic with 10 miles of the route in Zion.

We launched the kayaks and paddled a ways to a point of mostly submerged rocks on the other side of the reservoir. We both cast our leech flies, let them sink deep, and slowly worked a nice drop off where we hoped that trout were feeding.

I had a few hits and landed one decent 14” rainbow. It was slow for both of us. The wind picked up. It was chilly and difficult to control the kayaks and fish. We considered going home.

Suddenly my rod bent over! For almost ten minutes I wrestled with a heavy fish that stayed deep. I was using line rated to five pounds and knew this fish could easily break off. Finally, I was able to see the massive rainbow trout! I gently worked it to the side of the boat. The trout was so fat I had trouble handling it. I estimated it to be about 22 inches long and weighing about six pounds! I thanked it for a great battle, released it, and then watched it slowly disappear into the depths.

As Arleen and I paddled back, the image of that fat fish was etched on my mind. It had been possibly the biggest trout I had touched this year. It was a great way to end the 2016 fishing season!

Virgin46-5 Nov 2016

Arleen fly-fishing Kolob Reservoir

Virgin42-5 Nov 2016    Virgin43-5 Nov 2016

Fighting a trout  /  This hefty rainbow trout was in the six pound range!

On 7 November we hiked the Sand Bench Trail…

Sand Bench trail is the primary horse route in the Zion Valley during peak season from March to October. We read in Joes’s Guide to Zion National Park that the hike is an, “an underrated gem”. Joe had yet to steer us wrong and, in addition, it was a loop route, our favorite type of hike.

We took the park shuttle to the Court of the Patriarchs stop. We took a moment and walked to the overlook to get a picture of the dramatic sandstone cliffs.

Then we crossed the road, and onto the trail where a bridge crossed the river. Here we joined the horse trail coming from the lodge. The trail varied in condition. In some areas concrete had been laid down and we were able to walk at a decent pace. In other areas, we saw why the trail was named the Sand Bench.

Heavy horse traffic churned up deep sand and that makes it a slog for hikers. However, all along the trail we had a view of the Sentinel and we were distracted by flora such as the colorful manzanita. Several of the bushes were heavy with berries.

As we climbed the loop we met another couple. They were the only other people we saw on the entire trail. They were worn out from climbing the deep sand on the west side of the loop. A counter clockwise route is the way to go on this trail!

At the top of the loop we had a great view down onto the valley, the Canyon Junction and the steep Mount Carmel highway switchbacks. And two thousand feet above, the Temples loomed.

Just as we had been warned, there was deep sand on the west side of the loop. Thankfully we were descending and it was fairly easy. Also, now we had a great view of the surrounding mountains, domes, and thrones.

When we reached the junction back to Court of the Patriarchs stop, we decided to continue onto the Lodge. Joe was right. The Sand Bench was a gem and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Of course, it helped that we were there during off season and did not have to compete with any horses.

Virgin-7 Nov 2016-hike    Virgin50-7 Nov 2016

Hike route on the Sand Bench Trail  /  Berries on a Manzanita bush

Virgin49-7 Nov 2016b

Crossing the bridge over the Virgin River

         Virgin51-7 Nov 2016    Virgin52-7 Nov 2016    Virgin53-7 Nov 2016

Cool views along the Sand Bench Trail

Virgin54-7 Nov 2016

The trail was very peaceful

Virgin55-7 Nov 2016

Zion National Park is incredible!

Virgin57-7 Nov 2016

Fall colors along the Virgin River

On 8 November Arleen hiked near the Visitor Center…

Arleen drove into Zion Canyon to the main visitor’s center to get a permit to hike “The Subway”. It would have been unthinkable for her to drive into the canyon without going on a hike.

The trailhead for the Watchman Trail is accessible just north of the visitor center. The trail is just a mile and a half long and climbs 300 feet. It provides a great view over the visitor center complex and across the Virgin River to the impressive West Temple.

