Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Dear readers, I must apologise for the tardiness of our blogging this past year. No entries since May! Terrible, terrible.  But I do promise that we have renewed our National Parks Pass and have still been visiting the parks. This past year we visited Crater Lake, Redwoods and Muir Woods National Monument.  I also did another trip to Yosemite in October with my good friend, Sarah Twigg.  I intend to blog a post for each of these trips.  For now, here is a summary of our trip to Crater Lake National Park in southern Oregon...

In comparison to many other national parks in the Western States, Crater Lake is not a large park.  But do not be fooled by its size.  The geological anomaly that these federal lands protect is large in beauty and intrigue as it reveals to its visitors the natural world’s formative powers.  The massive volcanic eruption of Mount Mazama approximately 8000 years ago was the precursor to the lake’s creation.  From this terrifying and fiery beginning, the most tranquil of lakes now sits in the bottom of the resultant caldera, its waters fed by rain and snow melt.

Alex and I visited Crater Lake National Park this past summer.  We camped three nights in the popular Mazama Campground, which is situated four miles from Crater Lake itself.  (Crater Lake Lodge is the only accommodation that is lake-side).  On our first night we arrived just before sunset, the drive from San Francisco being a lengthy one.  Even though it was late July, there was still snow on the ground at our designated campsite when we pitched our tent.  The snow served as a handy ice-box for our recently purchased growler of Oregon microbrew beer.
The next morning after coffee for Alex and tea for me, we drove to the lake with the purpose of completing the Rim Drive, a 33-mile road that circumnavigates the lip of the crater.  Although we had seen photographs of the lake before our visit, we were pleasantly surprised upon reaching the first vista point of the Rim Drive from which the crater and its lake were revealed.  The lake’s waters are intensely, stunningly blue.  Emerald, sapphire, royal – none of these terms are adequate to describe the blueness of the lake.  Its waters are simply the perfect shade of blue.

The lake is also extraordinarily calm, allowing stunning reflections of the caldera and other nearby land masses to form upon the lake’s waters.  The reflections change from impressionist to realist shapes at different times of the day.  Pine pollen had settled on some parts of the lake prior to our visit.  Such sediments would usually sink quickly in such a large body of water, but because Crater Lake is so calm, the yellow swirls of pollen sit atop the water for some time.

We drove along the Rim Drive stopping at numerous vista points, each providing another angle from which to view the lake.  There is only one point along the Rim Drive at which visitors can hike down to the water’s edge.  We parked our car at the trail head and walked the one mile down.  While sitting on the rocks at the lake’s shore, we watched three boys diving into the lake repeatedly, despite the frigid temperatures of the snow melt water.

Two land masses break the surface of Crater Lake - the Phantom Ship and Wizard Island.  Wizard Island is a cinder cone - a type of mini volcano - that was formed by the eruptions that occurred subsequent to the creation of the crater caused by the explosion of Mount Mazama.  The Phantom Ship is a piece of ancient rock that was exposed when Mount Mazama blew apart.  It is called thus, because in wild weather the rock, which slightly resembles a ship in shape, disappears from view.

The next day we took a hike up nearby Mount Scott, which is also within the boundaries of Crater Lake National Park.  We were told that there was a 360 degree view of Southern Oregon from the mountain’s summit.  We were not disappointed.  We could see the full circle of Crater Lake, as well as the surrounding mountain ranges and alpine meadows.  A herd of deer were grazing in the alpine meadows at the foot of Mount Scott that were not visible from below.

We ate our lunch of cheese sandwiches at the summit, satisfied with our accomplishment and marveling at the glorious view.  As the wind ruffled our hair, from our lofty perch at the top of the mountain, we both felt blessed and free.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Yosemite National Park, California

Descending towards the Yo-Semite Valley, we came upon a high point clear of trees, from whence we had our first view of the singular and romantic valley; and as the scene opened in full view before us, we were almost speechless with wondering admiration at its wild and sublime grandeur”
~ James Mason Hutchings

Upper Yosemite Falls with Merced River
One of America's first and most beloved national parks, Yosemite is a study in beauty. At its heart is the Yosemite Valley, a canyon of sharply defined granite walls, through which the mighty Merced River flows and lush meadows lie. The Merced is fed by dramatic waterfalls, three of which are amongst the ten tallest waterfalls in the world, being the Yosemite, Sentinal and Ribbon Falls (although this fact is a matter of some contention). John Muir, America's most admired conservationist and botanist, was instrumental in the preservation of Yosemite Valley and described it thus in 1912:

