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Survival Skills: Making Fire:  Wandering West Part 2

Survival Skills: Making Fire: Wandering West Part 2

Utah has been on my bucket list forever … from my Mom’s favorite national park, Bryce National Park … to Zion and all points in between.  I must admit that learning to make survival fire and surviving multiple snow storms was not exactly on the agenda, but our travels are never predictable.

Lower Calf Creek Falls, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Lower Calf Creek Falls, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Sharing a month with our sailboat cruising friends started by setting up camp in Snow Canyon State Park, just north of St George, UT.

Snow Canyon Selfie ... seeing old friends is great, even though we haven't spent time together in 2 years, when we get together, we pick up right where we left off.

Snow Canyon Selfie … seeing old friends is great, even though we haven’t spent time together in 2 years, when we get together, we pick up right where we left off.

Snow Canyon is an often overlooked state park surrounded by ancient lava flows and red Navajo sandstone.  A perfect spot to provision for our planned adventures to Zion National Park, Grand Canyon and Bryce National Park.  Little did I know how challenging provisioning in Utah’s canyon country can be!  Glad we took advantage of Costco in St George!

Campsite in Snow Canyon.... the scenery in our campsites was great ... and this state park had hot showers, gotta love that!

Campsite in Snow Canyon…. the scenery in our campsites was great … and this state park had hot showers, gotta love that!

Speaking of great campsites, #56 in Watchman Campground, Zion Nat'l Park provides a spectacular view and privacy!  Wow!

Speaking of great campsites, #56 in Watchman Campground, Zion Nat’l Park provides a spectacular view and privacy! Wow!

After Zion, we paid the obligatory visit to the Grand Canyon … after all, we’d never seen the Grand Canyon, and how could a trip west be complete without seeing the biggest hole in the country?

Our first view of the Grand Canyon is still one of my favorites after 3 days here!

Our first view of the Grand Canyon is still one of my favorites after 3 days here!

With the weather predicted to turn cold, in search of somewhere with a lower elevation, we chose Kodachrome State Park as a base to visit a wide variety of nearby places.

Kodachrome Basin Campsites snuggle under dark skies and incredible rock formations.

Kodachrome Basin Campsites snuggle under dark skies and incredible rock formations.

Firelight after dinner had us having fun with camera images — here David is arguing with himself.  Not exactly a crystal clear image, but lots of fun playing with the camera…

Boys Playing With Fire

Boys Playing With Fire

And one day Doug decided it would be a useful survival skill to learn to make fire, and the boys made lots of smoke… where there’s smoke there’s fire, and the first and only ember landed on Doug’s pants, setting everyone into a laughing fit.  Luckily it didn’t actually catch fire.

Boys Playing with Fire...

Boys Playing with Fire…

Our first day at Bryce Canyon wasn’t exactly as I had imagined … a near blizzard precluded much of a view, but this guy was standing guard over the canyon.

Our first experience at Bryce Canyon wasn't exactly as I had imagined it....

Our first experience at Bryce Canyon wasn’t exactly as I had imagined it….

But on a clear day you can see forever and we took advantage of a few hours of good weather to hike to the bottom and up again a few miles later.  Amazing to walk at the bottom of the hoodoos!

On a clear day, you can see forever in Bryce Canyon

It’s easy to see why Bryce Canyon was my Mom’s favorite national park!

But before we finished hiking back to the rim, it started snowing again!  What’s with the weather?  The Kodachrome Park Ranger told us it was sunny and warm February and March … now in late April, Doug & Rayene are living in an igloo?  Luckily our Lance camper provided a warm snug place for all of us for a few nights.

Rayene's Igloo at Kodachrome State Park

Rayene’s Igloo at Kodachrome State Park

After Kodachrome, we moved to the more climate friendly Capitol Reef National Park, Fruita Campground.  I can see why the Mormon Pioneers settled here and enjoyed the mild Fremont River Valley climate.  It was markedly warmer and more comfortable than the previous two campgrounds.   Plus a BIG bonus!

Ummm...  fresh hot cinnamon rolls every morning at 8:15 at the Gifford Homestead - conveniently located right next to the Fruita Campground!

Ummm… fresh hot cinnamon rolls every morning at 8:15 at the Gifford Homestead – conveniently located right next to the Fruita Campground!

Piping hot homemade cinnamon rolls each morning at 8:15…   David & I only indulged twice, but there was a crowd every morning and the first come first serve Fruita Campground was full by mid-day every day – think it’s a coincidence?

As a penalty for all those cinnamon rolls (and hot fresh fruit pies as well), we were “forced” to do some remarkable hiking.  Capitol Reef National Park wasn’t on my “must visit” national parks, but I’m really glad we spent a week — and could have easily spent 10 days, but as usual, ran out of time.

High above the Fremont River Valley hiking to Cassidy Arch

High above the Fremont River Valley hiking to Cassidy Arch

On to Durango, where we rendezvoused with one of David’s US Coast Guard buddies … that he hadn’t seen in 45 years.  We had a great time, despite Steve trying to kill me with Hogs Back Mountain — “just an easy 20 minute walk to the top” — yeah right!  Another day we drove via the Million Dollar Road to Ouray, nestled high in the mountains.  Along the way we detoured off onto dirt roads to find lonely abandoned gold mines.

We attempted to ride the famous narrow gauge Durango to Silverton Steam Train, but fate intervened and there was a rockslide that destroyed the track the night before … so we rode halfway and turned around returning to Durango.  I love riding trains!

Durango almost to Silverton Steam Train.

Durango almost to Silverton Steam Train.

After Durango, a blizzard forced us to detour the long way around to Denver, rather than attempting to pull the Lance camper over the 10,000 foot plus Wolf Creek Pass in the snow.  Not a safe idea.  Visiting Billy, we hiked and enjoyed time together.

Billy and me hiking in Roxborough State Park, just outside Denver.

Billy and me hiking in Roxborough State Park, just outside Denver.

Unfortunately our 6th snow day of the trip made us decide to head back to Illinois where the weather had been in the 70’s & 80’s the entire time we were exploring the West … a fact that David never lets me forget….  keep in mind, he couldn’t wear his shorts in the snow….

Last straw, too much snow at Cherry Creek State Park,, Denver CO

Last straw, too much snow at Cherry Creek State Park,, Denver CO

Stay tuned for much more — individual posts on the best hikes, the best campgrounds, what we enjoyed, out of the way places we didn’t expect to explore…   Cheers!  Jan

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