Cliff Springs Trail is a 1 mile hike. The park guide said it would take 1 hour approximately for the round-trip hike. It started off meandering down a forested ravine and supposedly ended where a chest-high boulder rests under a large overhang (see above). But when we arrived at this boulder the trail kept going behind where I am standing. Since we had not been hiking that long we continued on. We realized the trail wasn’t maintained after another .5 mile but kept going. There were times when I just knew someone was going to slide off the edge and you couldn’t even see the bottom. We finally got to a point where you couldn’t go anymore…but Chris did. (see pic below)

Carter looking through the hole Chris had found. I wouldn’t walk out there.

The spring is on the cliff side of the boulder. The “spring” wasn’t even a trickle running down the canyon wall when we saw it. It was more like a wet spot on the wall with a muddy mess below. We saw lots of deer tracks, Kaibab squirrels, and birds around the “spring” so it must be useful just not what we were expecting.

The trail itself was short but the exploring we did past the trail was fun.

J

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After leaving Marble Canyon and the Navajo Bridge we started going up the Kaibab Plateau which has an elevation of over 9,000 feet. We got gas at a station near Jacob’s Lake and began heading south on Highway 67 (which is closed from November – March, or so) through the Kaibab Forest. It’s a 45 minute drive from Jacob’s Lake to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

view from atop the Kaibab Plateau
Our first of many buffalo sightings
We aren’t the type of people to wait in a line to take our picture next to a sign. I had to crop out the people who were having their picture taken. I just took one from the car.

Next up – more North Rim pictures form the good camera,

J

After leaving Monument Valley we stayed in Page, Arizona for a night (one of the prettiest towns we saw) before traveling the rest of the way to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We stopped high above Lake Powell and saw Marble Canyon and part of Glenn Canyon. Apparently we drove right past Horseshoe Bend and didn’t realize it until later on. We did not have time to stop at Antelope Canyon but want to go back and spend a few days in Page. Chris wants to rent a houseboat!

One of our favorite stops along the way was the Navajo Bridge. This bridge crosses the Colorado River from 467 feet above. We visited the visitor’s center and walked across to the Navajo Nation side to check out the Native American vendors. I wasn’t going to walk across it at first but as my family jovially crosses I had to try (although I walked right down the middle and had a slight panic attack). Most of these pics were not taken by me because I did not get close to the edge. There’s one picture that LOOKS like I’m on the edge next to the railing. I promise you I’m not.

The new bridge (for vehicles) opened in May of 1995. The old bridge (only 18 feet wide) became for pedestrians only.

So pretty,

J

This is the view from our balcony:

A few of the deer outside our balcony as seen from the park bench. During the day this section was covered with visitors taking pictures, reading, playing games, and having picnics.


View from our room 
All lodge food is expensive but this restaurant (Red Rock Grill) was one of our favorites. We had so much food! Chris got a bison burger and I got Navajo tacos.  

Our favorite place,

J

We knew it was going to be pretty but the ride in made the excitement even greater. Even the red road was pretty.

Zion NP has been everyone’s favorite place so far. We got there after lunch and hiked The Narrows. It was busy! But we expected it to be. In fact there’s an article on how the park may limit the number of visitors.

We stayed at the Zion Lodge. It was expensive for one night but worth it. If you don’t stay at the lodge you cannot enter with your personal car but must take the transit instead. We reserved a room here a year in advance and they sent us a rearview mirror tag to hang inside our van. Only visitors with the tag can enter and park at the lodge. It made it so much easier to get around and stay out late. 

Around dark most visitors left on the transit bus so they wouldn’t be stuck inside the park. If you miss the bus out then you have to walk out back to wherever you parked your car. With all the tourists gone we had dinner on the lodge rooftop then sat and watched the deer eat until we couldn’t see anymore. There’s a very nice grove like setting in front of the lodge and at dusk the deer come alive and swarm to the green grass. We even saw a fox!

The Narrows is basically the bottom of Zion Canyon containing the Virgin River. We rode the transit system to the last stop (Temple of Sinawava) and walked down a paved pathway (Riverside Walk) along the river that ended where you begin your Narrows hike. I highly recommend the Zion Guru for tips on the Narrows plus other hikes at Zion National Park.