...The most famous and accessible of these cañon valleys, and also the one that presents their most striking and sublime features on the grandest scale, is the Yosemite, situated in the basin of the Merced River at an elevation of 4000 feet above the level of the sea. It is about seven miles long, half a mile to a mile wide, and nearly a mile deep in the solid granite flank of the range. The walls are made up of rocks, mountain size, partly separated from each other by side cañons, and they are so sheer in front, and so compactly and harmoniously arranged on a level floor, that the Valley, comprehensively seen, looks like an immense hall or temple lighted from above”

Today the masses enter Yosemite Valley in an orderly fashion along a paved highway, but the views are still as dramatic. On the drive into the park visitors will pass El Capitan, the largest piece of exposed granite rock in the world, Bridalveil Falls, Ribbon Falls, Yosemite Falls, the Merced River and finally in the distance you might capture a glimpse of Half Dome, perhaps America's most famous rock formation. At this time of year, the springtime, the valley floor is flush with green meadows and smatterings of wildflowers, the most prolific being the purple lupine. The white blossoms of the Pacific Dogwood Tree are an especially delightful diversion throughout the park as well, their blossoms sitting like little white tea-cups in the tree's boughs.

Yosemite is at its best in springtime, as the waterfalls are glutted with the waters of the snow-melt. Leaping from the dramatic granite cliffs, the waterfalls of Yosemite National Park are incredibly spectacular. Yosemite Falls is the largest waterfall in North America and oft quoted as the sixth largest in height in the world. In addition, the exposed granite rock glistening with sunlight and water-spray is an inspirational sight.

The symbol of Yosemite for many people is the Half Dome granite rock formation. The pinnacle of this mountain sized rock (elevation over 8000 feet) appears to be a dome cut in half, hence the name “Half Dome”. The 16 mile round-trip trail leading to the top of Half Dome sees over 1000 hikers a day in summer, and this is despite the fact that hikers must climb the last 400 feet of the trail by a cable ladder.

As you may have already assumed, Yosemite has inspired poets and dreamers for some time now. When American militias were scouring the region for dissident Indians back in the 1800's, Lafayette Bunnell, a young calvary man was deeply moved by the Yosemite panorama: “As I looked, a peculiar exalted sensation seemed to fill my whole being... and I found my eyes in tears with emotions... I said with some enthusiasm ... I have here seen the power and glory of a Supreme Being; the majesty of His handy work is in that Testimony of the Rocks.” Young Lafayette chose an unlikely time to be overwhelmed by one's natural surroundings, given that he was in the business of killing Native Americans, but such is the power of Yosemite, I suppose.

John Muir, the great American quoted at the beginning of this post, had a special connection with Yosemite National Park. He lived and worked in Yosemite Valley for many years and dedicated much of his life to the national parks movement. He had a particular fondness for Yosemite and was devastated when the Hetch Hetchy Valley, in the north of the park, was damned in 1914 to create a water reservoir for the populace of San Francisco. This incident called into question the sanctity of the national park system and the safety of America's natural wonders.

Vernal Falls

Yosemite was not America's first designated national park (that honor was taken by Yellowstone), but because of its beauty and numerous ardent supporters, Yosemite can be seen as an inspiration for the concept of setting aside land for preservation in America.

In 1864, in the middle of the Civil War, President Lincoln signed a bill that set aside Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove (a grove of giant sequoias south of Yosemite valley) for “public use, resort and recreation”. This area was to be administered by the State of California. In 1890 after the creation of the national park concept and the establishment of Yellowstone, Yosemite's status was changed from California state park to national park.

Today, Yosemite entertains over 4 million visitors each year. Steps have been taken to further protect the park from this level of love. The Federal Congress has designated 95 percent of Yosemite National Park as “wilderness”. Wilderness status aims to forever protect the designated land in its natural condition and as a wildlife habitat. (For more see

On a more practical level, a shuttle bus system has been established to ferry tourists around Yosemite Village, the popular sites of the park, as well as various trail-heads and camping grounds. The shuttle is free and for most of the day in the summer season runs at ten minute intervals. This measure reduces car congestion within the park, the idea being that visitors park their car at one of the central car parks and then use the shuttle bus to see the park's sites. You can hop on and off the bus as much as you like all day long

Pacific Dogwood Tree

Yosemite National Park can be divided into four separate geographic areas – High Sierra, Granite Cliffs, Sequoia Grove and Valley.

