Bryce Canyon’s Prettiest Hike: Peek-A-Boo Loop

Have you ever been on a hike and been surprised at the beauty of it? That happened to me a couple of weeks ago, when I hiked the Peek-A-Boo loop in Bryce Canyon National Park, while I was celebrating my 29th Birthday.

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Sunset Point

I have been Bryce Canyon a handful of times in the last few years. I am always excited to go, but by the end I am bored with the same views of the amphitheater from the roadsides view points. In years past I hae done a couple short hikes but nothing blew me out of the water. Peek-A-Boo loop did it for me. I truly felt like I was wondering through a movie set, or Disneyland’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride (I just read on wikipedia that Bryce’s hoodoos were the inspiration for the ride).

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The hike begins as a steep down hill from Bryce Point, which affords gorgeous views of the amphitheater as you are making your way down. I started out my hike at about 8:30am and was one of only a hand full of groups out hiking. After about 1 mile you reach the junction for the Peek-A-Boo Loop. Choosing which direction to hike may not seem like a big deal, but a thing to remember about this trail is that it is also used as a horse trail, with 1-2 groups of horses an hour walking clockwise. Choosing to hike against the horses (counter-clockwise) means you will not have to follow packs of smelly horses.

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The loops length is not crazy long, topping off at 5.5 miles long. One of the great things about the hike is that it has easy access to the Navajo (1.3 miles), and Queens Garden (1.8 miles) trails which you can add-on to your hike if you want to be out longer. Navajo and Queens Garden are two of the busiest trails in Bryce. There was a noticeable difference in people on these two trails, than any of the other trails that I hiked in the park. While being on a busy trail may make for some great people watching (I am always flabbergasted at what people hike in), but they never give me the sence of solitude that I look for in National Parks.

I did brave the crowds of the Navajo trail and hiked up to sunset point, refilled my water bottles (Bryce has awesome water bottle stations) and headed back down to continue on the Peek-A-Boo.

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Thor’s Hammer on the Navajo trail

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One of the best and worst things about the Peek-A-Boo loop is it goes up and down, up and down, the entire loop (see trails profile below). This is awesome in the it affords great perspective of the hoodoos and amphitheater, but it is a killer on the glutes and calfs.

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If you have ever been to Bryce Canyon you know that it is a busy park. But I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of people out on the trail. There were still  plenty of groups out hiking, but I never had to feel embarrassed if I stopped to huff and puff or if I set of a tripod selfie. It does help if you hike counter-clockwise, not only do you not have to follow the stinky horses as I mentioned above, but most people hike clockwise so you also skip over them!

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tripod selfie

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The Peek-A-Boo loop is not to be missed if you are in Bryce Canyon! If you have a morning free get your hiking boots on and enjoy the prettiest hike the park has to offer!

Length: 5.5 miles                   Elevation Gain: 1555 feet (473 m)

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Source

Have you hiked Peek-A-Boo loop?

Do you think it is the prettiest hike in Bryce Canyon?

Navajo National Monument

A couple of weekends ago I visited Navajo National Monument and was blown away! If you follow me on instagram you might have seen a couple of photos.

I consider myself a National Park guru (if you have not noticed). I work for the park service, I participated in the JR Ranger while growing up, I visit and recreate in the national parks on the weekends. But some how I had never heard of Navajo National Monument (NNM) . It is a tiny park, located in the middle of the Navajo Nation in Northern Arizona (a place I had not spent much time, until this summer). It may be a small park, but what it has to offer is world-class.

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If you are like me, you may be wondering whats at NNM that’s so great, that I need to trek all the way to the middle of the Navajo Nation? Two words: cliff dwellings. Once inhabited by the Ancerstral Puebloan people (also known as Anasazi) about 750 years ago are in supurb condition. These cliff dwelling are the best you will see in the southwest. Think Mesa Verde without the crowds, without the paved walking trails and without being reconstructed. Basically, the cliff dwellings look and still are how they were, when they were first discovered in the late 1800’s. Complete with  pottery shards scattered on the ground.

