All met at 7:30, loaded perishables, hugged farewells, and we were off. Reports from the youth... Synchronized Sleep, until we arrived at Moaning Caverns late morning. A bite of box lunch and then action!
This is the deepest spelunkable cave in California. We descended the easy way: we rappelled 164 ft down, the majority of it freely hanging in our harnesses taking in the stal'mites and 'tites. The Crew members completely controlled their own descend and speed, while traveling through rock chimneys and open caverns: a terrifying yet incredible experience.
From here we crossed the Sierras on Rte 108, the mountain tops still amply covered with snow, certainly enough for us to dally for a brief snowball fight. The pass was just simply gorgeous. We drove down the eastern Sierra slopes, passed Mono Lake and landed in the campground at June Lake. This part of the drive was accompanied by a fierce rain shower, but the rain was already tapering off as we pulled into the campground. We quickly set up shelter and cooked steak and mashed potatoes, topped off with peach cobbler, a perfect end to a long day. Anticipating a big day of driving the next day, all were eager to crash.
Temp was 40 at best in the morning, ice and frost greeted us. A nice warm breakfast of baggy eggs and fruit, then off for the mega drive - south by east across Nevada
We crossed a number of California and Nevada ranges and valleys. One mountain range was covered with Bristlecone Pines, some of the most aged and scrawny trees on the planet. We were hustling to get to Hoover Dam for a tour deadline. We stopped in Beatty, NV, actually part of of the Paiute Reservation, to make lunch to munch in the vans. We were slowed down in Vegas traffic, but finally arrived at the Security Checkpoint with 10 min to spare. We were greeted by a number of very serious looking armed Federal Agents: "May we inspect all of the crates (food containers and coolers) strapped to the the top of the van along with your luggage?" Say what? That'll take 45 min, we'll miss the tour. Is there any place we can view the Dam from the distance? "That's negative, Sir."
We had no alternative but to lick our wounds and push on. We drove to Kingman, AZ, stopped for fast food and added another 3 hours of driving to Flagstaff. Nearby we set up camp at Fort Tuthill
The morning stated with grab n go breakfast and packing out for the adjacent Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Park. It's a magnificent ropes course, with extensive challenges. We donned harnesses and received basic instructions. They taught us how to safely clip on to all the platforms and safety lines, and self launch. Then after a brief checkout on the demo course, they turned us loose on a series of increasingly more difficult rope traverses and greater heights. What a bunch of monkeys scampering between the trees. Picture stepping across tightropes, swinging planks, trapezes and zip lines. The final part was quite high and challenging. Didn't stop our Crew though, most all nailed it.
At this point we had a nice lunch and left for Slide Rock State Park, which features natural water slides. You basically sit in a slough and let the stream current take you downstream over smooth, slick rocks. Also did some cliff jumping. The place was crowded, but we managed to have fun.
Next stop was Mather Campsite in Grand Canyon National Park. We cooked a nice pasta dinner and retired early.
We got up really early to hike down the South Kaibob trail into the Canyon from the South rim. We rolled out at 6 AM, had a light breakfast, and were on the shuttle from the Visitor's Center to the trailhead by 7. The trail is a nice wide, often staired affair, starting with the switchbacks from hell (which we realized) on the return. We divided into groups of turtles and rabbits, connected by 2-meter radios, and descended to Ooh-Ahh Lookout Point some 600 feet below the the rim.
From here the vista is splendid with the strata in the rock glowing in the morning sun. Geologist Heaven! In the distance one sees the main Colorado River canyon tops, the river is not actually visible from the trail. Our perspective was actually a side canyon that drains into the Colorado. We emerged around 9:45 and returned to pack up camp and have lunch before the 11 AM checkout. On the drive to Lake Powell we stopped at some scenic turnouts to get more views of the Grand Canyon.
