Friday, May 6, 2022

Cycling Stony Valley Rail Trail and the Union Canal Tunnel

Located in PA State Game Lands 211 
outside of Jonestown, Lebanon County, PA
the Stony Valley Railroad Grade is pretty isolated. 


One end, close to where we started, 
is the Lebanon Reservoir and dam. 


The other end, 20 miles later, 
is near Ellendale Forge. 
But other trail users, 
and there were not many,
said you could get to Dauphin 
along the Susquehanna River from there as well.


The best sight along the trail was above...
do you see it?
There were several of them. 
Beaver Lodges. 
We saw 3 from one vantage point. 
We didn't see active beavers though.


This trail tends to be a little rough. 
My husband did not like it 
and was ready to leave way before me 
and I'm the one without shock absorption. 


We totaled 20 miles which means we 
completed half the trail. 
(20 mi is my mental limit 
unless motivated by something else...
ice cream maybe?)
I don't think either of us is in a hurry to 
complete the other half.

For trail info click here 



Since we were in the area we stopped to see the 
Union Canal Tunnel
which can be seen from a park with said name. 


The Union Canal Tunnel boasts being the oldest in the USA 
and was built 1825-1827. 
The mules used along the towpath made their way over top the tunnel 
while the boats were poled through it. 

For more canal info click here.

I would not go out of my way for either 
the rail trail or the tunnel, 
but if you are near it 
the tunnel is a nice stop.

Click here for my additional images.




Tuesday, November 2, 2021

The First Timer's Visit to Utah's 5 National Parks, Day 9 Finding the Magic in Canyonlands National Park

Day 9 Finding the Magic in Canyonlands National Park
Before you go watch the NPS park video.
Canyonlands Park Basic Information has up to date info on everything from hours, trails, map, and fees.
  • Since we were first timers we went to the most popular and accessible part of the park - Island in the Sky. I think Canyonlands is big enough to demand a return trip for some exploring in the other parts of the park: The Needles, The Maze and Horseshoe Canyon.
  • Allow 45 minutes travel time from Moab to Island in the Sky, Canyonlands
Drive to Mesa Arch in Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands for sunrise or as close to it as you can get.  This is a very popular spot because this is where the magic is.  Once sunrise is over people pack up and leave and it will be much quieter.  I hated all the people there.  We arrived an hour after sunrise and I took this image over the shoulder of a selfie-girl taking endless selfies at this prime location.  Sadly she wasn't even positioned to get this view! Don't be a spot hogger like selfie-girl.  

My favorite photo of the trip.*
Mesa Arch


Drive to the end of Grand View Point Rd to the Grandview Point Overlook. 15 min. Canyonlands in noa as crowded as Arches but there is also less parking.

End of trail to Upheaval Dome Lookout.*

Canyonlands National Park*


DRIVE Backtrack to White Rim Overlook 
  • HIKE 1.8 mi/1hr One of the best east-facing vistas is White Rim Overlook, which offers sweeping 300-degree views from the mid-point a 1.8-mile round trip hike. 
Drive back to Grand View Point Rd and continue north (turn right) to Buck Canyon Overlook
Continue N on Grand View Point Rd keeping left at the Y to Green River Overlook on the left.
Exit left from this overlook to Upheaval Dome Rd. Park at Upheaval Dome Trailhead. 
  • HIKE to crater views 1.8mi RT/1.25hr
  • HIKE Optional add ons/alternatives: Whale Rock panorama 1mi/30min hike and Aztec Butte to ancient granaries 2mi/1hr on Upheaval Dome Road.
Finish Canyonlands by returning toward the visitor center but stop at Shafer Overlook before exiting. 

From here we made our way to Salt Lake City to be ready for an early morning flight the next day. What I liked about flying out of SLC is the rental car return is connected directly to the airport terminals.  We kept the car and drove ourselves to the airport at 4:30 morning!  (We had an early flight.)   

HOTEL We stayed at a Holiday Inn Express Airport East, close to the airport. It was average. 
DINNER The hotel host recommended Lofte's Bar and Grille which was conveniently close but the food was just average. 