The Dwellings

Navajo National Monument protects three sites, Keet Seel, Betatakin, and Inscription House. Two of the three sites are open to the public. Inscription House is too fragile to even be viewed by visitors.

Keet Seel

To reach or see Keet Seel you must hike 8 1/2 miles one way, through Tsegi Canyon with several stream crossings. Once you do this you are greeted with the largest and best preserved dwelling in NNM. Many people choose to make it a 2 day hike and camp overnight near the dwelling. When you arrive at Keet Seel you are able to join a ranger, who will walk you through the 750 year old dwelling. It is the only cliff dwelling at NNM that you are able go in and tour.

One of the most interesting facts I read about Keet Seel was, when the Ancerstral Puebloan people abandoned the dwelling around 300 AD, they sealed many of the entry ways and left jars filled with corn… to maybe one day return to?? I guess we will never know.

Betatakin

Betatakin meaning “ledge house” in Navajo is a 130 room (at one time, some rooms were destroyed by a rock fall) cliff dwelling that can be reached via two ranger guided hikes.  The Tsegi Point Trail is 5 miles round trip and the Aspen Trail is 3 miles round trip, both are offered daily during the summer months. You are also able to view Betatakin from an overlook, the one mile trail leaves from the visitor center.

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When I was at NNM I choose to hike the Tsegi Point Trail (5miles). At 8am I met the ranger and the one other visitor at the Visitor Center, we than caravan to the trailhead. The trail begins by following an old road and then a trail that the CCC built during the 1930’s. While descending down into the canyon (about 700ft) our ranger stopped to talk about the history of the area, geology, and identified plants (including what Navajo used them for). The trail eventually evens out at about mile 2, where we stopped for a short break in the shade of juniper trees. After our break we continued hiking the last half mile through a shady oak grove that fills the bottom of the canyon, before we approached the dwellings.

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The Betatakin cliff dwellings are too fragile for groups to tour through. We were able to stand about 50 yards from the dwelling, took pictures and asked questions for a good 20 minutes. After viewing the dwelling the ranger took us to view both petroglyphs (rock carvings) and pictographs (rock painting) near the dwelling. From these were able to see the dwellings at a higher perspective. In total, we viewed the dwellings for 45-60 minutes. After the viewing the ranger released us to hike back to the trailhead on our own. I thought this was great because it gave us more time to stop and take pictures of the canyon.

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Even though we were not able to tour the Betatakin dwellings, just viewing it at such a close distance was incredible. Being able to view Betatakin close up made it easy for me to see how the Ancerstral Puebloan people lived in the small rooms and navigated steep cliffs.  The dwellings are in such good condition still, that it almost felt like people would step out of the entry ways and go about daily life.

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Park Facilities

Not only does the park offer world-class cliff dwellings, but it also offers other facilities to make for an awesome trip.

The visitor center has a great museum on the Ancerstral Puebloan people including artifacts found in the dwellings. There is a bookstore, and also a Navajo Art store also located at the Visitor Center. A picnic area is located across the parking lot from the VC. There are three short self guided trails, that leave from the VC. The park also has two free campgrounds, making the morning ranger guided hikes easier to wake up for.

Over all I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Navajo National Monument! I am constantly being surprised by the small National Park gems!

Have you ever toured cliff dwellings?

Have you been to Navajo National Monument?

30 by 30

Tomorrow I enter the last year of my twenties! How on earth am I almost 30!?!? Sure does not feel like I should be this old… but then again sometimes it does. Anyways, the past week I was thinking of the things I want to accomplish or become better at in the next year, before I turn 30. 30 goals is alot, I hope I stay this motivated all year…

1. Run a Marathon. I was training for one earlier this year, but then an injury got the best of me. This year it is mine!