As Yosemite sits in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, the parts of the park at high elevation are considered to be a part of the High Sierra. The Sierra received so much snowfall last year that most of the park that falls into the High Sierra category is still closed off to the public at the time of writing.

Glaciers carved the granite cliffs that now form Yosemite Valley – in fact, the theory that glaciers carve u-shaped valleys was originated by John Muir, primarily through his inspection of the valleys within what is now Yosemite National Park. Today, the cliffs are still being shaped by rockfalls (which are common), water and gravity.

Yosemite National Park is home to three groves of the giant Sequoia trees – Mariposa, Merced and Tuolumne. Politically, these groves were helpful in establishing Yosemite, first as a state park and then as a national park. In the late 1800's, the populace was beginning to see the merit in preserving the ancient Sequoias and were concerned that they may all be lost to the logger's axe if a law was not enacted to protect the trees. Concern for the Sequoias helped engender popular support for the novel concept of the national park. For more information on giant Sequoias, I recommend you see our earlier post (

The Merced River winds through the valley of Yosemite. Various types of pine and other trees, as well as lush meadows, flank the sides of the river. In late spring the river is at its highest levels with icy snow-melt waters. Apparently it is popular to swim in the river in summer, however this was difficult to imagine when we were there, given the bone chilling temperature of the water.

What We Did
We arrived in Yosemite along the highway as described above, becoming more aware of the loveliness of the scenery the further we drove. We had miraculously obtained a last-minute camping reservation at Lower Pines Campground located in the center of the park. Upon arrival at the campground, we discovered that we couldn't check-in until after noon, so we decided to park the car and head out for an easy short hike. This of course never actually happens, and our easy short hike very quickly turned into a strenuous long hike. At various stages of the walk, egged on by the chilling power of the granite valleys, we decided to hike to Vernal Falls and then on to Nevada Falls towards the eastern end of the Yosemite Valley. This trail, although steep in elevation, is admittedly quiet fun as it takes in the well known Mist Trail. The Mist Trail is a set of 500 odd stairs, near the top of the Vernal Falls. As you near the top you start to walk through the mist coming from the falls. The mist then becomes light water spray, then heavy water spray. By the time we arrived at the top of Vernal Falls we were completely drenched. Luckily it was a warm day and at the top of Vernal Falls is a lovely big flat granite rock on which to sun yourself dry. The most incredible feature of the Mist Trail is not so much the getting wet, but the ability to get so close to an incredibly powerful waterfall. It's a thrilling experience.

Once we had dried out, we continued on to Nevada Falls, the next waterfall in this part of the valley, and another 1,000 or so feet in elevation. Nevada Falls is another terrifying testimony to gravity. The water thunders over the cliff edge here at a tremendous speed and appears to drop all the way to the bottom of the valley (about 600 feet) without touching the rock face at all. From the top of the falls you can lean over the chain-link fence and look to the bottom and see the water spray billowing out from the rocks in great clouds, before it settles and joins the river traveling down the valley to Vernal Falls. The force of the waterfall drives a massive wind that forces the water vapour from the falls between the rocks on the valley floor in long, wispy tendrils, constantly shifting around the rocks and at times escaping above them to explode into billowing clouds shot through with permanent rainbows.

Once we'd scared ourselves sufficiently at the top of Nevada Falls we started to make our way back to the campground, along the John Muir Trail. This trail continues for 211 miles to Mount Whitney in the Sequoia National Park, the highest mountain in continental USA, standing at 14,505 feet. This time we only trekked four miles of it back to the Lower Pines Campground. The trail was named in honor of Mr Muir, because of his love of Yosemite, but also because he was the first president of the Sierra Club, and the Sierra Club was responsible for the construction of this trail.

The next day we took a trip to Tunnel View, a popular spot for photography within the park. Ansel Adams took his famous photo of Yosemite Valley from this spot ( Our glorious weather continued so we were able to have a clear view all the way to Half Dome from Tunnel View.

Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space” ~ Ansel Adams.

