Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef Scenic Drive
Capitol Reef Scenic Drive

In the past several weeks I’ve been to Valley of Fire, The Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, Cedar Breaks and Capitol Reef. I think of all of them Capitol Reef may be my favorite. Although each one of them is breathtaking in its own way, at Capitol Reef I found a quiet, inexpensive campground in a lush and shady setting of cottonwood trees and fruit orchards, weather that wasn’t stifling hot or make-your-nose-run cold, and stunning geological surroundings which make for the most wonderful eye candy. READ MORE…

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Travel Report

Little Molas Lake at Sunrise
Little Molas Lake at Sunrise

What’s up with me is that I’m nearing the end of a 2 week stay at Little Molas Lake outside of Silverton, Colorado, preparing to begin my 10th week on the road tomorrow. Separately, I’ve written a Campground Report about this lovely spot. As I write I’m sitting outdoors in the delightful warming sun of early morning looking at the scene you see in the sunrise photo included in this post. (Click on it or any other photo for a larger version.) The air is still and filled with the sound of many bird songs. A very gentle and delicious breeze is beginning to blow. Voices from nearby campers can also be heard, as well as a couple making love a couple campsites away, and occasionally a vehicle passing by on route 550 which is maybe 3/4 mile away as the crow flies. READ MORE…

User Report: GoPower GP-PSK-120 Portable Solar Panel

The solar panel portion of the GoPower GP-PSK-120 solar panel kit
The solar panel portion of the GoPower GP-PSK-120 solar panel kit

Unlike so many so-called product reviews which merely repeat manufacturer’s claims about the features, benefits and claimed performance of their products in an effort to get you to buy the product so that a commission may be earned, this is an actual User Report based on my personal experience with the product and the manufacturer.

In this report I will be writing about the GoPower 120 Watt portable solar panel kit, model GP-PSK-120. Originally I rated this product “Don’t Buy” but since then the product has changed and so has my approach to reviewing products. Realizing that a product may well suit the needs of one person but not those of another I think it makes more sense to simply describe my experience with it and let readers decide for themselves whether or not they would want to purchase.

As far as the GoPower GP-PSK-120 goes, my original rating was based in large measure to that which I regarded as failed tech support. The vagaries of human interactions makes this element of evaluating a product something of an inconsistent variable. Regardless of the product or company you might get great support during one phone call and terrible support during another call two minutes later. Product quality is less likely to vary as much, so it seems to me.

As to the quality of the GP-PSK-120, GoPower has changed the charge controller since I bought my kit. I have not tested the newer product but the manufacturer’s claim is that the new controller performs better than the old one. This could make a significant difference in performance of the product, upping it from what I originally believed to be fair or even poor to good or even better. READ MORE…

A Leap Into The Past on an Old Time Railroad

Engine 482: built in the 1880s and still going strong
Engine 482: built in the 1880s and still going strong

Recently I rode the railroad. Not just any railroad, but the Durango & Silverton RR which is driven by a coal fired steam engine built in the 1880s. Wow, and I thought I was old!

The route follows the Animas river from Durango to Silverton in Colorado through the picturesque Rocky mountains and while almost always very scenic, at times the views are downright sensational: mountain peaks in the distance as the train curves around a bend above the tumbling white water of the Animas river and traversing the ledge of a cliff with just inches to spare above a precipitous drop. To be fair, the first part of the 3 1/2 hour ride, maybe 30-45 minutes is through the flatlands outside of Durango which, while of some interest, does not include the spectacular scenery encountered up canyon. Still the ride is, well, really cool. READ MORE…

YOU JUST AIN’T GONNA PEE!

I don’t care what you do, how much you drink–a gallon of water, 10 liters of lemonade, 3 six packs of beer. YOU JUST AIN’T GONNA PEE! Not when you’re in Zion National Park and it’s 99º with virtually no humidity. That’s where I am now.
Greenery and sandstone on the way to Angel's Landing
In “Quiet Canyon”

Thank God there are things you can do to mitigate the stifling heat. Even when it’s 100º here, there are places here to escape. I call one of them Quiet Canyon. It’s a little oasis of cool and green on the trail to Angel’s Landing. It’s cool early in the day before the sun gets to it anyway. It’s also very quiet, at least if the other hikers heed the signs to be quiet which are at either end of the canyon. You can hear people talking in a normal voice when they are out of sight hundreds of feet away. You wonder when they are going to come into view. You wait and wait and wait, and finally they appear. That’s why I call it Quiet Canyon… because of the signs at either end and because sounds travel, and well, when other aren’t making noise it’s really, really quiet in there.