Along the way there is an area noted for condor sightings. Unfortunately, smoke from a wild land fire just north of the Canyon had obliterated any chance for condor views. So we pushed north and stopped for a stroll out to the Canyon rim to view Horseshoe Bend. Looked very cool, a few rafts rounding the loop, lined with a lush ribbon of vegetation along each shore. It looked like an oasis. We were perched several hundred feet above in the blistering heat battling intense wind gusts. The pictures and dreams of rafting the Colorado were worth it.
We arrived late afternoon at Wahweap Campgrounds on Lake Powell after crossing the Glen Canyon Dam. Our modern campground was perched on a hill overlooking the Lake Powell. We set up camp, went for a refreshing swim and then cooked our stir fry chicken dinner followed by s'mores. Then, showers!
We woke in Lake Powell to a lovely day, packed and out by 8, on to Ken's slot canyon tour. This is in Page, adjacent to our camp, on Navajo land. After registering, we were assigned a native tour guide. These canyons were formed in the red sandstone by eons of water erosion leaving incredible wavy formations with sunlight filtering in; it was photographer's delight. We climbed down a narrow stairway and crept along, some passages barely allowing one person to slide through. Our guide was an excellent advisor for photography and took some great group shots.
Following much picture taking and a picnic lunch, we began our drive north to our campsite near Moab. We drove across the edge of Monument Valley, where car commercials are often shot and numerous movies use the backdrop of sandstone buttes and mesas. Other then turnouts to take pictures we made two stops: there is a Burger King with a museum dedicated to Navajo WWII coders, a group of Navajo who transmitted troop movements and battle plans in native language, which was impossible for the Japanese or Germans to decode. Tricky! Allegedly saved thousands of American soldiers. Turns out that the son of one coder put up a highly unique in-store museum with a slew of mementos passed down from his father. Across the parking lot there are native dwellings and exhibits provided by the adjacent Kayenta Hampton Inn.
As we proceeded along the way we also stopped at Sand Island Park situated on the San Juan River to view an impressive series of petroglyphs etched into rock faces. Some are estimated to be 12000 years old.
We finally landed in an isolated BLM campground called Windwhistle, 30 min south of Moab. This was to be our 2 night home. We had the place all to ourselves and cooked a hearty beans n baked potato dinner with fixin's followed by the famous "death by chocolate" Dutch oven desert. What I observed going into this was layers of chocolate cake, chocolate icing, chocolate chips and crumbled chocolate Heath Bars. Once overdosed on this cocoa bean-derived temptation, we finally were able to settle in as the temp cooled off nicely and all drifted off to sleep.
This morning we enjoyed a breakfast of monkey bread, actually two Dutch ovens-worth. It is basically Cinnamon Buns. We finished it all in short order.
Today we drove just north of Moab to Arches National Park, which features some of the most impressive natural and majestic sandstone buttes. Out of these massive structures, nature has carved enormous arches over the last 300 million years. The temp was > 95 degrees. We covered a lot of territory and included in this a short hike and picnic lunch. Here's a view of the arches.
The visit was punctuated by a trailer rack accident, a very concerned pair of French couples managed to swipe one stop light off the back of the trailer platform. Much more damage occurred to their rental van, our light was easily replaced.
It was mid afternoon when we left the Arches visitor center to head into Moab for grocery shopping. We replenished all the perishables and ice. Then we headed back to our camp. Dinner was franks with chili, followed by brownies topped with ice cream!
We hustled out quickly from Windwhistle to Moab for kayaking down the Colorado in 2-man inflated kayaks often called "rubber duckies". We had a great guide for the four rapids, class 2-3, and the youth took on splashing the rafts with vigor. All survived the rapid roller coaster rides.
We had our lunch in Moab and proceeded on to Goblin Valley. This is an almost extraterrestrial scene, the sandstone hoodoos are enchanting. We wandered around, exploring, the whole time feeling like you're in another world.
From here we made our way to Singletree Campground, stopping once again for petroglyphs. We had a great group site and made both veggie and meat lasagna in Dutch Ovens. There was a fire ring and a pile of aspen logs, so the fire makers got into action. A peaceful end to the day.
