On to New Mexico

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After our visit to Zion National Park, we turned east, driving through a bit of Arizona, then back up into Utah, where we passed through the southern part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, before entering New Mexico and ending up at Navajo Lake State Park.

Navajo Lake is a reservoir created by damming the San Juan River. It has a huge marina. We spent a day in the park just taking it easy.

Our drive to New Mexico took us past some more of Utah's wonderful rock formations.

Our drive to New Mexico took us past some more of Utah’s wonderful rock formations.

The large marina at Utah Lake State Park

 

Our limited visit to Zion National Park

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For the last part of our visit to southwestern Utah, we moved on to Zion National Park. It’s another beautiful place, but we were only able to see part of it.

Because of the high volume of tourists — the campground was full even in early November — private vehicles are now banned from the north end of the park. Instead, the Park Service runs shuttle buses. The catch? No dogs allowed on the buses. Since we had Teddy with us, that meant we couldn’t go, so we were limited to the southern quarter or so of the park.

Even so, we got to see some nice scenery and took the one hike where dogs are allowed. Maybe some day we can come back sans pooch.

 

Rocky scenery in a Utah state park

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Our base for exploring Bryce Canyon and Escalante was Kodachrome Basin State Park, which lies between the two.

The park was named by the National Geographic Society because of the green foliage and red rocks. The Society got permission from Kodak to use the name.

On our last day we decided to explore the park itself. It proves again that it’s hard to beat Utah when it comes to rocks.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument: a desert worth preserving?

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After we visited the Grosvenor Arch, we drove through another part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument along U.S. Highway 12, which is also known as the American Road Scenic Byway.

We were treated to some splendid desert vistas. This monument is one of the ones that our current government has shrunk and where it wants to allow mining and other exploitation of the land. I’ll let you decide whether it deserves to be preserved.

A wonderful sight down a bumpy road

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Just down the road from where we camped in southwestern Utah, a dirt road led to one of nature’s wonders. It was only about 10 miles, but it took 45 minutes to get there because the road was so bad.

The formation is called the Grosvenor Arch, named by the National Geographic Society after its founder, Gilbert Grosvenor. It’s part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. It was certainly worth the drive.

We ate lunch there and then drove back. I did have to retighten the brackets on the camper because the bumps had worked them loose.

Where the railroads met

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After two nights of camping, near Pendleton, Oregon, and Glenns Ferry, Idaho, we made our first tourist stop at the Golden Spike National Historic Site.

When the Central Pacific and Union Pacific met at Promontory, Utah, on May 10, 1869, it was in the middle of nowhere. It still is. The site is surrounded by a whole lotta empty, though you do pass a NASA rocket-building facility with rockets on display on your way
in from the north.

It was bitter cold, so we didn’t spend a lot of time at the actual meeting point, which looks a lot like any other section of track. There are no golden spikes here. There were actually four spikes. The main one is in a museum at Stanford University.

There is a pillar that was placed here in 1916 to commemorate the completion of the railroad. It has been restored and stands just outside the entrance to the visitors center.

The coolest things might be the two steam locomotives, replicas of the two engines that met in 1869. The Jupiter (No. 60) represented the Central Pacific and No 119, the Union Pacific. The Jupiter burns wood; No. 119, coal, reflecting the differing resources of west and east. The replicas were built in the 1970s. 

During the summer the locomotives are in use every day, but this time of year they are inside the engine house undergoing maintenance.

The site has hiking trails, but it was much too cold, and auto tours, but we didn’t have time.

From here we headed for Salt Lake City, where we’ll spend a couple of nights in an Airbnb to escape the single-digit temperatures.