Our interpretation of Ansel Adams' famous photograph

We then continued on to hike a section of the Valley Trail. Our legs were a little sore after the previous day's hike, given that it involved a 2,000 feet elevation change – up and down. The Valley Trail appealed because it was predominately flat. It also takes in all of Yosemite Valley's main sites. On the particular stretch that we did, we took in Bridalveil Falls, El Captain and Ribbon Falls. Surprisingly the Valley Trail is not heavily used. Perhaps this is because the highway takes in the same sites, but you do get significantly closer to these sites along the trail. We also saw some interesting highlights that we wouldn't have seen if we were in the car, such as the bizarre snow flower. This small bright red plant, looks a little bit like the flower of a banksia or protea growing directly out of the ground. Apparently it is a parasitic tree, obtaining its food and water from a fungi which grows on tree roots ( We also saw rock climbers attempting seemingly impossible climbs on El Capitan and Cathedral Rock (we learned later that the El Capitan climb requires a night spent on the cliff wall). We had a lunch of cheese and salami at an idyllic spot on the Merced River, while we watched some French children build little boats of bark and leaves to float down the river.

On our final morning, we rose early and did a trail run from Lower Pines to Lower Yosemite Falls and then back to the Visitor Center. Feeling appropriately exhausted after our early morning exertion, we grabbed some coffees in the village and then took a tour of the geography display at the Visitor's Center and the Ansel Adams photography gallery. Not a bad start to the day.

As we drove back to San Francisco that afternoon, we both felt the positive effects of a little sunshine and outdoor activity, and once again confirmed the restorative powers of the natural environment. John Muir said it best - “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul.” Long live Yosemite.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year 2011

We wish you all a Happy New Year and heartfelt thanks to all of the followers of the Green Blazing Blog,
both formal and informal followers.

Our travels through the National Parks of North America are on hiatus at present, but we will make sporadic new posts going forward, so please do check back with us from time to time.

The beginning of man was in nature, his only home. Without a basically favourable environment he could not have endured. He now remembers, deep in his psyche, his beginnings, the experience of the mountains, deserts, forests, and still or rushing waters. Now, in our present fateful age, we have a choice: to exploit and destroy, or to respect our legacy, to use it wisely and to hold it in trust, inviolate, for the many generations to come.
Ansel Adams

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sequoia National Park, California

When the explorers of the American west first told the story of their encounter with the Giant Sequoia trees of California, their eastern seaboard audience did not believe them and dismissed their reports as fancy. This view prevailed even after a Sequoia tree was cut down and reassembled at the Chicago World Fair of 1893. The remarkable Sequoia trees grow in groves on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevadas between 5000 and 7500 feet in elevation. Though not the tallest tree in the world (that title goes to the Californian coastal redwoods), the Sequoias are the largest living things on the Earth (by wood volume), with a trunk circumference of 30-odd metres at ground level. Their roots are shallow, but have been known to spread over an acre.

A good way to gain some perspective
Fortunately the uniqueness of the Sequoias were realized early on and Sequoia National Park was created to protect a concentration of groves in 1890. This national park was expanded and merged with the General Grant Groves to create the Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks.

The Giant Sequoias are truly prehistoric beasts. The fossil record goes back 180 million years, we were told. Interestingly , the ancient relatives of the Sequoias were spread over the Northern Hemisphere and Sequoia fossils have been discovered in Europe and Asia. Today the giant Sequoias are restricted to grove scattered around Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks, Yosemite and some California state parks.

Sequoia Grove - note fire scars on trunks
Sequoias are able to live a long time – up to 3,200 years. They have the ability to survive fire because their bark is very thick. Many of the trees we saw in Sequoia National Park bear fire scars up their trunks. The Sequoia is resistant to many plant diseases and also produces massive amounts of sap that repeals insects.

Our main aim when visiting Sequoia National Park was to view the remarkable trees, but the park does offer more. The elevation of Sequoia National Park is remarkable, rising from 1,300 feet to 14,494, from the warm foothills to the cold High Sierra. The weather conditions at the foothills is completely different to the mountain tops and accordingly the vegetation and animal life reflects this. At the top of the mountain we witnessed two days of snowfall during our two-day visit. With at least 4 feet of snow already fallen since the start of the winter season, chains were required on the car's tires at the top. The chains were not required at the bottom. Luckily Alex turned out to be a deft hand at mastering the chain system in trying conditions.