Virgin58-8 Nov 2016

Great view from the Watchman Trail

On 9 November we hiked to “The Subway”…

The Subway is a unique geological feature in the Kolob Canyon area of Zion National Park. It is a “W” slot canyon formed by the Left Fork of North Creek. It is a simple creek that has carved out a spectacular formation.

“Due to the popularity of the Subway and Mystery Canyon, the park created an online lottery for reservations. The Advance Lottery does not run from November through March due to a low demand for permits.” So we were able to pick up our permit the day before at the main visitor’s center in Zion Canyon. We had to carry a copy of the permit with us and display the other part in the truck.

We got an early start on a Wednesday morning. It was not to beat any crowds since the permit system only allows so many hikers per day. Rather, it was to make sure we could get to our goal and then have time to make it back to the parking area before dark. In fact, the park service advises all winter hikers to take a headlamp. How difficult was this trail going to be?

We started at the Left Creek Trailhead. You can also get there by starting at the Wildcat Canyon Trailhead for the “top down” version. However, the “top down” route requires, “rappelling skills, 60 feet of rope, and extensive route finding experience. The route also requires swimming through several deep pools of very cold debris-filled water.” That’s a bit much for us!

We were going to do the “bottom up” version, a strenuous trail that only required, “route finding, creek crossing, and scrambling over boulders.” That, we could handle!

First we had to scramble down a 600 foot, steep, switch-backing, rock strewn trail. We were hampered by our boots. Since we would be wading (and the water is very cold this time of the year), we wore our fishing neoprene socks and wading boots that weigh about two pounds apiece and are quite clunky.

Once in the creek bed, we turned left and northeast up the North Creek. The park service briefed us that the trail is the river. There were areas below the high water mark that, with it being winter, were dry and we were able to move along at a good pace.

Then we got to sections blocked by Volkswagen-sized boulders that we had to scramble over. At times we walked up the creek which was ankle to calf deep. However, Arleen waded through one pool that was thigh deep on her.

As we hiked (and scrambled), we hopscotched with a dozen other hikers. There was a group of five hikers from France and a group of three photographers weighed down by expensive gear. We made route finding suggestions to each other from time to time.

After about three miles of creek crossings and scrambling over boulders, the floor of the canyon changed. It was now smooth sandstone and it was very easy to walk through the ankle deep water and directly up the creek.

This was broken every couple of hundred yards by unique stair stepping water falls. As we walked up them, we had a feeling we had passed into another world and were experiencing something special.

Then we walked around a sharp right turn. There it was: The Subway! The smooth concave walls were weeping and adorned with ferns that stood amongst the jewel colored walls. We could see the conduit twisting to the left and we eagerly ventured forward.

We quickly saw that we had to be careful where we walked. The sandstone floor was punctuated with deep emerald potholes. It was hard to measure the depth. One of the French guys stuck his trekking pole in a hole and didn’t touch the bottom. Most holes were three to five feet across but others were only a foot across but still very deep.

We were only able to walk a hundred yards into The Subway before coming to a 30 foot wall. Here we saw a half dozen “top down” hikers rappelling down. It was fun to watch in the narrow space that felt more like a cave then a canyon.

Apparently “bottom up” hikers only see a third of the tube. We returned to the outside of The Subway and took a long break where we could admire the formation and warm up.

We retraced our steps down the canyon. A short way from The Subway we met James McGrew. James was at Zion for the Zion National Park Plein Air Art Invitational. We are used to seeing these artists along roadways working their paintbrushes. But James had hiked all the way into the canyon with his easel and tools! He said he prefers to be out in the fresh air. We admired his oil painting of the impressive scenery and were surprised that he had spent less than an hour on it.

We climbed out of the canyon just as the sun was sinking far to the west. It was an incredible day and The Subway was well worth the challenge to see it.

    Virgin59-9 Nov 2016    Virgin60-9 Nov 2016

The Left Fork Trail leads to “The Subway”.  It’s a tough nine miles roundtrip with a thousand feet of climbing.

