Friday, June 12, 2015


I worked for 15 years, between 1978–1992, for the United States Forest Service on the Kaibab National Forest about ten miles from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and I have revisited my old stomping grounds over the ensuing years several times with several close friends. But never with my lovely wife Inna.
I was looking forward to sharing some old memories and seeing a treasured landscape through the eyes of my loving soul mate.
To make things even more interesting, Inna’s son Arthur and his girlfriend Tiala would be joining us for our little expedition.
There was certainly the potential for high drama, starting with the fact that every time Inna saw a Southwestern scene on the TV or at the movies, she would say something like, “Where are the trees? It's all just red rocks.”

So, it was entirely likely that Inna would find the Southwest to be uniformly boring and entirely lacking in beauty.
And wouldn't that be fun for 14 days on the road?
Now throw in two young people who live in Lower Manhattan in NYC, and who had never been exposed to the high desert world of redrocks, and whose idea of fun isn’t exactly the same as those of a fat old hippie in his sixties.
Add a pinch of mother-son back and forth, 24/7, for a week, inside a crowded car while sharing a motel room half the time.
And we had all the right ingredients for trouble.
And if that wasn't enough, this was going to be a working vacation of sorts.
In addition to guiding my loved ones around the Grand Circle – Zion, Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Lake Powell, Bryce, and Cedar Breaks – we were preparing a  “how to” video, photo log, and budget breakdown for my book lecture entitled “The Best of the Southwest”, where I tell you the best places to shop, buy your liquor, get a good hotel room or camp, the premiere hikes in each park, where to grab the best meals, and what it all might cost.
We stayed at some of the finer lodges and hotels this time around, so the cost is pretty high if you try and follow our lead.  You can definitely do it cheaper.  But if you want the best, you gotta pay to play.
And guess what else?
We all had an absolute ball.  Inna and the Gang loved every minute of the trip.  Me too!
After Arthur and Tiala flew home from Page, Arizona on Day 7, Inna said to me as we drove through the misty Jurassic landscape of Navajoland, “Now I see why you love the Southwest so much.  Every day of this trip has been something amazingly beautiful and completely different than the day before.  It’s like a magical journey where we wake up every day and we are in another world.”

The “Best of the Southwest” booklet and videos will be rolling out this summer, but in the meantime, here’s a little taste of what’s to come.
Friday  May 15 - FLY TO VEGAS

Southwest Airlines - $565 per person roundtrip (RT)

Fox SUV Rental (14 days) - $560 (does not include gas)

Red Roof Inn near the McCarron Airport - $150

*  Vegas offers a veritable smorgasbord of great places to stay and dine, so you should shop around for a good deal which pop up every day on travel websites like Kayak, Travelocity and Expedia.

Saturday May 16 - ZION NATIONAL PARK

Weather – High - 75F, Low - 50F; Chance of Rain - 20%

Breakfast - Casa Blanca Resort buffet in Mesquite

Dinner - Bit and Spur in Springdale (Best restaurant in Southern Utah!)

Drive I-15 toward Salt Lake City to Mesquite, NV. (85 miles)
The speed limit is 80!
Stop @ the Walmart in Mesquite, NV for liquor, groceries, cooler, and lawn chairs.
Drive I-15 to Virgin River Recreation Area right off the interstate. (20 miles)
Highlights Virgin River Recreation Area (no entrance fee) offers spectacular views of the Virgin River Gorge and there is a short, steep, sandy trail down to the river from the lower picnic area

Drive I-15 north to the turnoff for State Highway 17 toward La Verkin. (20 miles)

In La Verkin take SH 9 to Springdale. (20 miles)

Annual Pass – Purchase an Annual Pass when you enter Zion National Park, which will save you $95 in the long run because you won’t have to pay $25 every time you enter another national park during the trip (there will be 7). The pass costs $80 and is good in any National Park, National Monument, or National Recreation Area in the country for a whole year.

* Unless you are staying at Zion Lodge, you cannot take your personal vehicle into the park beyond the Visitor Center.  Free shuttles are available all day and into the evening to and from Springdale to the Visitor Center and the end of Zion Canyon at the Temple of Sinawava. (trailhead for The Narrows), stopping at all of the viewpoints along the way.
Hike  Angels Landing  5.5 miles RT (4 hours) - one of the top hikes in the Southwest. Very steep sections with long drop-offs and extreme exposures. Not for young children or people with fear of heights beyond the saddle below the summit. The last section is along a narrow, steep ridge to the top, with chains for you to hold on to in some places.

                                                 Zion Lodge and Cabin

                      Western Cabin - 2 Doubles

Camping – South Campground is located ½ mile from the South Entrance. There are 127 campsites (including three wheelchair accessible) available first-come, first-served. There are no hook-ups; a dump station is available for campers. Generators are allowed from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. and from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Campsites are $16.00 per night.

Breakfast - Cafe Soleil in Springdale
Lunch - Zion Lodge
Dinner - Zion Lodge 
Hikes – Zion Narrows via the Riverside Walk – Hike up-river to the Subway – 4.5 miles RT (4 hours). No trail after the first mile along the Riverside Walk which is paved. After that, you just hike in the river. Swift current, cold, waist-high in spots, and the rocks underfoot are slippery. Bring a walking stick!

Lower Emerald Pools – 1.2 miles RT and pretty flat. (1 hour)

Weeping Rock – 1 miles RT. Short but very steep in spots. (1 hour)

                  Bumbleberry Inn in Springdale
                              2 Queens
          Balcony, pool and Jacuzzi + Free WiFi

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