After mountain man breakfast (a mixture of eggs, bacon and hash browned potatoes topped with cheese), we had a pow-wow to consider the days' plans. Dave conducted a short Scout's Own related to the prose from our Vespers. The anticipated 6-mile hike at Lower Calf Creek to a waterfall in 98 degree heat was scrapped in favor of possible lake swimming at the end of our visit to Bryce Canyon. On the way we stopped in Escalante for ice and took advantage of the cell service to call the Special Dads on Father's Day. From here we stopped at Mossy Cave for picnic lunch and a short hike to the cave-like amphitheater under a rock ledge draped with moss hydrated from water seeping through the rock. Being so hot, we diverted onto the stream trail leading to an ~10 foot waterfall, a number of us tried to cool off before proceeding.
Next stop Bryce Canyon: another vast natural wonder, comprised of sharp spires, geographic layers and spectacular colors, ever changing from cloud shade. We used the shuttle provided to view the canyon from different perspectives around the rim.
From here our heat-ravaged Crew detoured to Panguitch Lake, a beautiful oasis for a very refreshing swim call. We finished the drive to Cedar Canyon NP Campground. The road coursed through lush green forests, and at 10340 ft, there was still snow left and spectacular views of Cedar Canyon.
Once in Camp, we cooked up some barbecued chicken, mashed potatoes, minestrone soup and fruit chocolate fondue. The temperature was down enough that wool hats began to appear!
We had a hearty breakfast of perfect pancakes, and headed off for Zion NP. We chose the eastern entrance descending down into the Canyon through the tunnels. Long lines at the entrance confirmed our impression that it would be very crowded. We parked in Springdale, just outside the park and shuttled the rest of the way.
The Canyon floor is coursed by the Virgin River and surrounded by majestic walls, some named for great figures. After a picnic at The Grotto, we took a brief hike to Weeping Rock and then proceeded upstream for a hike into the Narrows. This involves traipsing between the canyon walls, either over river rocks or more often knee deep against the current. As you can just imagine, several of our boys went upstream like spawning salmon. Coming back downstream, many floated over Rapids bumping butts on the projecting rocks. The water was very refreshing however, especially since the temp in the blazing sun was close to 100. After retrieving a missing cellphone left in the loo, we decided to drop into a Pizza/Noodle joint and avoid cooking in the dark. We followed this with homemade ice cream cones and then wended our way back up to Cedar Canyon and a cool 77 degrees. Most were exhausted and flopped into their sacks.
After a breakfast of egg burritos, we left Southern Utah for Big Basin NP in central Nevada. We took a cool lunch break up at 10000 plus feet and then a spectacular tour of the Lehman Caves. A very serious and informative guide lead us through a series of backlit chambers pointing out the myriad limestone formations formed over the last 2-5 million years. It was discovered in the late 19th century by Lehman, a Utah rancher, who made it into a commercial venture that was moderately destructive until the National Park Service took control. Now, it is the focus of scientific studies that extend to numerous other caves in the vicinity and this one is open to guided tours. Hopefully, there'll no longer be any harvesting of stalactite fragments as souvenirs, a practice formerly encouraged by Lehman. As we emerged from the cave, naturally maintained at a perfect 55 degree temp, an enthusiastic astronomer had 2 telescopes set up for us to view the sun to visualize sun spots and the corona.
The rest of our day was spent driving across Nevada desolate deserts to our final campground: Bob Scott CG in Humboldt-Toyabe NF. We cooked up all our veggies and some Mac n Cheese. Dessert was a Dutch Oven 7-up cake, yum. We managed a nice campfire to round out our adventures. Some mighty ballads and rounds were sung in earnest.
We packed up and consumed handsomely cooked French Toast, although Mayeul assured us they don't use that name in France. As we paused for contemplation of our adventure, everyone was animated about the water-filled and harness-requiring adventures. We drove through Reno and stopped at the famous Cabella's for a game lunch. For example elk burgers and Bison brats. After scouring the shop we headed for good old CA.