Friday, October 11, 2013

Zion National Park and the Coral Pink Sand Dunes

Zion National Park is a 229 square miles photographer's paradise. It offers an enormous variety in one National Park. Ranging from huge 2000 feet high sandstone cliffs, rivers, forests, hanging gardens, springs and cactuses. More than 67 species of mammals, 29 species of reptiles, 7 species of amphibians, 9 species of fish, and 207 species of birds can be found in Zion too. 

Zion is well known for it giant sweeping cliffs in a multitude of colour. Coming from the east, the road descends through a series of tunnels. Tunnels that are too narrow for larger motorhomes unless they drive in the middle. On a normal day they would have been escorted through the tunnels, as the National Park was officially closed, there were no escorts available and thus no motorhomes. The temperatures on the western side are distinctly different due to the lower altitude. The western side is therefore also much greener than the more arid eastern side.

Either side is beautiful, but the altitude difference between east and west almost makes it two parks in one. I'll let the photos do the talking again on the scenery! As it's so beautiful we rode through Zion up and down once again, the day after. Stopping, sorry pausing, for photos along the way. As you can see in the photo, I was suddenly pausing in the middle of the road here too… One of the rangers saw us but just smiled, good man! 

A just married couple tried to dodge the rangers by making their wedding photos quickly when no-one was watching. The whole scene emphasised once more how ridiculous the whole closure of the NP was. They should have just gone home and left the 'doors' open, instead of deliberately annoying everyone.
Road 14 is, we were told, a beautiful one. The start was promising when a sign warned us for steep climbs and sharp corners… great! Thinking we were indeed going to ride another beauty, we found ourselves disappointed before we were even halfway. Yes, there are a lot of corners, which make passing the slow and smoke belching RVs crawling up the mountains impossible. The view consist of trees, trees and more trees while we are climbing up to 9500 ft. At the top our teeth are almost frozen together and to make things worse it turns out to be a plateau of 9500 ft. Brrr.

At the end of the 14 we're warming ourselves with hot lunch. I don't know what it is with this country, but I had expected the cold to be in Alaska. We had a heatwave there and now in southern Utah we're freezing cold! The lunch was something new too: DIY hamburgers… DIY… hamburgers… right! I'm looking at the sign and tried to work out what was needed here to get a hamburger. Turns out you have to get your burger patty from the freezer, slot it into a machine, put your bun into another side of the machine and wait for both to fall out. Right, that was new for me and to be honest I had my doubts about the whole setup! Once cooked you add what you like to it and Bob's your uncle. To my surprise it actually was quite a decent hamburger… the surprise was that I actually cooked something that's edible! Wow...

We were eating outside, in the fresh air, with the emphasis on fresh. I had just started eating my lunch when next to where we are sitting a woman struggled herself out of her car. The whole car is bouncing up and down as she's so grossly overweight that I lost my appetite. She was weraing black track pants, her belly hanging so low in them that her knees were invisible. Yuk! I'm trying to eat here! The first ever proper hamburger that I cooked myself and now she's come to ruin it anyway! Of course the whole sausage factory moved really slow and created a 20 minute eclipse. The temperature almost dropped as she was walking past. Well walking… waddling! Just as my appetite slowly returns… so does she. This time I'm prepared, put on my jacket and closed my eyes and didn't open them until the ground stopped shaking. Just as she dumped her behind in the car, which groans under the weight and instantly lowers to the ground, I opened my eyes. So that's what you need a V8 for…

We left for the Coral Pink Sand Dunes. I had no real idea what to expect there, apart from the obvious sand dunes in most likely a pinkish colour. Then again Americans are masters in fancy names and things aren't always what they seem. I also wondered if it would even be open. After all, a lot of the State Parks had been closed and the Coral Pink Sand Dunes are a State Park. It wasn't closed... the campground was full, but the ladies managing it had been told by their boss not to turn anyone away and simply find a spot for them as people had been hit hard enough by National Parks already. What a great attitude! The lady managers were great too and did indeed found a spot for everyone, even if it wasn't an official camping spot! The campground has flush toilets and even showers. The ladies even gave us their table to eat on as well. Some people are just wonderful. Of course we decided to stay an extra day, upon which we could move to a by then vacant spot at the edge of the park. 