2. Host Christmas. Parents I hope your still coming! (Get your passports!)

3. Have a conversation in spanish… even if it is just ordering at a restaurant.

4. Buy plane tickets for Asia.

5. Solo backpack.

6. Meet my new baby niece.

7. Keep blogging regularly.

8. Finish knitting my blanket. I have been knitting it for almost 2 years now, it’s about time I finish.

9. Learn to make an awesome mojito.

10. Learn to make awesome sangria.

11. Drink beer and eat tacos in Mexico.

12. Run a 7 minute mile. I’m a crazy slow runner, so we’ll see how this goes.

13. Make a colorful Thanksgiving/Christmas. I am so tired of the bland colors of thanksgiving food, give me the rainbow on my plate for the years biggest meal (or Christmas, I don’t know where I’ll be yet for turkey day)!

14. Improve my grammar. If you have read any of my writing you know I can to improve.

15. Attempt a souffle. I am pretty comfortable in the kitchen, but a souffle intimidates the crap out of me.

16. Babysit my nieces and nephews. If you are reading this bro and sis in-law, I’m offering a free service! Even if it’s just a date night for you guys ;)

17. Become better at exercising when stressed.

18. Lift weights regularly.

19. Perfect eggs Benedict. The husbands favorite breakfast food, I should be able to make a good one by now.

20. Go backpacking with the hubs. The mountains are calling my name!

21. Learn to knit a new stitch.

22. Build my leg muscles.

23. Call my BFF at least once a month. Renee you are going to get sick of me!

24. Develop my core muscles.

25. Journal experiences.

26. Go sugar & candy free for 1 month. I think January sounds like a good month.

27. Keep my car clean.

28. Read 1 book a month.

29. Dress up more. I where a uniform at work, so I rarely dress up. Even jeans and a t-shirt is better than workout clothes or PJs…

30. Call my brothers more. So, so bad about calling my brothers.

Its going to be a long year of working out, boozing, eating, and developing relationships! Here’s to 29!

New Zealand’s Best and Worst Food

When we first booked our trip to New Zealand, I didn’t now what we were in for food wise, besides lamb of course. So I was taken by surprise by some of our favorites, and disgusted by others, but that’s what traveling is about. WWOOFing offered us a great insight into Kiwis homes and see what they eat and enjoy. So here we go the good and the bad.

Hokey Pokey

Lets start with my favorite Kiwi food, Hokey Pokey. I had never heard of hokey pokey, well besides the dance, which oddly enough Kiwi kids (that we knew) did not know about. Anyways  Hokey Pokey is a toffee candy, it is sponge like and light. You will often find in covered with chocolate (I just found some at the American grocery store Sprouts, labeled “chocolate covered honeycomb”) or by itself in ice cream. Cadbury’s version of it is the Crunchie Bar. My first taste of Hokey Pokey was a “Crunchie Bar” and I thought that it tasted and had a similar texture of an American “Butterfingers”. Through out our time in NZ Hokey Pokey was our go to sweet fix.

Fish and Chips

Now being a couple of islands in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean and a past British Colony, it is no surprise that Fish and Chip shops are everywhere. Fish and Chips are EVERYWHERE, a town that only has one gas station probably has two fish and chips shops, they are that popular. Fish and Chips no matter where you go, are going to be about the same (it is a cheap fried food after all), but you choose from a selection of fish ranging in prices. Make sure to purchase tartar and tomato (see below) sauce, because they do no come with.

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Pavlova

Pavalova is a Kiwi dessert that is a meringue based and usually topped with fruit and whipped cream. We enjoyed this dish while wwoofing at the historic homestead on the North Island. Our host made it for the many events that they hosted and catered. How can you not love a giant meringue?!?! The only issue is that Kiwi whipped cream is just that, its whipped cream, no sugar, no sweeteners. It always felt like something was missing (and for all deserts with whipped cream as well). But other than that it was delicious and I just might have to whip one up state side!