    Virgin62-9 Nov 2016    Virgin63-9 Nov 2016

The initial part of the trail drops steeply  /  A rest along the stream  /  Small trout were in many of the pools

Virgin65-9 Nov 2016    Virgin66-9 Nov 2016

Much of the route was in the rocky stream  /  The first of the beautiful stair-step falls

Virgin71-9 Nov 2016

A slice of heaven

Virgin72-9 Nov 2016    Virgin73-9 Nov 2016

Each waterfall seemed to be more beautiful than the last

Virgin75-9 Nov 2016b

Entering “The Subway”

Virgin81-9 Nov 2016    Virgin80-9 Nov 2016

The Subway is incredible!

Virgin82-9 Nov 2016    Virgin84-9 Nov 2016

Hiking back downstream and glad to be in the sun

On 11 November we had a “date night”…

It was time for a “date night”! We both dressed up…I even wore a button-down shirt to look good for my girl.

First, we went for a dinner at the Cliffside Restaurant in St George. The restaurant sits on a cliff above the west side of town. We had a wonderful view of the city and we could see the spires of Zion National Park to the east. We sat there and enjoyed a wonderful sunset as the colors across the city and the mountains changed to sherbet colors.

Based on our experience, restaurants with epic ambiance sometimes lack quality food. However, we enjoyed everything that night from the Coconut Crusted Shrimp appetizer to the Butternut Squash Soup to the Chili-Glazed Salmon to the Linguini and Meatballs and finally the Chocolate Chunk Cookie Skillet. “Date night” was off to a rousing success!
While we sat there, we noted a large “D” on the cliff and wondered why a “D”? Arleen googled it and learned that the local college is Dixie State University. That explained the “D” but why Dixie? We would learn more about it later that night.
Next, we went to Brigham’s Playhouse in Washington, Utah for the performance of the play Oklahoma. It is a small 200 seat theater that considers itself a dessert theater and offers local ice cream, root beer, popcorn, and fresh baked cookies. It was like stepping back in time.
The play was outstanding and the performers were very talented. We thoroughly enjoyed it!
To top the evening off, it turned out that Arleen was seated next to Washington Mayor, Ken Neilson. During intermission, he and Arleen chatted. They discussed the history of the area and Arleen finally asked him about Dixie.
The first Mormons to settle the area were cotton farmers from the southeast. One of those farmers was Mayor Neilson’s Great-Great-Grandfather. Just like in the southeast, the cotton farmers were successful along the banks of the Virgin River in Utah and referred to their new home as “Dixie”.
The story was a great way to end the evening!

Virgin86-11 Nov 2016b

The view of St George, Utah from the Cliffside restaurant

Virgin86-11 Nov 2016    Virgin87-11 Nov 2016

Tickets to the play “Oklahoma” at Brigham's Playhouse in Washington, Utah  /   Auditioning for a part?!?

Virgin88-11 Nov 2016

The very talented cast.  It was a great performance!

On 13 November we hiked to Cable Mountain…

We have climbed to the Observation Point via the East Rim Trail twice, and each time remarked about Cable Mountain to the south. We wanted to see the historic Draw Works up close.

“The Draw Works was originally conceived and constructed by Springdale pioneer David Flanigan, who regarded the Draw Works as a fulfillment of an 1863 prophecy by Brigham Young that lumber would one day be transported from the canyon rim “as the hawk flies.” During operation of the Draw Works, from 1901 to 1927, the structure was used to move hundreds of thousands of board feet of lumber, goods, people occasionally, and a dog once, to the canyon floor 2,000 feet below. The structure was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.”

There are three different starting points to hike Cable Mountain. You can begin from the Weeping Rock Trail Head on the valley floor or from the east entrance. We decided on the Stave Spring Trailhead.

The drive itself was an adventure. We took Highway 9 east for about 27 miles. This took us into the park and up and over the Zion-Mount Carmel switch backs. Then, into the infamous tunnel that was completed on July 4th, 1930. The tunnel is an engineering marvel and we were able to get peaks of the East Temple through vent holes. Once on the east side we marveled at numerous geological features such as the Checkboard Mesa and numerous slot canyons that beckoned us to explore them.