Most of the locations on this trip are also International Dark Sky Parks: Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, Capitol Reef NP, Dead Horse Point State Park, Goblin Valley State Park, Kodachrome Basin State Park, and Zion NP.  My trip also coincided with a full moon so I had to time photography before the moon came up. 

*I packed light.  My Canon 24-105L lens stopped communicating with my Canon 5D Mark IV so most of 
my photos were taken with a Sony Point and Shoot.  I was soooo disappointed. 
But lesson learned. 
Never pack light! 

Click any link below to go directly to that day:

NPS canyonlands-island-in-the-sky-map
U.S. National Park Service, restoration/cleanup by Matt Holly, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The First Timer's Visit to Utah's 5 National Parks, Day 8: Finding the Magic in Arches National Park

Day 8: Finding the Magic in Arches National Park
Arches ParkVisitor Guide has up to date info on everything from hours, trails, map, and fees.


  • Get to Arches NP early.  Once the allotted number of cars have entered they close and ask you to return in the afternoon. If you miss your entry go to Day 9 and finish Day 8 with Dead Horse National Park (below). You have another chance to get into Arches on Day 9 - Don't miss it! 
HIKE 1 DEVILS GARDEN TRAIL
Arrive early and go directly to Devil's Garden Trail at the very end of Main Park Road  Build your own hike anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours.  We did 4 hours.  If you do less you can add other things to do.

There is a large parking lot here but it is said to fill up quickly.  We were among the first to arrive so there was not problem for us. 

Arches National Park*

Arches National Park*


Start with an easy hike to Landscape Arch.  If this is all you do it is a 1.6mi/30 min hike.
  • On your way back you can add the easy spur trail to Pine Tree and Tunnel Arches.  This adds .5mi/20min to your hike
After Landscape Arch there is a difficult climb to get to the spur trails for Partition and Navajo Arches.
This adds.8mi/30min to your hike. 

Continue on the main trail to Double O Arch. This adds a lot of time.
  • On your way back you can add the easy spur trail to Pine Tree and Tunnel Arches.  This adds .5mi/20min to your hike
If you hike the entire loop it is 7.8 mi and takes 3-4 hours.  We hiked in and out to Double O with all the spurs skipping the return via Primitive Trail because it turned cold, rainy/snowy and very windy. We probably saved about an hour of hiking that way. 

The trails in Devil's Garden have minimal markings.* 

Arches National Park*

From the parking are for Devil's Garden backtrack on Main Park Road....
Drive to Skyline Arch (allow 5 min)
Drive to Sand Dune Arch (allow 30 min)
We skipped Broken Arch (allow 1 hour) 
Turn into the Windows Section off of Main Park Road
Visit the Garden of Eden for a panorama of 3 arches (allow 15 min)
Continue to the end of the Windows Section to view and hike to multiple arches from the same lot (allow1 hr)
  • This is where the magic is in case you were wondering.
From inside Double Arch*


Double Arch, My Favorite*

Snap a photo of Balanced Rock as you return to the Main Park Road

HIKE 2 Park Ave Trailhead (2 mi/30 min)

Exit Arches National Park


Dead Horse State Park

Turn Right and make your way to Dead Horse State Park ($20) for Grand Canyon-like views. You can stop at pull offs or build your own hike. In the morning hike the west rim in the afternoon and early evening hike the east rim - this will provide you with glowing light on your view and you won't be fighting looking into the sun. 
  • A perfect short hike is from Dead Horse Point to Meander Overlook and back.  
  • If you want to hike the whole rim start at Dead Horse Point and go either way and this gives you a break at the visitor center about 1/2 way on your hike. 


Maps

Arches National Park $Fee

Dead Horse State Park $20


DINNER in Moab. There are a lot of options for Dinner in Moab compared to the previous locations.  We ate at Sultan Mediterranean Grill and thought the food was excellent. 

HOTEL There are a lot more options here for hotels as well.  We earn points at Holiday Inn Express so we stayed there.  It was average. I am not a fan of their breakfasts but oh well. 