Tim Tams

We tried every flavor of Tim Tams while in New Zealand. Tim Tams are chocolate covered biscuits with chocolate or other flavored filling. They are not necessarily kiwi, since they are from Australian, but we still had a love affair with them. We never went a road trip with out a package at the ready for the nights dessert. It’s no wonder I gained 10 pounds while in NZ…

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Wine & Beer

I officially became a wine lover in New Zealand! Everywhere you go in New Zealand will be a different wine region (Napa Valleys everywhere! I swear!). We were fortunate enough to stay with a few families, that enjoyed a glass or two of New Zealand’s best wines every night. My two favorites were Sauvignon blanc and Pinot noir.

Beer on the other hand we were a little disappointed with. We drank kiwi favorite such as Tui and Steinlager quite a bit, but they were no more than a crisp lager. We did visit a couple of breweries in our time and enjoyed some $9+ pints. Because of the high price tag (they have to tax something…I guess), we did not get to know beer as intimately as we like here in the states.

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Whitebait

Whitebait is a New Zealand’s delicacy. What is Whitebait you might be asking? Well its baby fish from the galaxiidae species, if that means anything to you. During our time in NZ we heard about whitebait off and on, mostly with people we knew going whitebaiting (catching the fist) or people telling us how delicious it was. We were fortunate enough to be served whitebait at one of our WWOOF hosts in the form of a fritter (the most common way it is eaten). I could not taste the fist, all that it tasted like to me was scrambled eggs…

Lamb

Let me just say Bryan and I never once went out to a fancy lamb dinner (is that a thing…) during our time in NZ. We did however eat a lot of lamb & mutton. One of the best things about WWOOFing was eating what the locals ate. One of my favorite days was butchering a lamb (we did not do the killing, just the cutting) later that day we ate a lamb roast, and later that week liquid lamb… or lamb stew so cooked down that it was liquid. The same sheep was literally the best meal and worst meal we had the entire trip. We did learn by the end of our NZ journey, that Kiwis referred to all sheep as lamb, even though a good portion we are was probably mutton.

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Canned Spaghetti

Oh canned spaghetti, where to even begin with you?? I did not even know you were a thing in NZ for the first 4 months… That is until my Bryan walked in on our WWOOF host chowing down on a can for breakfast! From then on we saw it everywhere! In toasty sandwiches, our wwoof host cupboards, and grocery store displays. I spared myself one and didn’t try it out.

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Baked Beans

Baked beans in the States are often found to be a side for a bar-b-que dinner. In New Zealand baked beans are a breakfast item. But hey, I’m not complaining! I ate them on toast, I ate them with eggs, I found that I love baked beans no matter what the time.

Beet Root

One thing I found that I do not like is beet root (just beets for you Americans). Before New Zealand I think the last time I ate beets of any kind was when I was 10 months old, no joke. But Kiwis LOVE beet root! We ate it by itself, in salads, baked, in dishes, basically anyways you can think of. But to me beet roots taste like dirt…

Tomato Sauce

Before New Zealand tomato sauce never crossed my mind as a condiment, but rather just an ingredient. In New Zealand ketchup is almost non-existent. Everything we would eat ketchup with/on (french fries, burgers, hotdogs, ect.) tomato sauce is eaten, specifically Watties brand. By the end of our five months all I wanted was french fries and ketchup.

L&P

I love me some L&P! L&P is the local New Zealand soda flavor. Lemon of Peoria. I do drink soda regularly but I did enjoy L&P during our travels. It tastes different from Sprite, with more of a peppery flavor, if that makes any sense.

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Other Kiwi food not mentioned

Kiwi fruit, Paua, manuka honey, Vegemite/Marmite, lemonade fruit and Feijoa fruit.

If you have been to New Zealand, what was you favorite food?

