Category Archives: US Destinations

California Pacific Highway Roadtrip: Cambria is Enchanting Base to Visit Hearst’s ‘Enchanted Hill’ 

The view of William Randolph Hearst’s “Enchanted Hill” – Hearst Castle – an architectural and engineering triumph of Hearst and his architect/engineer Julia Morgan.  © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

It’s a dark night when we pull into our hotel in Cambria, on California’s famous (and fragile) Pacific Highway 1, so it isn’t until I awake in the morning to a moist mist rising after a rain, that I realize what is just across the road from the picturesque Moonstone Beach and a magnificent boardwalk that extends 1 ½ miles over the fragile seagrass, the ocean crashing against the rocky shore just beyond, where a few seals are resting, the sun making a gorgeous sparkling light,

We’ve driven down from the north, starting at San Francisco, to Monterey (made famous by John Steinbeck’s “Cannery Row” and now with a world renowned Aquarium); following the Pacific Highway 1 as much as possible as it hugs the cliffs to Big Sur. We pull over frequently to take in those breathtaking views that look like the edge of the Continent just fell into the ocean. We spend a couple of days hiking and exploring, overnighting at the utterly enchanting and historic Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn (www.deejens.org, 831-667-2377), then have to backtrack to Monterey, driving inland three hours on Highway 101 to come into Cambria.

Moonstone Beach, Cambria, across from our hotel, the Castle Inn © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Cambria is an outstanding base to experience not only its own charms, but to explore Hearst Castle, San Simeon, the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery, and even driving north on the Pacific Highway, to Ragged Point, just at the southern end of Big Sur where you can get those dramatic sheer-cliff/crashing waves against the rocky shore views.

Castle Inn, which I found on hotels.com, is a delightful motel that is absolutely perfect for our purpose – the room is spacious and has a beachy (ocean) feel; the motel serves coffee, scones, apples, muffins, oatmeal for breakfast. Later, we will take advantage of its pool and hot tub under the stars, and is so close by to all the things we want to explore – especially having the Moonstone Beach and boardwalk just across the road. (6620 Moonstone Beach Dr, Cambria, CA 93428, 805-927-8605, castle-inn-cambria.hotelsone.com)

We grab coffee and muffins and immediately head out to Hearst Castle just eight minutes up the coastal road from Cambria in San Simeon.

We have to be at the Hearst Castle’s visitor center by 8:40 am for our pre-booked 9 am Grand Rooms tour  – the most popular of a selection of tours you can take and the best if you have never visited before (others include “Hearst and Hollywood” “Designing the Dream” “Art of San Simeon,” “Julia Morgan”, “Cottages & Kitchen tour” “Upstairs Suites Tour”, also accessible tours and private tours.)

We get our wristbands and go to “gate” for the bus that takes guests up to the mansion along the long winding road – just as William Randolph Hearst intended his visitors to experience his “Enchanted Hill.”

The view of William Randolph Hearst’s “Enchanted Hill” – Hearst Castle – an architectural and engineering triumph of Hearst and his architect/engineer Julia Morgan.  © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The tour starts immediately on the bus, with an excellent narration giving the background – history, architecture, biography – and pointing out the sights along the way, accompanied by music of the 1930s and 1940s.

Hearst Castle is so much more than a magnificent mansion home (one of the most spectacular in the world), even more than an architectural jewel and a breathtaking art collection. It is the story of a fascinating man (love him or hate him or something in between, you still have to give the man credit for what he accomplished) who you come to know because everything about Hearst Castle is so personal to him. It is the story of an age – the coming of age of America, the coming of age of Hollywood and ascendancy of American culture. Everything you see is mind-blowing and breath-taking. And this mansion (he called it his country home), which has come to be known as Hearst Castle, is his personal artistic creation – the architecture and the art collection.

The tour is extremely well organized – it manages to be efficient and yet personal (I’m betting the earlier you can visit the better) – you feel as so many of Hearst’s guests must have felt the first time they were invited.

The entrance to Casa Grande. William Randolph Hearst was inspired to build his castle from his European tour with his mother when he was 10 years old © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

You realize that even if you think you know who Hearst was (and so many imagine Hearst to be the character of “Citizen Kane” but he is only a piece of that fictional character, and Marion Davies, his companion, was a smart, savvy and accomplished woman and quite a fine actress, not at all like the character of Kane’s), you come away with newfound respect and interest – in fact, as compelling a real-life story as the fictional Citizen Kane. (“Citizen Kane” screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz was one of Hearst’s guests here.)