Largest living organism - the General Sherman Tree
The Giant Forest Museum is a good spot to start your exploration of the High Sierra. This informative museum provides a wealth of information on the Sequoia trees and the park. We did a hike around the General Sherman Tree and the Congress Trail, which takes in a number of remarkable individual trees and groves exist along the Congress Trail, including trees called the President, House Group, Senate Group, the McKinley Tree and Chief Sequoia. The General Sherman Tree is 84 meters tall and its trunk's circumference is 31 metres at ground level. We returned the next day to do the same trail with snow shoes. We enjoyed a lovely warm lunch inside the Wuksachi Lodge before the large windows whilst enjoying the view of snow falling on cedars.

Death Valley National Park, California

In the spirit of the many migrants that have made their way to California, the inspirational motto for the state is “Eureka! I have made it!”. Upon arrival in Death Valley National Park, which is situated on the border of Nevada and California, one's immediate response to this motto is “Why on Earth did I bother?” You cannot help but conjure up the imagery of the terrible journey the Joad family made through this area in Steinbeck's masterpiece, The Grapes of Wrath. The desert and lack of sensible regulation in Nevada (State Motto: “All for Our Country”) is oppressive enough, but when one starts to descend into Death Valley the oppression of the environment intensifies, as the sand turns black and the desert appears endless. However, like many desert environments the true value of the place reveals itself to those willing to dedicate some time.

Death Valley National Park sits in the Sierra Nevada's rain-shadow and is the hottest, driest and lowest national park in the USA. Incredibly, it supports nearly 1,000 native plant species as well as fish and snails. The lowest point is 282 feet below sea level in the middle of the valley. Death Valley is buffered to the west by the Panamint Mountains. Less than 100 miles beyond the Panamint is the highest point in continental USA, Mount Whitney of the Sierra Nevadas standing at 14,491 feet. It is thought that approximately 10,000 years ago, the valley was actually a large lake. As the last ice age ended and the climate warmed, the lake dried up and now is a mix of sand dunes and salt beds with sporadic small waterholes. A highly adaptive fish, the tiny pupfish, survives in this water, which is five times saltier than seawater and can warm up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit in summer.

Artist's Palatte
Death Valley has been the site of several mining booms and busts since the wild west was won. Gold, silver and a cleaning agent called borax have been mined in the valley. Death Valley was designated a national monument by President Herbert Hoover in 1933. The Civilian Conservation Corps improved the roads and other facilities in the area, which was then but a national monument during the 1930's. In 1994 Death Valley attained national park status. Today, 95% of the park has been designated as “wilderness”. The Native American Timbisha Shoshone people have lived in the area, which they call the “valley of life,” for a few thousand years. In 2000, acreage was alloted to the tribe within Death Valley National Park. The tribe and the National Park Service jointly manage the park.

What We Did
We arrived at Death Valley the day before Thanksgiving and camped at Texas Springs, a simple desert-style campground (i.e. lots of sand, little water). Our site was situated between two separate but equally amusing family groups. To the north of us was Uncle Gary and his gang. To the south, a frustrated mother with four boys and an excitable husband. Upon the arrival of his nephews and nieces, Uncle Gary jumped up and down exclaiming “Hey you guys, you're here! You're here!” (repeat ten to fifteen times), while his assortment of nephews and nieces ran around in circles shouting out “Uncle Gary, Uncle Gary, We're here! We're here!” (repeat ten to fifteen times). Their conversation continued pretty much unbroken until Mum (presumably Uncle Gary's sister) proclaimed to the whole campground, at around 9pm, that her son Harrison hadn't peed since 3pm and should do so immediately.

Our group to the south were obsessed with climbing the near by “mountains” (sandstone buttes next to the campground that were about 100 feet high). The chatter would begin at about 6am in the morning as to whether anyone would be willing to climb the mountain with the youngest son (“Would you like the come climb the mountain with me” said in an amazingly loud whisper). A fight would break out as to who first broke Mum's rule about no noise until 7am and eventually Mum would scream “You four! Go climb that mountain right now! And don't come back for at least an hour!” Meanwhile her husband was cheerfully chatting to anyone around the campground who would listen.

Zabrinski Point
During the brief moments of silence in the campground, we were able to enjoy some solitude around the campfire, which cackled contentedly as we fed it with the dry desert firewood. The desert nights were cold and clear and we enjoyed a night sky panorama of brightly sparkling stars.

