Monday, May 30, 2011


After our day of rest we were prepared for another day of touring on Thursday. We had to pass through the little town of Fredonia on our way to the only road into the park.

Housing in the poor side of town

Before we got to the park we passed through part of the AZ Strip. This is an area from the NE and UT borders to the Colorado River. It was once 12000 sq miles of grassland but is now sage desert.

We passed pine forests--this was wildfire burned,

and upland meadows with snowmelt and rain water pools and streams.

Once again our parks pass saves the day.

First we drove to the visitors center and lodge. From there we walked the paved trail to Bright Angel Point. The pic below was our first view of the North Rim from the parking lot.

Views from the trail

From Bright Angel Point--where we could see Bright Angel Canyon, we walked the rim trail to the lodge.

The original lodge--you guessed it! burned down! This is an exact replica. Inside we found we could get rooms, eat in the dining room, get gifts, and view the canyon from the lounging area. You don't have to be registered at the lodge to enjoy the amenities.

We drove down the road about 1/2 mile to a picnic area to enjoy our lunch. It was a little breezy and cool, but the view was worth it. This Stellar's Jay came looking for crumbs.

Backtracking, we came to a y in the road. Going right took us throuth Fuller Canyon and to another y. Left we went up to Imperial Point.

One great thing about the North Rim--although it was Memorial Weekend, there are few visitors here so the viewpoints were not crowded. This was our favorite.

From here we could see the south rim. The River is hidden by the intervening plateau.

All of these viewpoints are fenced so we felt safe even though the wind was trying to blow us off the cliffs.

Bactracking again we took the right fork to Roosevelt Point. A little .2 mile trail let to a view of Imperial Point, which is at the top point of the plateau before the decent. We could see the place we just were through the field glasses.

This hole was caused by wind and water erosion. Click on it and you can see an overlook on top and the Colorado River at the bottom of the window. This view and the next two are the only places we could see the river from the north rim.

At Walhalla Overlook we could see the bend in the river. Here there is a large gravel bar where the Kaibab (just the way it looks) farmed in the winter. In summer they climbed the rim and established a village of stone buildings. The air was much warmer here than below because of the warm updrafts from the canyon.

We walked across the street to view these ruins, but forgot to put in a pic! Tired but happy we bactracked our way out the way we came in. We were did see some mule deer feeding in the meadows, but our camera malfunctioned and none of the pix came out. O well, we still got plenty of good pix.

Tomorrow, more good stuff

Louise and Duane

Friday, May 27, 2011

NV Strip to AZ Strip

After we left the Hitching Post on Tues. we drove down the street and around the corner to Johnny Walker's rv to get our slide fixed. Kudos to them for getting us in on short notice and out the door by 3pm. From there we drove across the street to Roadrunner RV park and stayed one night for $17 cheap! Next day we shook Las Vegas dust from our wheels and sped north west along I15 past more high desert landscape.

I15 cuts across the very nw tip of AZ. Most of this stretch took us through the beautifully rugged Virgin River Gorge.

The Virgin River runs along the east side of the gorge.

After winding our way through this scenic route, we eventually emerged in Utah and St. George. This pretty and historical town originated as a Mormon settlement back in the late 1800's when the Mormons were intent on establishing a kingdom in the Great Bason from Utah to Mexico.

Passing through St. George we picked us Utah59 se and crossed the border back into AZ on their 389. This area is called the Arizona Strip. Before white settlers arrived it was one vast grass plateau. The strip lies between the Vermilion Cliffs and the Grand Canyon. It is the first of a series of terraces that step up to the high plateau of Central Utah 200 mi north. Rain and snow melt flow southward to the hard shale layer on The Strip and is forced up to the surface at places such as Pipe Springs.

We drove along this high deseert plateau right into the Kaibab (kibob) Paiute Reservation and Pipe Spring National Monument.

