Five of us, two humans and three dogs, fled Montana ahead of a record breaking blizzard 10 days ago. Montana got a lot of snow, we hit a lot of places. Portal Irish Music Week attendees gather on Wednesday night. It’s Monday night and as much as we’d like to see people in Portal and catch up before camp we’re hanging out in the high country. There’s no fence at our campsite and Portal temperatures have been a little too high to use the truck as a kennel so we’ve spent the week on public lands where people are few and the weather is balmy. The weather is predicted to cool off by Saturday so that will make canine management slightly easier but with fifty people and my dad and his girlfriend all descending on Portal at the same time the dogs are going to be a pain in the tookus no matter how you look at it.
Here’s where we’ve been: Camas National Wildlife Refuge, Curlew National Wildlife Refuge, the Golden Spike National Historic Site, the Hawk Watch Site in the Goshutes, Cathedral Gorge State Park, Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, Zion National Park, the Pariah River BLM area, Wupatki National Cultural Area, Sunset Crater, Meteor Crater National Landmark, and San Francisco Hot Springs.
Curlew NWR isn’t worth a visit but the road it’s on is worth driving. Cathedral Gorge State Park is a lovely site with a few fun and easy trails, plus hot water. Pahranagat NWR is worth a visit and a few days, especially if you have a canoe and some time. Boating season is restricted so check ahead. Zion we just drove through. That was really a fun thing. More below. Wupatki was hot so I stayed with the dogs. Felonies are best avoided unless you are a siting president. If you’re president I guess you can do whatever the fuck you want. Leave your dog in a hot car Mr. Trump and we’ll see how long you last. Oh, you don’t have a dog. Oops, I lost my train of thought. Sunset Crater is a forested area with interesting volcanic formations but you can’t walk the crater. Meh. Meteor Crater is mind blowing because it stands as a monument to one guy’s scientific discovery. More below.
So Zion. Zion National Park is a postage stamp sized park compared to Yellowstone. It straddles two sides of a highway. To gain access to the heart of the park you must park (English, so fun) and take a shuttle. There was no parking in the park on that day but the drive through is gape worthy. Our gNash trailer is a mere 2″oversized for a highway tunnel on the route through the park but for $15 the National Park Service Stops traffic and lets you drive the tunnel down the middle of the road. Not wanting to be a nuisance we wondered if we should just drive around but we’d burn way more than $15 in fuel to skip the tight tunnel. Here’s the simple system to prevent head-ons in the tunnel. An oversized vehicle (us) arrives at a kiosk at one end of the tunnel. The attendent calls ahead to the other side and says, “Stop the traffic” or “wide load” or “road hog”. The attendant on the other end gives a white baton to the last car through from his direction and halts traffic. The baton holder travels the tunnel and as they exit they give the baton to the attendant on our side. The road hog is given the all clear to enter the tunnel. With lights on they straddle the yellow line for a mile and a half. There are view windows along the route. This was fun and worth every cent.
Meteor Crater National Monument has been on my do list since circa 1986 when we passed by on a western US rock climbing trip. I’ve always been intrigued by photos of the enormous blast crater. The meteor conveniently struck on I-40 just east of Flagstaff. Well, it was before I-40 but what a nice coincidence. I’ve probably driven in the vicinity 20 times. I think it’s either been too expensive or inconvenient on previous outings. The monument is privately owned so it’s not eligible for a free pass under our Senior Access Permit but I made Burt take me. A few years back we visited a meteor crater in Texas and it was such a let down I just had to see this one. If you’re passing through I say 5 stars. This site was discovered a long time back but interestingly at the time scientists believed it was just another volcanic crater. One guy, A. Foote, in 1891 said it was a meteor crater. Nobody believed him, but he was correct. Then another guy, Daniel Barringer, came to the same conclusion. He was so confident he bought the site. Still nobody believed him. All that volcanic stuff was obfuscating the situation. It wasn’t until 1960 that the scientific community caught up. Finally. Red meat anyone? The area has been protected and marketed by the Barringer family for several generations. They have built a fun and interesting interpretation center. It was too hot to leave the dogs for long so I didn’t get to play with as many of the toys as I wanted but I was satisfied with our visit. Thumbs up. Read more HERE or HERE. And they have a dog kennel for hot days. Our dogs would have filled the place if we’d opted to use it.