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Posts tagged ‘Utah’

the best of the southwest

It took us three months to recap our three-week road trip through the Southwest, the memories of our adventures sustaining us through the cold winter months in DC. Having just made it through a record-setting snowstorm, we are preparing to hibernate indoors once more this weekend. While the weather service warns of “life-threatening” Arctic chills, we’ll warm up with one last look at the highlights from our trip. This post is an index of sorts, a “best of” list of our travels.

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into the valley of fire

Vegas, baby! VEGAS!! The Holy Grail for gamblers and 90’s cult movie fans, and the final destination of our Southwest road trip. En route to Sin City, we stopped by the Valley of Fire, a small Nevada state park that packs a lot of punch. In fact, we had to strike a balance between seeing all of its highlights and reaching Vegas at a reasonable time.

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two-for-the-price-of-one birthday special

We set two alarms, rising with the sun. Zion was calling. We had already spent two days hiking in Utah’s grandest national park, but we had saved the best for last. Not only was this our last day in Utah, but it was also D’s birthday, which he had long wanted to celebrate atop Angel’s Landing.

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a hitchhiker’s guide to Zion

Zion National Park is Utah’s Yosemite. It is big, beautiful, and full of massive monoliths that tower over a green valley. A placid river winds its serpentine way between the peaks, sometimes flooding the valley in monsoon season. Unlike many of the other parks we had visited during our road trip, which can be seen in a day or two, Zion demands more time and attention. With our stay in Utah winding down, we spent our last three days in the state hiking in Zion.

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eating our way across the southwest

Chronicling our adventures across Utah and Arizona, we have inadvertently avoided one of the highlights of traveling through the American southwest — the food. When planning a trip, deciding where to eat and sleep is just as important as researching what to see and do. With that in mind, here are our culinary recommendations for anyone embarking on a tour of Utah’s national parks.

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losing the lottery, but winning anyway

Kanab, Utah is an unassuming little town that toes the border with Arizona. It seems about as unlikely a place for the diverse international gathering it hosts daily as can be imagined. We left Bryce Canyon in the wee hours of the morning to make sure we arrived in time to join the throng of visitors from all over the world who gather in large numbers every morning in Kanab. The reason: a chance to secure one of the elusive permits for hiking The Wave.

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hiking the hoodoos

Bryce Canyon is nothing short of spectacular. From Dead Horse Point, to Needles, and the Island In The Sky, we had enjoyed plenty of spectacular vistas, but Bryce blew them all out of the water. In fact, it took us longer to walk the half-mile between Sunrise and Sunset Points along the Bryce Canyon rim, than any of the other 125 miles we hiked in the Southwest during the rest of our trip, and this despite the fact that the trail connecting them is flat and paved. We had purposefully avoided looking at photographs before seeing the canyon ourselves. Nature truly outdid herself with Bryce; we had to labor to pick our jaws up off the floor so that we could actually get on with our hike inside the canyon.

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travels in kodachrome

Growing up in New York City, it took D a long time to develop a love for the great outdoors. It wasn’t until he spent several years living in a tiny village high up in the Andes mountains during his Peace Corps service that he came to appreciate just how soothing life can be when one is surrounded by nature. Ever since, he has craved nature like a drug, which it turns out has a perfectly reasonable scientific explanation. Ensconced once more in the concrete jungle of a big city, which can feel downright depressing in foul weather, our minds frequently oscillate between reliving our recent hikes and planning our next outdoor adventure.

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we’ll take a raincheck, please

Spending a couple of weeks hiking through the Southwest’s canyons brings one face to face with the awesomeness of nature, in every sense of the word. Even as the unparalleled beauty of the region at times makes the jaw drop, it is impossible not to be filled simultaneously with awe at nature’s tremendous power. Just two weeks before we arrived in Escalante, 21 people drowned in flash floods in the very canyons that had drawn us to southern Utah. The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is famous for its unique slot canyons, but in light of recent events we found it prudent to adjust our hiking plans.

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the devil ate our breadcrumbs

We only spent one day hiking in Capitol Reef before heading further south into the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument. Of Utah’s five national parks, Capitol Reef is by far the least visited. This is likely because the scenery is less dramatic than in Zion, Bryce, Arches, and Canyonlands, though there is still plenty of great hiking to be had there, and with none of the crowds that the big-name parks draw.

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