Tips to Snag a Holiday Weekend Campsite

Who doesn’t love a weekend camping get away?!? It’s a nice break from reality, and getting back to nature is rejuvenating for the coming work week.

I have been loving getting away regularly the past couple of months.  Currently I am planning my next camping trip during the crazy Labor Day weekend. I would normally avoid going anywhere on a holiday weekend, but this one is different. Thats because, the weekend just so happens to land on my birthday. And I would rather not be alone moping around the house oh my birthday (downside of being in a LDR). So I’m planning a weekend of my all favorite things! Camping, hiking, craft beer, and cake (well, I’m bringing the beer, it is Utah after all).

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Anyways, I made this decision pretty late (last week) and by than every campground in the large National Parks were booked solid… and have been for months. But being pretty familiar with the ins and outs of National Parks, I knew some tips to help me get out-of-town still. Maybe they can help you out too, if you are itcing to get out this weekend!

Be open to your destination

Some parks and places are crazy busy all the time and need weeks of planning, but others are pretty mellow, which makes them perfect for a spontaneous trip. Being open to where you go can open up a lot of potential options for you. To help narrow it down decide on how far you want to drive for the weekend. I gave myself a 3 hour or less drive time radius.

Check recreation.gov and check it often

Once you have an idea of the area you want to go, long on to recreation.gov and search around. Many parks offer entire campgrounds of portions of campgrounds that are reservable. Most of the time these reservations can be made on recreation.gov. One of the features I LOVE about the site is when you type in the location you want, it will also tell you the openings in the surrounding area campgrounds as well. But if you have your heart set on a specific campground that is booked, check back frequently. If there is a cancellation it will be put back on the site to be reserved again.

One time I was famous, and had my picture on recreation.gov
The one time I was famous. That’s the back of my head and my handsome husband.

Leave Early

While a lot of campgrounds are reservable now, many parks still have campgrounds that are on a first come first serve basis. To secure one of these sites leave early to arrive early. I can not say this enough with the highly popular campgrounds, such as the ones in Zion, Grand Teton, or any other high traffic park. There were times while working at Grand Teton when Jenny Lake Campground (the most popular CG) was full by 7am.

Utilize Forest Service and BLM Land

Many times National Parks are surrounded by other public lands. Know what your options are in the surrounding area, in case everything is full.  Forest Service and BLM lands have their own campgrounds and sometimes offer dispersed camping. A bonus to camping on these lands is that it is often free! Make sure to check the Forest Service and BLM websites before you head out to read the rules and regulations.

Little known fact: Forest Service land camping has the best views of the Tetons.
Little known fact: Forest Service land camping has the best views of the Tetons.

Backcountry

When front country campgrounds are full, sometimes backcountry camping is available. Each park has its own rules, regulations, and procendures on how to obtain a backcounry permit, so check the respective parks website  before you make any concrete plans. Two of the perks of backcountry camping are: One, A lot of time permits are free. And second you are skipping the crowds of the busy holiday weekend!

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Do you have any tips to making an awesome last-minute trip?

 

Discovering Rainbow Bridge National Monument

A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to take the 50 mile boat trip to see the magnificent Rainbow Bridge. If you are not familiar with Rainbow Bridge (RB), it is a HUGE (209 feet tall) natural bridge. It is so huge that the Statue of Liberty can fit under it! And man, oh man, was it a sight to see.

While well-known to people familiar with the Colorado Plateau, not everyone may know why RB is so special. I’ll try to explain the best I can why you need to go see Rainbow Bridge!

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Where is Rainbow Bridge located?

Rainbow Bridge is isolated by today standards. Located in a remote section of Southern Utah, it is only accessible by a 50 mile (2 hours one way) boat ride via Lake Powell, or a 17 mile one way hike through the Navajo Nation.

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Speeding across Lake Powell

Lake Powell Resort offers a tours twice daily during the summer. You are able to take your own boat, the Park Service provides a courtesy dock for visitors (directions found here). If you would like to make the trek by foot, you will first need a permit from the Navajo Nation first.