Coolorful sandstone contrasts with the greens of the trees in Zion canyon.
Contrasts in “Quiet Canyon”

Besides the coolness and quietness of the canyon–which by the way you could say is something of a slot canyon being narrow with roughly vertical walls of sandstone on either side–the contrasts of colors and textures found within it make for a banquet of visual delights. Swirling patterns of richly colored sandstone in a myriad of textures contrast against various bright greens of the transilluminated broadleaf trees and the tangy blueness of the evergreens. I lost myself in visual joy for an hour or so in this tiny little canyon and in its stillness and quiet coolness. Despite the baking heat just 100 yards away I actually found myself becoming chilled by the cool air–as well a thrilled by the all the eye candy. (Click the images for larger versions.)

Angel's Landing towers nearly1500' above the canyon floor
Angel’s Landing towers nearly1500′ above the canyon floor

Quiet Canyon was a joyful, serendipitous surprise on my way to Angel’s Landing, a peak that rises nearly 1500′ above the canyon floor and offers sweeping views of Zion Canyon in all directions. This 5.4 mile round trip hike includes a half mile section at the top where chains have been attached to metal pipe driven into the sandstone making something of a handrail with which to hold on… for dear life! The trail, and I use the word trail loosely, has steep narrow passages and precipitous drop-offs. It’s a vertigo inducing, dizzying affair which for people like me with a thing about heights makes for more than a few exciting moments.

Looking north from Angel's Landing
Looking north from Angel’s Landing
Looking south down Zion Canyon from Angel's Landing
Looking south down Zion Canyon from Angel’s Landing

Another cool trick, which is to say a way to stay cool, is to take a hike up The Narrows. This hike follows the Virgin River from the northernmost point of the park road. When I say it follows the river, I mean the hike is IN the river. When the water is low as it was during my hike there are places along the side of the river you can walk on dry land, but not all the way, not all the time. The best you can do is cross the river repeatedly in order to seek out terra firma. The hike goes on for

In The Narrows of Zion Canyon
In The Narrows of Zion Canyon

miles as I understand it, but I stopped when the water was getting about waist deep and some darkening clouds seemed to threaten rain. You really don’t want to be in the river when it is raining or when it may be raining anywhere nearby–flash floods and all.

As The Narrows hike follows the river upstream, besides the delightful coolness of the water on your body and in the air, you are treated to the visual splendor of the canyon through which the river flows. Here too cottonwoods and evergreens combine with the patterned sandstone to delight the visually inclined.

Stunning sandstone lines the Virgin river in The Narrows
Hiking The Narrows in Zion
I found one more way to beat the heat which is simply to amble down to the river and plunk yourself into it. Actually, all I did was to plunk my chair into the river’s edge, dangle my tootsies in the cool liquid, and soak my t-shirt in it too which made for a chilly treat. This part of my tale I shall not illustrate, which I believe for all those concerned is a good thing.

Boondocking Report: Dixie National Forest near Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, US

Free, off-the-grid camping (boondocking) in lightly forested and open areas for up to 16 days within about 10 miles, a 15-20 minute drive to Bryce, with more than a few nearby sites big RV accessible.

Site Location: GPS:  N 37.72837, W 112.24389. Turn north (left) off

Looking north from my camp
Looking north from my camp

UT 12 coming from 89 onto Tom’s Best Spring Road at N 37.71973, W 112.25539. Tom’s Best is not all that well marked. Look for a sign on the left, maybe 50′ off of 12, as soon as you come out of Red Canyon and the landscape flattens out and opens up. Traveling west on 12 Tom’s Best you’ll be getting close to the the hills you’ll see in the near distance, assuming it’s daytime. GPS coordinates may not align with roads shown on map. (They didn’t for me–see the map below.) To get to my spot turn east (right) off Tom’s Best Spring Road onto unmarked spur road at N 37.73059, W 112.24600, marked Dixie BD Turnoff, then bear right at the Y. READ MORE…

In case you’ve been wondering…

Shampoo
Shampoo

As a long time backpacker and back country traveler I’ve come to rely upon those little polyethylene containers for carrying small amounts of shampoo, vitamins, antibacterial cream, etc. Like the one in the photo to the right. You may have seen them at camping stores or other places.

Last night I was soaking the cap to my little shampoo bottle in the bathroom sink of my RV because it had become clogged with dried up shampoo and I hoped to soften the clog by soaking it for a while and squirt it out. When I was finished soaking the bottle cap I pulled the stopper out of the sink’s drain to let the water out and down the drain with the water went the bottle cap. HOLY CRAP!

It fits!
It fits!

So, just in case you’ve been wondering whether or not the little squirt cap from your polyethylene bottle would fit down your drain and clog up in your plumbing… the answer is yes!

a.k.a. Travels With Charlene

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