On Thanksgiving Day we undertook a trail run to the top of Wildrose Mountain (9064 feet high), to see the entire vista of Death Valley and most of the Panamint Valley. The trail starts at the Wildrose Charcoal Kilns. These kilns were built by Chinese laborers in 1877 to produce charcoal to support the nearby silver-lead mines that then operated in the region. The trail is 8.4 miles return and the elevation gain is 2,200 feet. It climbs steadily through the desert forest, Pinyon pines and juniper.  The summit is exposed and windswept and we had a cold, uncomfortable lunch there before our descent. By the time we returned to Texas Springs, our appetite was sufficiently piqued to enjoy a large Thanksgiving meal of steaks, roast potatoes and carrots, a cheese plate, California red wine and raspberry pie.

Death Valley also provides a plethora of scenic drives. We indulged in a selection of short drives, visiting Artist's Palate, Zabriskie Point and the exit route through the Panamint Mountains to the eastern side of the Sierra Nevadas. (Death Valley is a large park in the contiguous US, and you could easily do a 200 mile scenic drive in a day if you were that way inclined).  Artist's Palate is an assortment of buttes that display an interesting array of colours, including bright pinks and greens. Zabriskie Point is an unusual small anomaly of badlands type buttes. The Panamint Mountains, as mentioned above, buffer the western flank of the national park. The drive over this mountain pass is spectacular but a little hairy, with an elevation gain from below sea level to 7,500 feet back down to 2,000 feet. Most of this elevation gain is up the side of the ancient lake-bed, which is an even 6% grade. You literally stay on the same trajectory for about 30 miles, gaining more than 5,000 feet elevation.

The road to Panamint Mountains pass

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

We rolled up to the entrance gate of Bryce Canyon National Park in glorious sunshine and it was 23 degrees Fahrenheit, when we were lucky.  We were on the run from the third of four storm fronts that were travelling south-east from Canada and that had dumped three feet of snow on Salt Lake City the night before.  Bryce Canyon National Park is a little slip of a park next to the largesse of the Grand Staircase to the south and east.  The sole access road traverses a north-south aligned cliff that drops off to the east to amphitheatres of pink and orange hoodoos, cliffs, pinnacles and grottos.  A Hoodoo, dear reader, is a rock shaped like a tower or a chimney.  They are usually made from sandstone, and are found throughout the south of Utah, but never in the concentrations that can be found at Bryce Canyon. 

We did a drive along the parts of the scenic drive that were still open, stopping at the highlights. Alex was brave enough to walk along the rim for a mile or so between two highlights. Ellisha was not.  There was a couple of feet of snow on the ground.  It was the dry powder that is really only found in the Rocky Mountains.  So dry that you can walk in shorts without discomfort, and so light that even the prints of the high desert mice are clearly visible.  No doubt an experienced tracker could have told many a story from the myriad hoof and paw prints that snaked in and around the paths. 

The snow, which had fallen during the night, picked out the horizontal details of the Hoodos, Utah Junipers and Pinyon Pines.  The park also contains some Bristlecone Pines that are amongst the oldest in the world.  Unfortunately, because people steal souvenirs of these old trees, the location of the oldest trees is kept secret by a society of foresters.  The oldest tree whose location is revealed to the general public is only 1,600 years old, while the oldest tree – named “Methuselah” – is 4,765 years old and located somewhere in the White Mountains in California. 

As a considerable amount of snow had already fallen and we knew that the big storm was on its way that night, it was time to hit the road for lower elevations and warmer temperatures. Time for Las Vegas. Viva Las Vegas. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.  This is what didn’t happen in Vegas:

Highway 12, All-American Highway

All-American Roads are one-of-a-kind scenic byways that possess features so unique that the road qualifies as a destination in itself.  That’s right, when you’re on an All American Highway you actually are justified to preach that it’s the journey, and not the destination.  It is indeed a spectacular drive, but we were glad to be over the first part of it which stretches between Torrey and Boulder, during which the road makes a pass at 9,600 ft and was blanketed in snow.  It being a difficult drive, Lish was naturally in control and floated over the treacherous All-American with enviable chutzpah.   

The main feature that the All-American showcases is the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which extends over 1.9 million acres of mineral-less useless farmland. The sandstone cliffs, canyons, plateaus and rock formations extend from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park and Capitol Reef National Park.  Grand Staircase-Escalante was created in 1996 by President Clinton, and its main claim to fame is that it was the childhood home of the notorious Butch Cassidy.