Pipe Springs was the home base of the Kaibab Paiutes until the Mormon Church sent settlers there in the late 1850's. At first all the people sought to find common ground and live peaceably. Within 10 years, however, the Mormon cattle heards had decimated the grasslands and with them the Paiute way of life. Raiding Utes and Navaho caused trouble which was laid at Paiute feet and their doom seemed emminent. Their plight and that of the decimated Strip eventuallly gained the attention of the Federal government. Today the Kaib ab Paiute Reservation encompasses more than 120,000 acres ofplateau and desert grassland surrounding the Park. The tribe co-manages the park with the government.

After we got set up in our campground and had some lunchwe drove to the park entrance to see what we could see. Here is what we learned.
Pipe Springs National Monument sinsists of a joint Tribal-National Park Service visitors center providing a schedule of daily programs and information on other piblic lands. The museum focuses on the Kaibab Paiute history and introduces the history of Mormon settlement in the area. The park also encompases the Winsor Castle. This is a (rebuilt) fortification built by the Mormon Church to protect their ranch at Pipe Spring. This ranch was a tithe ranch--a place to put the cattle church members gave as tithes. The ranch made butter and cheese which it shipped to St. George to feed workers building the new temple there. Later, second, third,etc wifes were sent there to hide from federal troops when poligimy was declared illegal.

Pipe which gives the park its name

The "Castle" was built right over the spring and a pipe extended from it to the retention pond. This gave the place its name.

The ranch consisted of two long cabins which housed Mormon Malitia during the raids, and ranch hands in peacetime. The main buildings are built around a courtyard and consist of main living area, kitchen and bedrooms in one building and other bedrooms and cheese and butter making room below. They are connected by a catwalk. The complex is a short walk from the visitors center and ranger gives guided tours every half hour every day the place is open. After our tour we walked around looking at the corrals, cabins, garden, blacksmith equipment, etc.

After our tour we drove the four miles back to our campground. It doesn't look like much, but we get 30 amp full hookup, a great view and peace and quiet for $10 a night. The downside is no tv reception, no phone coverage, and no internet. We drove to the Chevron station just past the visitors center to post this blog.

'This place was recommended to us by our new Escapees Class of '06 friends Keith and Gail Lindeman. They are volunteers here at the visitors center, and just as nice as all the other Class of '06'ers we've met. We thank them for the recommendation.

Tomorrow, The Grand Canyon

Louise and Duane

Monday, May 23, 2011


The Hitching Post motel and rv park, where we are staying, had one bad quality. It is directly under the flight path of jet practice coming out of Nellis AFB, just north east of here. Therefore, during certain times of the day, it is, let us say, not quiet. However, the noise does not last long, and there are long intervals of quiet. The park has one really good quality if you want to visit The Strip and don't want to drive: the bus to town stops just across the street and the bus from town stops in front of the motel. This was to our liking as we decided to see The Strip on the cheap via the ped express. For $2 each, we got our 24 hour go anywhere pass, hopped on the double-decker bus and rode the 8 miles from the park to Fremont St. in airconditioned comfort. Our fellow passengers were a mixed lot of locals, tourists, and one guy who was nuts. Duane thought he was talking on a hands free phone, but I looked hard and didn't see one. He was talking to someone he hated and was threatening mass bodily harm amid the numerous swear words. After a few stops someone sat down behind him and he went downstairs where we could hear him shouting and swearing. About two stops later we saw him on the street giving us all the bird. Presumably he got put off. Other than that, our trip was unnoteworthy. We arrived at Fremong St. in due time and got off to stretch our legs and see what had changed since we were there last. Fremont St. and the surrounding area is the original Downtown area, and when people/bus drivers speak of Downtown, here is where they mean. We discovered that the Fitzgerald, where we stayed before had been throughly renovated and updated and that Fremont St. had been extended another block to cover it. There were a lot more shops and an overhead zip line ride. The area now seemed to attract a younger crowd.

Spongebob, for granddaughter Maddy.

There are several opportunities for you to spend your money besides gambling and eating. You can get your pic taken with your favorite costumed chacter, donate to street art like living statues or sidewalk musicians, or give it to beggars.

