Sunshine, cloud-freckled blue skies, and amazing sculpted rocks from 10,000 feet!
My husband’s birthday was this week, so his sister decided to fly up from Texas to help him celebrate.  Her husband used to train F16 pilots in the Air National Guard; now, in their retirement, they like to do some of their traveling in a little four-seater prop plane.

We had taken short scenic flights with them in years past, but Earth Day shaped up to be the best day for an extended flightseeing tour of red rock country in southern Utah and northern Arizona.  And what a day it was!

We climbed above familiar valley terrain and the carved edges of the Colorado Plateau as we followed the Colorado River west into Utah.

Snow lingered at the top of Glade Park and glistened on the La Sals in the distance.

River rapids below and rock pillars pointing skyward… we wove our way through the sky towards the splendor of national parks in Utah and Arizona.

Soon we could see the road below, leading through “Park Avenue” and the ridges outlining mounds of arches in Arches National Park.

The landscape is a maze of erosion.

Past Moab and beyond the rock fins that rise to the west….

We enter into the expanse of Canyonlands

and encounter the upper reaches of Lake Powell

Red rock ridges rimmed in blue water and sky….

We pass the Glen Canyon dam and head past the Vermillion cliffs, over Lee’s Ferry and into Marble Canyon

Lenticular clouds indicate strong winds above us as we climb to soar above the north rim of the Grand Canyon

… and over the edge to cross this expanse of the Grand Canyon near Fossil Bay…

waterfalls spilling from the canyon walls are dwarfed by the landscape….

We skirt the south rim, enjoying the view of the San Francisco Peaks on the horizon to the south… then climb 1000 feet higher to return to the north rim and head back toward Page, AZ.

Lunch in town and then we take off again, heading northeast ….

Past Navajo Mountain….

… Monument Valley….

The goosenecks on the San Juan and Valley of the Gods ….

Sleeping Ute Mountain…..

Comb Ridge and Butler Wash near Bluff, Utah….

We were going to follow the Dolores River north but the weather looked threatening in that direction….

So we head back toward Moab and retrace our path along the Colorado … past Arches NP

and the Colorado National Monument…

… and into the Grand Valley we call home.

AMAZING DAY of Flightseeing. . . Thanks Gary and Dona!

Familiar places from an amazing vantage… ready for adventure?! Sure… Let’s Go!

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Lose the Crowds…

A sunny spring weekend is ripe for outdoor adventures, but unfortunately I find the throngs of fellow adventurers to be a deterrent.  Roads, campgrounds and many popular trails can become clogged with spontaneous weekend visitors. Luckily, our plans include a few strategies for losing the crowds and finding a bit of springtime solitude.

Five suggestions come to mind:

First, pack light… Today we’ll leave our pop-up trailer behind and opt instead for throwing sleeping gear, a small cooler and picnic basket in the back of the truck to allow for spending the night out somewhere if we choose to.  We are looking forward to making our tent trailer a home base  for summer adventures farther from home, but this weekend we don’t want to add finding a campsite to our frustrations. 2.  Hit the backroads… We make distance on the freeways but our destination will be down narrow scenic byways and the dirt roads that spider off from there.  Having a high clearance vehicle is a great advantage, and 4wd is even better. 3.  Get out of the vehicle…Take a walk! It’s always fun to explore some little used jeep trail to remote destinations but the best wilderness experience is multi-sensory and requires a bit of physical exertion. Losing the tire tracks and most of the footprints is one sure way to lose the crowds.  I like to follow my sense of curiosity… What IS over that next hill? Even on the most popular of weekends this strategy will thin crowds to a trickle… most people stick to the asphalt. . . even (maybe especially) in the big name national parks! The roads were full of ATV-laden trailers and RVs, but today we have the hiking trails all to ourselves!

4.  Load the GPS with geocaching adventures….. I consider this the best strategy of all… to seek out caches where I can pull off the side of the road, lace up my boots and head cross-country to follow fellow cacher’s recommendations to a “favorite hidden gem”.

This way, I am in for a physical and mental challenge that is generally not on the map.  I like to look for caches that give parking coordinates and describe the terrain.  A terrain difficulty of 3.5 or 4 often promises some of the most diverse and rewarding of views.

5.  Go prepared – hiking sticks, water bottles or camelbaks, snacks, camera, GPS, first aid kit, gazetteer maps, binoculars, bird and flower identification books, sketch pad, pencil and pen… these are a few of the things I typically throw in my bag as we head out.  Plan to spend some time, change plans on the fly, enjoy the day.

What would you add to the list? It’s another beautiful day out there… bet I can find a quiet spot!… Ready?

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