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September 2007
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December 2007

Thanksgiving 2007 Road Trip

We delayed our departure for our long awaited Thanksgiving road trip to Thanksgiving Thursday instead of departing that Wednesday night after work. We had a long 12 hour drive from Denver to Kanab UT. We got in late - around 11pm.

It was very important that we reach Kanab in time for the opening of the BLM office in Kanab on Friday to get a permit for the Wave.

The last time I was at the Wave was in 2003. Kevin and I had tried to go to the Wave since then but many things transpired against us - one year we got permits but the road conditions were bad!

Things have changed since 2003. For one thing the demand for Wave permits is quite something. The BLM office in Kanab was packed with people. Instead of a "first come, first served" approach to getting the permit they now have a lottery system. This means despite being first in line, we did not get the day of our choice (our luck was not good.) They have a lottery system if there are more than 10 people for a particular day. One can only get a permit for the following day. Friday one has the choice of selecting Saturday, Sunday or Monday. And one cannot get a permit for consecutive days.

Instead we got a permit for Monday.

This meant we now had a whole weekend to "kill" and we had to get back to Kanab Sunday night in preparation of our Wave trip.

After picking up our precious permits, we decided to immediately check out of our Motel, but reserve Sunday and Monday night (Monday being the day we would hike to the Wave) and find breakfast.

Kanab is not a large town. Right on the main street is Grandma Tina's Cafe. It was open, and most importantly it looked busy (always a good sign.)


I had French Toast, 2 eggs, and country sausage. Kevin had the plain omelet. I felt quite decadent. The breakfast was good, the service friendly and efficient.

We then planned the next couple of days. We decided to immediately head for Zion National Park. We had visited this park in 2003 but did not have enough time to explore the park. Zion is quite close to Kanab - no more than an hour's drive away.

We ended up staying Friday and Saturday night in Springdale UT, a small resort town at the south entrance of the park. If you plan to do any exploring in Zion, I strongly recommend using Springdale as your base. During the season I can imagine that the traffic jams (no cars are allowed in the park) and the crush of people must be quite annoying. But here Kevin and I were in one of the most glorious parts of the world - off season.



What this means is : no crush of people, no struggle for the elusive parking lot, and off season rates at all the motels and hotels in Springdale. The experience was so enjoyable, it was enough to make us want to come back for Christmas!

We stayed at the Bumbleberry Motel for both nights. The rooms were clean, and the beds comfortable.

Each day we tried to explore a little part of the park, and try and do some of the walks. Springdale is also a fascinating resort town, and is quite easy to walk it. Down the road from Springdale is the little hamlet of Rockville (home of the Fatali School of Photography). From Rockville follow the sign to the old ghost town of Grafton (used in a number of Westerns - the most famous being Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid)

We hiked the Court of the Patriachs, and ambled through the Grotto. We spotted a mule deer and her two fawns grazing the sage brush on The Watchman hike. And we managed to leave ourselves something to come back to - such as Angel Falls.

We also found during our stay and Springdale the perfect burger.

As I may have mentioned before - the perfect burger is a difficult thing to find. There are a number of factors that have to be perfectly balanced - burger bun, patty, fries and overall presentation. I highly recommend Oscar's Cafe in Springdale for the best burgers in the west. They were so good we ate there both nights, and each time they were consistently good.

Try the Murder burger. It comes presented with a giant steak knife "stabbed" through the bun. The burger patties are of perfect consistency and are made unashamedly with garlic (on the menu the burgers are referred to as "garlic burgers".) Oscars scores major points with me for their fries - these are not your common french fry - but sweet potato fries! Heavenly!!

Oscar's is quite small - and it always seemed to be busy. Both nights we had to wait for our table - and each time it was well worth the wait.

We left Springdale on Sunday and ended up Sunday night at our Motel in Kanab. I was so excited. The next morning I would be seeing the Wave once more. We set our alarm for 4 am, and left the motel promptly at 4:30am. It takes about an hour to get from Kanab to the Wave trailhead. I would recommend that you check out the road conditions the day before, in day light. Do not try to drive these roads in bad weather. They are impassable when wet!

We were the first car in the parking lot. It was dark and cold. The hike to the Wave is supposed to be on an unmarked trail. When you receive your permit at the BLM office you get a brief orientation. This orientation has changed since last time - before you were shown some fuzzy photos of various landmarks and were expected to get on with it. Not this time - we got a full brochure, with GPS coordinates, and photos describing the route in detail. In addition to that it is quite hard to miss the trail - just follow the foot prints, and the little stone cairns.

The sunrise was gorgeous - soft pink light over slick rock desert, lighting up a rippled sky. We took our time to breathe it all in and reached the Wave itself before the sun's rays had hit it. (Optimum time for shooting the Wave is around 11am - depending on season.)

We had a wonderful time scampering over slick rock and pretending to be Mountain Goats. What is so wonderful is that the rock is actually quite sticky and not slippery at all.