We took a left onto North Fork County Road and wound around for about seven miles till the road dead ended at the Stave Spring Trail Head. It is not well marked so it was good that we had done our research beforehand.

The trail started in a pleasant ponderosa pine forest. This was the reason Flanigan built his sawmill near here in the early 1900s. The trail head was over 6,000 feet elevation. So in the four miles to Cable Mountain, the trail climbed less than 600 feet…easy!

We made a stop at the namesake spring. A good-sized herd of deer were visiting the freshwater spring at the same time. Otherwise, the trail was not very remarkable.

Thankfully, during the last mile of the trail, the view got interesting. We could see Strawberry Point and the Pink Cliffs far to the north.

As we moved to the west and out on the point, we traversed through a bunch of scrub oak. Finally, we popped out on to the end of the point. The remnants of the Draw Works were right in front of us.

We walked further to the south and found an epic overlook to sit and enjoy the view of the valley almost 3,000 feet below us. We even spotted a few mountain climbers across the valley clinging to a shear wall.

We enjoyed the hike and the view.  After hiking most of the trails in Zion National Park, the East Overlook Observation Point is still our favorite.

Virgin-13 Nov 2016-hike    Virgin89-13 Nov 2016

Hike route to Cable Mountain  /  The little-known Stave Spring Trailhead is the easiest route to Cable Mountain

    Virgin95-13 Nov 2016

Cable Mountain has an interesting history  /  We were in awe of the rock climbers

Virgin96-13 Nov 2016b

The spectacular view from Cable Mountain.  See Arleen?

“Super moon” adventure…

Arleen has a new DSLR camera and she was eager to get a shot of the “super moon” rising in mid-November over Zion National Park.

In some ways the adventure was a success. Using Google satellite, she found an east-west running canyon with a higher cliff to the west. That spot conveniently had the Kolob Terrace road running next to it. This was the perfect place to set up while not having to venture too far back to the truck in the dark.

She set the camera up on a tripod with a perfect view of where the moon would come up to the east right as the sun set. She attached her larger lens and focused on the gap between two mountains.

From here, things did not go as well. The wind picked up and caused the tripod to vibrate which blurred some of her pictures. The timing was off…The moon came up after the brilliant sunset colors had already faded. In her pictures, either the moon was too bright and washed out but you could see Zion’s cliffs, or the moon was detailed but everything else was black. After a discussion with a professional photographer, she learned that most full moon shots are two pictures that are overlaid in photo software.

She is looking forward to another opportunity.

Virgin99-14 Nov 2016

Arleen’s picture of the “super moon” rising over Zion NP on 14 November

Zion National Park is one of our favorite places!  We’ve done two visits totaling seven weeks and we’d gladly return.  Click this link to see our blog from Fall 2013.

New Friends…

We often walk around campgrounds and meet other RVers. That is how we have met a lot of folks we now consider good friends.

During one of our walks around Zion River RV Resort, we noticed a new Arctic Fox fifth-wheel trailer. We got to chatting with the owners, Laura and Alan, and discovered that the RV was only 10 days old! They were out on their first trip.

Arleen asked Laura if she was a member of Northwood RV Owners Association. Laura said she was. Arleen mentioned our user name, “mud on the tires”, and Laura exclaimed she had been following us and our blog! We felt like small celebrities.

After that we often chatted with them. Finally, one evening we hung out near their nice fire and shared stories and future plans.

We look forward to seeing Laura and Alan again down the road and wish them happy adventures and safe travels.

Virgin85-10 Nov 2016

New RV friends Allen and Laura


We are in Heber City, Utah where we’ll stay until early April.  We plan to ski and snowboard Park City Mountain Resort and snowshoe the beautiful Wasatch and Uinta Mountains.  Bring on the snow!

Parting shots

Virgin1-31 Oct 2016    Virgin90-13 Nov 2016

A whole bunch of turkeys hang out along the Virgin River in Zion NP  /  We saw lots of deer, including this impressive buck