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Utah, New Mexico, Texas, August 28 - November 18, 2010

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Our annual long trip this year takes us to a revisit of the parks of Southern Utah, Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, and the Quilt Festival in Houston.
Salt Lake City from part way up Ensign Peak
Salt Lake City from part way up Ensign Peak
Our first destination, as is usually the case when it is an east-bound trip, was Salt Lake City. Had a good visit with the folks at Motosat and picked up some new hardware, then did some local exploring and geocaching.
We took a long geocaching excursion north and west of SLC, ending at Promontory Summit and the Golden Spike National Historic Site. Way out in the middle of nowhere! The two locomotives were both under steam and ready to roll.
Jupiter and 119 at Promontory Summit
Jupiter and 119 at Promontory Summit
Jupiter and 119
Jupiter and 119
Also out in the middle of nowhere, because it has to be, is the ATK/Thiokol solid rocket manufacturing and test site.

It is located only a few miles from Promontory, and there is a large display of rockets in front, open to the public. In the picture at right Joy is standing below one of the Shuttle booster rockets.
Thiokol rocket display
Thiokol rocket display
Thiokol rocket display
Thiokol rocket display
From Salt Lake City we headed south, spending a couple of nights in the small town of Beaver, then into Zion National Park.

These are two views of our campsite at Zion, where we are staying a week.
Watchman campground in Zion National Park
Watchman campground in Zion National Park
Watchman campground in Zion National Park
Watchman campground in Zion National Park
Tuesday Sept 7th was our first full day at Zion, and it was overcast, windy, and drizzly, so we decided to wait until the next day to start hiking around the park.

Instead we headed south to Virgin and began a string of geocaches that were located within a few miles of highway 9. A lot of dirt roads head into the hills on both sides of the Virgin River.

The photos below were at a couple of caches above the river, both hiked in from below.
Geocaching around Virgin, Utah
Geocaching around Virgin, Utah
Geocaching around Virgin, Utah
Geocaching around Virgin, Utah
There are some impressive Hoodoos on the dirt road to the Ghost town of Grafton.

Grafton was founded in 1862, but mostly abandoned by 1906 and the last resident left in 1945. It is across the Virgin River and downstream from Rockville, which is just south of Zion National Park.

Various notes indicate that Grafton was used as a filming location for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Road to Grafton, Utah
Road to Grafton, Utah
Grafton, Utah
Grafton, Utah
Sammy the wildcat near Watchman Campground in Zion
Sammy the wildcat near Watchman Campground in Zion
Sammy enjoys playing "wild cat" on his evening walks. There are a great many lizards, and he tries to catch them all.
A view of two of the three Patriarchs (Abraham and Isaac) from the Court of the Patriarchs in Zion NP. The third Patriarch (Jacob) is behind Moroni, the peak on the right side of the photo.
The Court of the Patriarchs
The Court of the Patriarchs
This is a view through the modest water flow at Weeping Rock. They tell us that the water takes around 1200 years to percolate from the plateaus above until it exits at this point on the rock face.
Weeping Rock, Zion NP
Weeping Rock, Zion NP
Geocaching near Zion NP
Geocaching near Zion NP
Joy and Holly did not accompany me on this hike to a Geocache just south of Zion. They can be seen at the bottom of the picture on the roadway.
While waiting for the shuttle bus at the Human History Museum I took this panorama view of the East side of the canyon (16 photos were stitched together to make this one). I had some difficulty finding the name of the central peak, but eventually learned that it is Bridge Mountain. If you know where to look (it is tiny even in the enlarged photo) you can see Crawford Arch, also known as Bridge Mountain Arch, described as "a spectacular free standing, arc natural arch that is 3 feet wide and 156 feet long." Bridge Mountain Panorama in Zion NP
Bridge Mountain Panorama in Zion NP
We hiked the Emerald Pools trails above Zion Lodge, going up on the lower pool trail and coming back on the middle pool trail. Definitely good exercise!
Zion Lodge from the Middle Emerald Pool Trail
Zion Lodge from the Middle Emerald Pool Trail
Down canyon from the Middle Emerald Pool Trail
Down canyon from the Middle Emerald Pool Trail
We watched this guy wandering around alongside the trail. Learned later that it is a Tarantual Hawk Wasp, which has one of the most powerful stings in the insect world!

Its only predator is the roadrunner.
Tarantula Hawk Wasp, Zion National Park
Tarantula Hawk Wasp, Zion National Park
On our last day at Zion we went for a hike up the Zion Narrows. At the right is Joy at the start, and bottom right was taken on the way back down.