Most of the locations on this trip are also International Dark Sky Parks: Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, Capitol Reef NP, Dead Horse Point State Park, Goblin Valley State Park, Kodachrome Basin State Park, and Zion NP.  My trip also coincided with a full moon so I had to time photography before the moon came up. 

*I packed light.  My Canon 24-105L lens stopped communicating with my Canon 5D Mark IV so most of 
my photos were taken with a Sony Point and Shoot.  I was soooo disappointed. 
But lesson learned. 
Never pack light! 

Click any link to go directly to that day:






The First Timer's Visit to Utah's 5 National Parks, Day 7 Finding the Magic in Little Wild Horse and Goblin Valley State Park


DAY 7 
Finding the Magic in  Little Wild Horse and Goblin Valley State Park

Have breakfast in Torrey and enjoy the 1 1/2 hr drive on Route 24 to Little Wild Horse Canyon via the entrance to Goblin Valley State Park. (If you go via Coal Mine Road it takes longer to get there.)  This is a fun slot canyon to hike.  It isn't too technical but can offer some fun scrambling.

HIKE 1:
Little Wild Horse Slot Canyon Out and back hike your choice of when to turn around or the full hike 8.1mi/5hr.  Have snacks or a packed lunch when through.  This slot canyon was magical!!  

Little Wild Horse Slot Canyon*

Little Wild Horse Slot Canyon*

Little Wild Horse Slot Canyon*

Little Wild Horse Slot Canyon*

Little Wild Horse Slot Canyon*

Drive 30 min to Goblin Valley 

HIKE 2:
Goblin Valley State Park $20 1-2 hours. See hike descriptions Goblin Valley State Park. Goblin Valley sure has the magic too.  There are 3 large areas filled with these goblin-like formations.

Goblin Valley State Park*

Goblin Valley State Park*

Goblin Valley State Park*

Goblin Valley State Park*


Drive 2 hours to MOAB  If arriving in Moab 2 hours before sunset or earlier you have time to hike. (We were tired and didn't want to add another hike so we drove to the Delicate Arch viewpoint and walked out onto the rock from there.) 
  • Depending on when you arrive at Arches NP the park could be closed to additional visitors.  If you arrive between 9 and 2 your are at risk of being turned away.  For this reason I switched out my plans to put Arches before Capitol Reef.  That way if you don't get in the first day you still have an extra day to try.  Just get there early and you will be fine. 

HIKE 3:
Delicate Arch 2-3 hr, strenuous, 3 mi, a popular spot for sunset. From Scenic Dr TR onto Delicate Arch Rd. Restrooms here. Uphill strenuous. 3 mi RT/2-3 hrs.  You may need headlamps or similar for your hike back.  
HIKE 3 ALTERNATIVE:
Corona Arch, an enormous arch outside the parks. This arch is about 20 minutes from Moab, along the Colorado River. Make the 1 1/2 mile hike out to the arch and settle in for a glowing sunset.  From Moab, take US-191 N for 4 miles. TL on UT-279 S. Follow UT-279 for 10 miles. Parking and trailhead are N (right-side) of the highway. The trail is a moderately strenuous 3 mi/2-3hr round trip hike.
  • You might want to stop and look at the Potash Petroglyphs and Dinosaur Tracks on the drive to the trailhead. You pass right by them and they only require a couple of minutes extra to enjoy.)
Dinner in Moab. There are a lot of options for Dinner in Moab compared to the previous locations.  We ate at Sultan Mediterranean Grill and thought the food was excellent. 

HOTEL There are a lot more options here for hotels as well.  We earn points at Holiday Inn Express so we stayed there.  It was average. I am not a fan of their breakfasts but oh well. 

Most of the locations on this trip are also International Dark Sky Parks: Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, Capitol Reef NP, Dead Horse Point State Park, Goblin Valley State Park, Kodachrome Basin State Park, and Zion NP.  My trip also coincided with a full moon so I had to time photography before the moon came up. 

*I packed light.  My Canon 24-105L lens stopped communicating with my Canon 5D Mark IV so most of 
my photos were taken with a Sony Point and Shoot.  I was soooo disappointed. 
But lesson learned. 
Never pack light! 