We had noticed quite a few motocross bikes and 4-wheelers when we came in, but as it was rather late didn't payed much attention. The next day we had a good look around and found ourselves camping on a campground that resembled more of a motocross pit than a state park. It was great! Bikes everywhere, 4 wheelers, sand buggies, you name it it was there. Part of the Coral Pink Sand Dunes are open to vehicles, which attracts off road fans from other states too. Great atmosphere and… no problem to do some work on the bikes! Nearby Kanab has a great little bike shop called Troy's Desert Powersports. Nothing flash, no expensive showroom, no bikers lifestyle rubbish and no expensive high-heeled blonde behind the counter. Instead we found a friendly guy who works for himself, knows his business and won't charge you through the nose. In other words: just what we needed. We only needed some engine oil, not a lot of money involved but Troy still offered me the use of his oilpan. We ended up not only buying oil, but also inner tubes, oil filters and spark plugs, as they all were in stock (try that with the expensive blonde…). A nice guy, a good shop, well worth visiting. 

Ordering something for lunch, the lady at the local McDonalds asked me how I would like my chicken. 'Well... eh cooked!' I answered. Apparently you can get your chicken seared or crispy? Fast food should be simple, don't make it complicated... Grmbl. Next to me, a weird figure in a light emitting green shirt and trainers was taking a snapshot… He looked seriously weird with hair resembling a sea coral and his head the shape of a broccoli… His wife seemed amazingly normal, although you can't be if you go on a holiday with broccoli-man. Their daughter was also in unhealthy green. The sun scattered off their clothing, colouring all that was surrounding the green too, including my lunch… After lunch they drove away in a green Prius. A broccoli family in a green Prius, you can't make it up.

Picking up the tyres from Kanab Airport, the UPS truck
that just brought them in, in the background
We changed the oil on the campground and fitted new tyres that we picked up from UPS in Kanab (if you want to read how that went… see the UPS link at the end of the page). Replacing the oil filter on Jeanette's T100 was a major hassle. KN oil filters thoughtfully have a nut welded on them for easy removal with a standard spanner. That nut is just pressed sheet. Normally strong enough but the nut had been damaged, probably in Monument Valley. As the rest of the filter is smooth, there isn't much to grab onto… I got it out but not without some serious swearing in three languages! During the spanner session a little girl rode around on a pink 4 wheeler on the site next to us. She also had a matching pink helmet. She must have been about 8 years old and sang a song while she slowly rode around in circles… I have no idea what she was singing, but it sounded a lot like opera! Mike looked at it in amazement and grabbed his video camera. Her sister was completely in pink as well, while dad looked like a builder and rode around on a kiddies 3-wheeler. They also had a family 4-wheeler which had paddle tyres for the sand. They sound somewhat strange when used on the campground, like a lame duck that tramples over his own feet. Once in the sand, the tyres make a lot of sense as they throw huge amounts of sand in the air. According to Mike that's called a roost…

The next day we were supposed to leave, but snow that night put a stop to that. We hadn't expected any snow… People that had been coming here for years had never seen snow this early in the year. Very unusual weather we were told, where had we heard that again.... I'm beginning to wonder if all this unusual weather is global warming or just the fact that we are there! A cold and miserable day. The forecast was for sunny weather the day after, so we stayed put. We were running low on food though… A motorcyclist turned up in the afternoon, he camped in an RV and offered us hot lasagna…! He had this family sized package and wanted to share it with us…! What a great guy and great timing too!

As soon as we left Kanab behind us, we also left Utah behind. Finally we crossed into another state. How it can ever live up to Utah, I can't imagine. Utah has offered such unbelievable scenery that it's hard to see how anything could even match it. We'll see in the next post if and how we liked Arizona!