Vacation Time: Wrap Up

Nine days passed quickly and before we knew it, we were back home December 15 at around 9:00 PM.  I had missed posting about day two and day three. So I will summarize here day two and day three along with day seven through day nine.

Day Two, December 23, in Las Vegas went in a blur.  The day was spent mostly resting after a tiring  fourteen hour drive from San Jose, California to Las Vegas, Nevada on day one. Normally it should not have taken more than ten hours. We had a good dinner at Mount Everest India’s Cuisine in Las Vegas. Lines were long and the place felt little cramped but the food was delicious.  I will definitely recommend the restaurant to any one looking for alternative to buffets on the strip.  After dinner we went to see a Ka, a Cirque du Soleil show at MGM Grand. It was a grand show but I must have slept through much of the show as I remember my daughter nudging me continuously during the show trying to wake me up. I just crashed after coming back to hotel.

Day Three, December 24,  Christmas eve, drove from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon via Hoover Dam. It was a bad decision.  Traffic to Hoover Dam was terrible.We had been to Hoover Dam before but my two younger kids had no memories of those visits during their childhood.  We lost more than three hours of time and due to Arizona being one hour ahead of Nevada, by the time we arrived in Grand Canyon it was already evening and we missed viewing sunset over the Grand Canyon.  So we ended up having an early dinner at the Yavapai Lodge restaurant and retiring early to ensure not missing sunrise over Grand Canyon. Glad that we did it as we were rewarded with incredible sunrise view next morning.

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Sunrise over Grand Canyon, December 25, 2018

I posted already about day four through day six, so I will continue below with a summary of day seven through day nine.

Day Seven, December 28, started bright and sunny at Bryce and bitterly cold.  Our rental car did not have a scraper, so we had bought one on our way  to Grand Canyon.  It came handy as the windshields were completely covered with thick layers of ice.  We were planning to leave Bryce early to Zion National Park but by the time we left our hotel it was nearly 11:00 AM. The road from Bryce to to Zion National Park is incredibly beautiful.  Nearly every turn on the road presents travellers with vistas that can only be carried in one’s heart.  Camera can not do justice.  I am sure that if the creator is not a cruel one, I will have another chance in my next life to visit Zion again. One visit, no one life, is not enough.

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We entered Zion National Park through the east entrance and drove along the scenic road to the visitors center at around 2:00 PM.  Parking lot was full and signs posted asked cars to be parked in town ( Springdale ) just beyond the south gate. Luckily we got a parking spot just near the visitors center as some one left .  We took the shuttle to the last stop on the forty minute shuttle ride to Temple of Sinawava. It was a pleasant ride with grand vistas. After getting down from the shuttle, we took the trail along the Virgin river to the narrows. As we did not rent equipments to walk on the river ( also that it was freezing cold and late in the day), so would leave that to our next visit.  It was magical.  As we did not want to miss the last shuttle and face the daunting task of walking back six miles to the visitor center in dark and freezing cold, we reluctantly trekked back to the shuttle stop and drove to our hotel in Springdale just outside the south gate of Zion National Park.  After dinner at a Thai restaurant ( many of the restaurants in Springdale close for winter for two months from January to March), we called it a day as we had planned some long hikes the next day.

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Virgin River

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Icicles hanging on the cliff walls- reminded me of  a Shakespeare sonnet “Icicles hanging on The Wall” – a poem from my high school textbook

Day Eight, December 29, I got up early as I wanted to go to the park to view sunrise over the majestic canyon.  Alas, my family members prefered the warmth of a comfortable bed over the cold morning. So I was left to satiate my wish with the view of sunrise from the hotel walkway.

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After breakfast, we checked out of the hotel and drove the short distance from the hotel to the visitors center and took the shuttle to The Grotto.  We did a short hike to the picnic area and then went to the Emerald Pools.  These hikes were not very strenuous but some portions of the trail to Emerald Pools were icy.  At shady areas, icicles were hanging to the walls and in places where sun rays had heated the cliff walls sufficiently, ice melt water was streaming down the walls.

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We finished our Zion trip with a hike up Watchman Trail.  The elevation gain on this trail was three hundred and eighty four feet. However by this time in the afternoon the sun was up and the heavy jackets we were wearing made the hike up quite uncomfortable. The view of the valley below including the town of Springdale was majestic.  We bid adieu to Zion in late afternoon to Las Vegas for the last part of our trip but left our hearts at Zion.

Day Nine, December 30, Time to return home.  Dropped my son at Las Vegas Airport for his return to his workplace, packed and started our journey back to San Jose.  Completely uneventful return trip except for a stop at Barstow for lunch.  The fake railroad station, Barstow Station, that houses many fast food restaurants inside look alike railroad cars is intriguing but the food is same as other franchises.

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As we were driving down California 46 to Interstate 5, we were greeted with the view of a magnificent sunset.  By the time I managed to get a picture from the back seat of the car, sun had already gone down the horizon.  It was an appropriate end to our trip with my last sunset photo of 2018.

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All photos taken by author.  Equipment: Canon XSI and Panasonic LX10, except the sunset photo that was taken by my cell phone.

Vacation Time: Day Six – Winter Wonderland

Our plan was to hike in Bryce Canyon National Park and also to catch sunrise and sunset there on December 27.

The day started with snow flurries in Bryce. While it was great to look at from inside the warmth of the hotel breakfast room, it also became quite clear that viewing a Bryce Canyon magical sunrise was not in our destiny in this trip. By around noon it was clear that the flurries were not going to end and we decided to brave it. On driving down to the visitor’s center, we came to know that thanks to the partial government shutdown, only a small portion of the park was open, mainly due to financial help of the state government of Utah. Big thanks to UTAH.

Completely covered from head to toe due to the cold with temperatures in low 10 (F) and with wind chill around 4F and blowing snow flurries, hiking was not easy. My glasses fogged within few minutes and I had to take it off. Fingers were getting cold inside gloves but technology helped in this case. My eldest son had got some hand warmer packages. These little packages worked so well that I was able to take off my right hand gloves that helped immensely in using the camera.

I am thankful that we decided to hike though my wife was quite apprehensive due to the slippery trail conditions. Using crampons under shoes helped in hiking. What amazing vista’s. Though we were deprived of the colorful display of sunlight firing up various sand stone formations, we were rewarded amply by the display of the magical winter wonderland of Bryce Canyon National Park.

We arrived the Sunset point after about three and half hours of hiking hoping to see sunset but a grey sky and falling snow flurries dashed our hope.

Hopefully will be able to see sunrise tomorrow and then drive to Zion.

Vacation Time : Day 5 – Into Canyon Land

Initial weather report was that there may be rain during our stay in Page. Therefore we did not book tours in advance for Antelope canyons. However there was no indication of rain in the morning, so after checkout we tried our luck with local tour companies in town but every tour was sold out. Undettered we drove to the entrance of lower Antelope Canyon but no luck. It was suggested there by one of the tour operator to check with slot canyon X tour operator some seven miles down the road. There we struck gold. After we booked our tickets, at thirty minutes past noon we were transported by vans over gravel roads covered with red colored sands. At the entrance the people were grouped with about twenty each to one guide. It was about a mile and half hike round trip over sand and stone. It was an incredible experience.

After the slot canyon X tour we had lunch at a Mexican restaurant and drove to near by Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powel lookout.

It was now time to say good bye to Page and move to Bryce Canyon. By the time we left Lake Powel look out, sun had already set.

After about two and half hours drive from Page arrived Bryce Canyon at about eight thirty pm to a bone chilling cold of 13F (-10C) and with wind chill it was 0F.

Tomorrow Bryce Canyon.