The quiet was soon disturbed by people. I counted more than 10 people. I guess the 10 people limit is just for walk ins, and the remainder were internet permit bookings. I resented the people. Why do people have to insist on talking in a place that is designed for silence and wonder? Of course the Wave itself - being bowl like and surrounded by rock has amazing acoustics. So be careful - a quiet whisper can be heard by everyone.

I really resented having to listen to the conversations of the groups. We had one exciteable man that told the entire Northern Hemisphere (or so it seemed) that he had walked to a point and turned and then there was his shot, his screen saver.

While you are at the wave take time to explore the surroundings. If you can find the route to the arch at the South side of the wave - please let me know. Kevin and I tried to get up there, but we ended up turning around as it was simply getting too steep.

Also - you must not forget to find the Burger Rock. Given the burger theme of our stay at Springdale, we had fun posing with it.

Here Kevin attempts to find his way to the Arch.


Kevin photographing in the bowl of the wave. I wanted to give some idea of the scale of the Wave.


Our shadows looking down into the main bowl of the Wave.


Classic Wave.


Kevin and Sally pose with Hamburger Rock.

We had a wonderful, magical day at the Wave. It is sad to see that this place has become so well known and popular. While one wants to share it with people, one also wants to protect it. Sometimes "leaving only footprints" is too much.

By the way - My Wave experience was some what marred by having to pack out someone else's trash- to the person that buried a soiled sanitary pad - the rule "pack it out" refers to such items. Do not bury it in the desert for some creature to dig it out!

Veteran's Day Road Trip - Badlands SD

We left for our road trip to Badlands SD on Friday night of the Veteran's Day long weekend. We drove to Lusk, and stayed Friday night at a motel there. The next morning we drove into South Dakota through Custer State Park. We avoided both Mt Rushmore and Crazy Horse - I have a strong objection to both sites - I do not approve of carving faces on the natural landscape, and two wrongs do not make a right. Crazy Horse was a little hard to miss - the highway goes right passed it, and one can see it. To read more about the Crazy Horse memorial go here. To read more about Mt Rushmore go here.


You can see Crazy Horse Memorial from the highway.

Custer State Park
was an unexpected treat. It is well worth the entrance fee. Drive the Needles Highway, so called because the road meanders through gorgeous rock formations called "Needles". The views are spectacular.


The road narrows to a single lane through enormous needle like rocks.

We were also quite lucky to spot some wildlife: bison, big horn sheep, deer and prong horns.


Bambi grazes


We saw a dark large shape from afar, next to a row of cars in a parking lot at the Visitor Center in Custer State Park. As we drove closer we noticed this large sleepy bison keeping some cars company.


Here is a close up of the Guardian of the Parked Cars.

We ended up Saturday night at Wall SD home of the famous Wall Drug Store.

After checking in, I asked the Receptionist for her recommendations for the best burger in Wall. The Elkhorn Restaurant was recommended to us.

This is a casual restaurant filled with locals and hunters. Kevin and I have quite high standards when assessing a burger. There are a number of factors we look at: the burger bun, the burger patty, fries and overall presentation. The Elkhorn gets points for their burger patty - they certainly use quality meat for that.

The next day we headed for Badlands National Park. We followed the main vehicle access. Overall impressions - landscape is certainly interesting, however, we have seen more dramatic landscapes in our Utah explorations - so we weren't totally impressed with what we had to see. The Park is divided into 2 distinct parts (vehicle accessible parts.) The part that we really enjoyed was the drive to the west of the park as you enter from Wall. Here you see rolling grasslands, mixed in with mesas and gullies. Dotting the landscapes were strange bushes, and bushes which looked like bison, and bison which looked like bushes. We found this part of Badlands more interesting.


This photo shows the more traditional image of the Badlands.


I found this side of Badlands more interesting - rolling seas of grassland.


It is quite easy to mistake a bison for a dark bush in the rolling landscape.

We ended up Sunday night at Chadron NE.

We were directed to Aunt Helen's Restaurant for the best burger in Chadron. It was good- but still not the perfect burger.

Monday (Vet's Day) we drove back to Denver, stopping off at Prewitt Res. to see whether we could spot any birds. Instead we found the duck hunters - dogs and decoys ready. We left hurriedly.

Mystery Goose

We are experiencing a wonderful extended Fall. Gorgeous golden days, warm and sunny. Last weekend we visited a small lake in Longmont call Jim Hamm Wildlife Area. The weekend before we had seen a great diversity of ducks - American Widgeons, Coots, Gadwells, Mallards, and Pied Billed Crebe.

This weekend we wanted to go back.

We went and saw a flock of Canadian Geese. Nothing to get too excited about. Except in amongst the Canadian geese was this mystery goose.


We think that what we are seeing is an immature blue morph Snow Goose. The other option is a Canadian Goose who has bred with a domestic goose.

Very mysterious.