We saw a group of climbers rappel down a small waterfall from the canyon wall - don't know where they came from.
Hiking in the Zion Narrows
Hiking in the Zion Narrows
Climbers above the Zion Narrows
Climbers above the Zion Narrows
Hiking in the Zion Narrows
Hiking in the Zion Narrows
From Zion we moved the short distance east to Kanab. We had a product donation for the Wild Friends department at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and toured that on one day, then took the general tour which mostly covers the dog and cat sections the next day.

In between we did some geocaching around town, caught up with the laundry after 7 days of dry camping, and fixed a problem air conditioner.

The picture of us at the Powell Expedition monument was for a "virtual geocache" - a type where there is no physical container but usually something historical or geologic. That type of cache is no longer allowed as a geocache, but old ones are grandfathered in.
Kanab, Utah
Kanab, Utah
A monument to the Powell Expedition
A monument to the Powell Expedition
One of the cat rooms at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
One of the cat rooms at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
Inside one of the dog rooms at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
Inside one of the dog rooms at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon
Next stop after Kanab was Bryce Canyon.

Bryce is a place where you take hundreds of photos, and I'm not going to try to post many, just a small sample out of a couple of hundred.

In 2005 when we were here I as having problems with the altitude, but this year was much better and we did some good hikes.
Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon
From Bryce we moved on to Moab, with a stopover in Salina. This picture was taken from a geocache on a hill west of Salina - everything was colored by the sun filtering through a huge smoke cloud from a large fire that had been burning for days well to the west. Geocaching, Salina, Utah
Geocaching, Salina, Utah
Moab, Utah
Moab, Utah
This was along a trail near a creek that runs through Moab.
Arches National Park
Arches National Park
Arches National Park
Arches National Park
We had another good visit to Arches National Park, with a few hikes including up the magnificent Landscape Arch, bottom right.

We did not hike up to Delicate Arch again, below right, but remembered what it was like in 2005 as we saw people walking up the open rock surface, below left (long telephoto shots).
Arches National Park
Arches National Park
Arches National Park
Arches National Park
Arches National Park
Arches National Park
Arches National Park
Arches National Park
Durango was the next stop. We spent several days there and saw most of the town while out geocaching. Visited the train museum and generally saw the sights. Durango, Colorado
Durango, Colorado
Durango, Colorado
Durango, Colorado
Durango, Colorado
Durango, Colorado
The falll colors were in mid-change as we drove up from Durango to Silverton
Fall colors, Durango to Silverton
Fall colors, Durango to Silverton
Fall colors, Durango to Silverton
Fall colors, Durango to Silverton
Fall colors, Durango to Silverton
Fall colors, Durango to Silverton
Fall colors, Durango to Silverton
Fall colors, Durango to Silverton
Fall colors, Durango to Silverton
Fall colors, Durango to Silverton
Durango to Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Durango to Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Durango to Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Durango to Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Durango to Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Durango to Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
We did not take the train to Silverton (below) but did get a number of views of the trains from the road. We had lunch in Silverton and explored the back alleys while geocaching. Below left there is a geocache that you wouldn't need a GPS to find!
Silverton, Colorado
Silverton, Colorado
Silverton, Colorado
Silverton, Colorado
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta
We attended a Blue Bird rally at Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, which was one of the destinations of this trip. It was a great experience, and one we hope to do again in a couple of years. Perhaps go for a balloon ride! I have a full page of Balloon Fiesta pictures posted at this link.
I posted a long HD video on YouTube showing the inflation and launch of a balloon:
The Blue Hole, Santa Rosa, New Mexico
The Blue Hole, Santa Rosa, New Mexico
Heading on east from Albuquerque we spent a night in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, where we did some geocaching including one at the Blue Hole. This is a natural spring, 80 feet deep, flowing 3000 gallons per minute at a constant 64 degrees. It is heavily used by scuba divers for training.
On a two-night visit to Amarillo we did a day trip down into Palo Duro Canyon.
Palo Duro Canyon
Palo Duro Canyon
Palo Duro Canyon
Palo Duro Canyon
Oklahoma City Memorial
Oklahoma City Memorial
Oklahoma City Memorial
Oklahoma City Memorial
At Oklahoma City we visited the memorial, then headed south through Dallas to Austin.

While we were in OKC Holly devoloped some bruising in her abdomen, and we ended up with a confirmed diagnosis of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. In hindsight we had a number of minor symptoms that went unexplained, but from that point on she began going downhill rapidly for several days. As I type this on October 28th she has been on Prednisone for a week and chemo (chlorambucil) for two days. The first day, yesterday, was very hard on her, but today she is much happier and her appetitie is the best it has been in the last two weeks. We are hopeful that she will be able to do well for at least several more months, but we have to take it a day at a time.

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