What makes Rainbow Bridge so special?

Natural bridges are rare. Formed by a different process than what forms arches, that are formed by the freezing and expanding of water in the cracks of rock. The expanding of the frozen water loosens pieces of rock, gradually chipping away and eventually forming an arch.

Natural Bridges on the other hand are formed by flowing water. RB started out as a fin of sandstone jutting out of the canyon wall. The stream that flowed through the canyon, flowed in a tight curve around the sandstone fin. Eventually the stream (known as Bridge Creek today) cut a hole in the fin, and through time widened the hole, ultimately creating Rainbow Bridge.

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Illistration credit NPS

History…

I’ll make this brief because I know history is not the most exciting subject.

Native Americans have known about Rainbow Bridge for centuries, many of whom Rainbow Bridge is sacred. The outside world on the other hand, has only known about RB for little more than 100 years. Europeans have been in the area of the Colorado River (Lake Powell, now floods this area of the Colorado) since the mid 1800’s. John Wesley Powell floated down the Colorado 1869 and 1871, fur trappers traversed and explored the Colorado and its side canyons throughout the late 1800’s. But Rainbow Bridge was little more than a myth or legend until 1909, when two separate exploration parties guided by Paiute guides laid upon eyes it, after a grueling horseback trek. You can read more about RBs history here.

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Cool Facts!

-RB Spans 275 feet across Bridge Creek.

-The top of RB is 42 feet think and 33 feet wide.

-RB is 290 feet tall.

-The Statue of Liberty fits underneath it!

-Rainbow Bridge is very sacred to many of the Native Americans in the area today. When visiting you are asked to treat it with respect. A good what to think about it is, treat RB as if you were visiting a church.

-RB was made a National Monument in 1919 by President William Howard Taft.

-Teddy Roosevelt visited RB soon after it became known.

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I was lucky enough to be able to visit with work #perkofthejob

Visiting Rainbow Bridge was defiantly a highlight of my summer! I greatly encourage you, if you are in the area of Page, AZ or Lake Powell to take a trip out to see the impressive sight!

Have you ever visited Rainbow Bridge?

Adventuring To Do List: Southern Utah & Northern Arizona

I confess, I had one heck of a LAZY weekend! And it felt AWESOME! After being go go go for the past six weekends, it felt so good just to be around the house and get stuff done that I have been putting off.  I did head down to the beach yesterday and go swimming to make it feel like I did something. Lets be real, besides the walk down to the water,  all I did was float around and people watch, so relaxing and entertaining.

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Anyways my current working season is about half way over and I still have so many things on my To Do list before I move in November. So to mostly get my Dad off my back here is my

Adventuring List:

Antelope Canyon

The famous slot canyons are so ridiculously close to where I live, its kind of embarrassing that I have yet to go. But right now it is crazy town hot, and the tourist are a plenty. This is going to have to wait until Sept/Oct to be checked off.

Navajo National Monument

To be completely honest, Navajo NM was not even on my radar until May. So what is at Navajo NM?? Cliff dwellings! I am pumped to head to NNM hopefully this upcoming weekend.

North Rim Grand Canyon

I have been to the South Rim and to Phantom Ranch (aka the bottom). But I have never been to the North Rim. The North Rim is supposed to be the best of the best, so I hear. I have a weekend planned and campsite reserved for September.

Monument Valley

Who doesn’t want to got to Monument Valley? I have always wanted to go to the photogenic area. I drove through on the highway a week ago and it was gorgeous! I am anxious to head back and really check it out.

Zion

I have been to Zion a couple of times and have done a couple touristy hikes including Angles Landing. Now I want to get away from the roads and crowds and really enjoy what this park has to offer.

Have you been to any of these places?

Any must sees that I missed, and need to add to the list?

Living life on the move

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