Click any link to go directly to that day:

MAPS

Crack Canyon Wilderness Study Area Map





The First Timer's Visit to Utah's 5 National Parks, Day 6: Finding the Magic in Capitol Reef National Park

Day 6:  Finding the Magic in Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef Park Trip Planner has up to date info on everything from hours, trails, map, and fees.
Island in the Sky Hiking Options

We had breakfast at our B&B.  We were able to see the sunrise from our window so there was no need to rush out for sunrise photos.  I was too tired anyway and sunrises were not that great while we were there.  However, the early light really does light up the red rock beautifully. 


SCENIC DRIVE 1 After breakfast make your way to Scenic Drive (a dirt road off Route 24) and enjoy the magic of the enormity of the rock features in the colors of early morning.  Scenic Drive is accessed via Campground Road at the Visitor Center on the right approaching from Torrey on Route 24. We did not see signage.  Get on Campground Road and it becomes Scenic Drive. 


Scenic Drive*


Cassidy Arch Trail*

HIKE 1 At the end of the road you can choose to hike the Capital Gorge Trail (4.5 mi RT), the trailhead is at the end of the road. This is where you will find the Pioneer Register and petroglyphs. You can also pick up the Golden Throne Trail (3.5mi RT) here.  We turned around and made our way back to Grand Wash on the right.  Drive all the way in to the Trailhead for Cassidy Arch.  Park where you can. This hike is rated difficult but I would rate it moderate.  It begins with rock steps but soon levels out to paths over large smooth rock faces. I definitely liked this hike.  Once there, be sure to view the arch from the front as well.  I missed that photo op. 

Hiking Cassidy Arch*
.
Cassidy Arch*

Cassidy Arch, My husband on top* 

If you feel the need for a pie at Gifford Homestead in Fruita now is a good time as you will pass it on your way back up Scenic Drive. I think it is over rated and personally would skip it and just have lunch/snacks.  But if you love pie, go for it. 

HIKE 2. Hickman's Bridge (Popular hike, 1.7 mi RT) We did not do this hike, but I rearranged this schedule to how I should have done it and it fits in here if you would like to do it.  Another option is to hike to The Narrows from Route 24 access to the Grand Wash Trailhead.  Most guides tie this in with Cassidy Arch for a long hike which works if that is what you want.  Since I wanted to see as much as possible in the time permitted, I separated The Narrows hike to shorten total hiking time.  We ran out of time anyway but I believe the reworking of the schedule as I did on Day 5 and 6 makes this work.  The Narrows section of this hike is about 1/2 mile long once you get to it in just over 1 mi hiking from Route 24.

SCENIC DRIVE 2 Driving through Capitol Reef via Route 24 is pretty magical in itself.  Just enjoy the views. You will drive this tomorrow so don't feel compelled to do it today. 

LESS CROWDED SCENIC DRIVE: Cathedral Valley - rugged, remote, high clearance vehicle needed. Allow 3 1/2 - 4 hrs for a 57.5 mile loop.




Dinner (Call ahead to reserve.)  
One night we ate at La Cueva at the recommendation of guests at the B&B.  It was very good.  
The other night we ate at the Rim Rock Restaurant. It was very good except for Cowboy Cut Ribeye which was pretty tough to chew and not that tasty.  My husband had the sirloin for $12 less and it was much better. The side dishes were all fresh and good.  


Climbing Around at Sunset Point*

Sunset at Sunset Point or any place where the sun will light the west facing cliffs as it sets.

HOTEL We stayed at Sky Ridge Inn again.

  • Most of the locations on this trip are also International Dark Sky Parks: Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, Capitol Reef NP, Dead Horse Point State Park, Goblin Valley State Park, Kodachrome Basin State Park, and Zion NP.  My trip also coincided with a full moon so I had to time photography before the moon came up. 
  • *I packed light.  My Canon 24-105L lens stopped communicating with my Canon 5D Mark IV so most of my photos were taken with a Sony Point and Shoot.  I was soooo disappointed. But lesson learned. Never pack light! 

Click any link to go directly to that day:


MAPS