Fremont St. Experience (for those who don't know) is the arched cover you see below. At night it comes alive with 12.5 million lights and550,000 wats of sound.

Tribute to Siegfried and Roy and their tigers.

The Eiffel Tower and Paris

Our goal was cheap entertainment. Our choices consisted of MGM Grand Lion Habitat, where twice a day you can watch the lions be fed, or just watch the lions and cubs. the flamingo habitat at the Flamingo, several fountain shows, and some indoor displays in some of the hotels. We didn't see the Grand until we were going back to Fremont St. so we skipped that one, and I missed the flamingos in my research, (I used mainly the Nevada travel guide we got at a welcome center and googled the places for more info) so that one got a miss also. Our first stop was Caesars Palace for the favous moving statues. After wandering past shop after shop (its really a huge high-end shopping mall), we finally found the famous fountain, but the figures were still--the exhibit was under renovation. Disappointed, we walked the maze down, up, down and eventually wound our way outside and next-door (two blocks down, since the Palace takes up two city blocks) to the Bellagio. Here, in front of the hotel complex, more than 1,000 fountains dance to music ranging from Pavarotti to Sinatra. (Note--all of these shows are loud, so beware those with infants.) They do so every 15 minutes all the time. You just stop along the huge pond, and wait. While we waited someone got married just before the show started--black tux, white formal dress and all!

After the show we walked inside the lobby of the Bellagio to view the Conservatory and botanical gardens. This consisted of several flower gardens, whimsical small-scale rides like a carrousel and Ferris wheel, several fountains, some of which span the paths, and a glass in aviary, where we viewed these colorful birds.

Coming in we noticed this lobby ceiling was covered with paper parasols. On the way out we discovered that each one of these is actually blown glass and carefully placed!

From the Bellagio we decided to find cheap food. (We boarded the bus at 3 pm. it was now 7) We discovered a Denneys but opted to let McDonald's feed us. Then we walked up the street to the Mirage and took our place along the sidewalk for the Volcano show at 8. (You need to get to these shows about 20 min. early to get a good spot.) The volcano at The Mirage erupts at the top of each hour after dark until midnight, spewing smoke and fire 100 ft. above the water.

An array of lights on the left dance and spew fire in time to the beating drums and "savage" music. This was awesome! When the fire erupted it was actually hot! Between eruptions red water fountained up and looked just like spewing lava.

From here our whole crowd moved next door (each attraction takes up one city block) to Treasure Island for the Sirens of TI show. When we were here last it was a battle of pirates. Now it is a battle between the Sirens and the pirates. The pirates lose their ship--it still sinks--but win happiness with the sirens. The Sirens dance three semi-pole dances. The pirates resist until the girls sink the pirate ship. There are loud noises from the cannons, loud music, and lots of sexual overtones and innuendos, so we recommend that if you have kids or grandkids, skip it. Duane liked it. I thought it was boring.

Our last stop of the night was Fremont St. again. This is the original downtown, so some of the original outdoor fixtures remain.

Every hour on the hour from dark to midnight the show erupts above the street for about 4 blocks. (Each of these free shows lasts from 5 to 10 min.) This time is was a tribute to the Doors. Lights flashed while they sang three of their songs. Pretty awsome!

Tired and out of free shows, we boarded our bus at 10:30 for an uneventful ride home. The buses that run the strip are all very clean, relatively comfortable, nice and cool and well-lit. We were very safe on our trip. We recommend the bus to tour The Strip. You can board after seing one casino and ride two blocks up to the next with your pass. We opted to walk so we could see more. The Strip had changed a lot since our visit in the late 90's. The paper kiosks advertising the sex trade (girls, girls, girls, but no touching) were gone except in one place. In their stead were groups of people handing out cards with phone numbers. They also advertised on small billboards mounted on small trucks which cruised the street 27/7. The Strip has been cleaned up a bit also in new hotes complexes on the south end, and upgrades and renovations on existing complexes so it is a much nicer place to visit, especially for families. All in all things went well and we enjoyed our visit to The Strip and Downtown.

Resting on Monday,

Louise and Duane