Things you need to hike the Narrows:

*Water shoes (Chris had these and the kids and I all had Chacos/Tevas. In the town of Springdale you can rent some epic water boots. If we had come in on that side of the park we would have definitely done this!) The rocks were kind of like slippery bowling balls. You have to be strategic in where you put your feet to step.

*Hiking stick (people leave theirs at the trailhead for others to use but we brought our own.) It definitely helped keep me sure-footed because I have a tendency to roll my ankles if I’m not careful.

Swim suits/clothes suitable for getting wet (The kids got in the water which was FREEZING cold. As day turned to night Carter got really cool in his wet clothes as the canyon bottom is way cooler than the desert top.)

Backpack – We just carried water and a few snacks. The kids did not carry theirs this time.

Watch (Make sure you look at the schedule for the last bus pickup so you can be back in time to make it out of the park.)

Camera, obviously. We didn’t take the big camera or my phone because I was afraid I would drop them. Chris’s Samsung is waterproof so we took it instead.

More later on Zion (everyone’s favorite place),

J

monument valley


John Wayne’s spot

Read part 1 here.

J

  1. Big Texan Steakhouse
  2. Cadillac Ranch

More pictures and info from a previous post HERE.

Chris recently stopped shaving his head and if you know him personally you know his hair doesn’t move or get wet. To me the best part of the video is when the killer Amarillo wind actually MOVED his hair.

J

Here’s the video for the earlier post about the Balcony House tour at Mesa Verde. I’m deathly afraid of heights so my family did not think I would go through with it. The scariest part to me was climbing the open face cliff wall. The kids were laughing because I took one step at a time on the ladders. I never looked down.

I highly recommend the Balcony Tour.

Five stars,

J

It was a really small room but it served its purpose. We wanted to stay inside the park and not have to drive up and down the mesa while there. This is the only hotel inside the park. Ryan slept on a sleeping bag in the floor. We had a nice balcony, cool 68 degree weather, and all the PBJ you could eat.

Like I said the room was small with only double beds and the bathroom was tiny! We weren’t inside the room much as we spent most of our time hiking and exploring. The views were superior, and seeing the pueblo people’s kivas and dwellings were worth the small room.

Ryan’s shots of the room and view – Our van threw up in the room

The only downside to the park was when we decided we needed an actual meal instead of PBJ. We tried the Far View Terrace for a late lunch. It was SO expensive. A sandwich meal (panini or cheesesteak, chips, drink) or fancy flatbread pizza was $14 (times 5). Since there’s only 2 places to eat they definitely overcharge. I highly recommend NOT eating there. There wasn’t much to choose from and it the food was mediocre. The workers were super friendly though! The kids ended up not even eating most of what they ordered because it was Greek based (go figure in an Indian-based park). After eating PBJ for days the meal was a let down and not worth the money. There was another restaurant inside the park but the kids would not have eaten anything on the menu. Plus they are only open at dinner and most items were $24-25 each (times five). Chris and I would have loved to have tried the authentic food.

Overall, Mesa Verde was somewhere everyone needs to see. The Balcony Tour video is coming up tomorrow. All five of us give it a TEN!

To recap:

  1. Stay at the Far View Lodge for convenience
  2. Bring your own food or pay for mediocre overpriced food
  3. Book a ranger-guided Balcony House tour or other cliff tour
  4. Hike into the canyon and bring plenty of water (Petroglyph trail was awesome)

J


I know this hurts your head to watch. He’s so proud of it.

Beginning: Carter looks for a crawfish in a creek run-off at the Blue Hole in Santa Rosa, New Mexico.

Middle: Carter finds a crawfish and runs to tell the fam.

End: (spoiler) Carter shows us the crawfish as the camera goes underwater and sits on the sand upside-down. He says he can see the crawfish. The rest of us have yet to spot it. Can you?

I wish the case hadn’t been on the action cam so we could hear what he’s saying to the camera!

J

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