You also come to learn – and admire – Hearst’s architect for his castle: Julia Morgan was one of the first female engineering majors at the University of California, Berkeley, the first woman to pass the entrance exam in architecture and graduate the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris  – the preeminent architectural school of the time – and was the first licensed woman architect in California. (In 2014, Morgan was posthumously awarded the American Institute of Architects’ Gold Medal in recognition of her pioneering career and dynamic buildings, the first woman to be awarded the medal in its 107-year history, https://pioneeringwomen.bwaf.org/julia-morgan/)

The grand dining room at Hearst Castle © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Hearst was inspired to build his castle and collect art when he took the grand tour of Europe when 10 with his mother. And his mother, Phoebe Apperson Hearst. a philanthropist and advocate for women, introduced him to Julia Morgan. Phoebe began a lifelong interest in Morgan’s career when the two women’s paths crossed in Paris. The films and photos you get to see of Morgan, presiding over the dynamiting to level the summit and build the road, reviewing plans with Hearst, are fascinating.

Even though you are walking through the mansion with a tour group, you actually feel like you were one of Hearst’s guests arriving for the weekend – the home is set out as it would have been – most remarkably, in the grand dining room (it may well have inspired Harry Potter’s Hogwarts dining room, and interestingly, the banners on display refer to an Italian horserace), there are bottles of ketchup and mustard because Hearst himself, for all the spectacular grandeur of the art and architecture, wanted a homey feel to his country home.

Ketchup and mustard on the table in the grand dining room at Hearst Castle © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The art is breathtaking – Hearst collected the pieces himself, and drawing from his European travels with his mother when he was 10 years old, are predominantly Gothic and medieval – a lot of religious art which Hearst appreciated for the art and the period, not the religious significance, the guide tells me.

The oldest work of art at Hearst Castle is an Egyptian statue, 3200-3600 years old, of Sekmet, daughter of Ra © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

At the entrance to the Casa Grande – the 68,300 sq ft grand house – we stop in front of the oldest work of art here, an Egyptian statue,  3200-3600 years old of Sekmet, daughter of Ra –with a  hieroglyph that translates “Good God, Lord of Two Lands.” The entrance to Casa Grande –  has real gold gilding on the door, 1500-year old mosaic tiles, a 600 year old statue.

The Assembly Room of Hearst Castle gives you your first taste of the opulence and art collection © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We are ushered into the grand Assembly Room – 15th century church pews, tapestries, line the wall, and the Venus Italica, one of Hearst Castle’s greatest masterpieces, created by Antonio Canova (1757-1822).

In 1935 his collections were valued at more than $20 million (in the height of the Great Depression!), but then he fell into near bankruptcy, and at the age of 75, and had to sell off two-thirds of his collection, estimated at $15 million, at “fire sale” prices. (Marion Davies, by then extremely wealthy in her own right with movies and real estate investments in places like Palm Springs, lent him $1 million so he could keep Hearst Castle; when she died, her estate was worth $8 million; when he died, she gave the Hearst Company shares he left her back to his family and they promptly kicked her out and refused to let her come to his funeral.)

The Assembly Room of Hearst Castle gives you your first taste of the opulence and art collection © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

You can easily picture who Hearst, Davies and Morgan were, and the glorious celebrity life they lived because there are home movies, photos!. It is thrilling to sit in Hearst’s own theater and watch Charlie Chaplin mug for the camera. (Definitely take advantage of the outstanding 40-minute documentary about Hearst’s life in the five-story theater before or after the tour.)

In many ways, William followed in his father’s footsteps.

George was a self-made millionaire, starting as a prospector – he owned interest in three of the largest mines in the U.S., including the Comstock Lode in Nevada, the Homestake gold mine in South Dakota and the Anaconda copper mine in Montana, plus the Ontario silver mine in Utah, then acquired large portions of land throughout the United States, especially in California and the West. One acquisition was 48,000 acre Piedra Blanca Rancho at San Simeon in 1865, when William was two-years old. He later purchased the adjoining Santa Rosa and San Simeon Ranchos – amassing 250,000 acres. This place became a retreat for lavish family camping trips.

Only a small portion of the vast estate – once 250,000 acres – assembled by Hearst © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Late in his life George Hearst served as United States Senator from California from 1887 until his death in 1891. It was during this time that he acquired the small San Francisco Examiner as a repayment for a gambling debt. Although he had little interest in the publishing business and wanted his only son, William, to take over the family’s mining and ranching holdings, William wanted to run the newspaper.

The newspaper business was William’s passion, and he ultimately amassed a huge publishing empire, and even when he was living at this remote castle in San Simeon, he would get the pages each night by teletype by 1 am, and make editorial changes by phone, well into the night.

William Hearst is probably best known for “yellow journalism” which pressured President McKinley into the Spanish-American War (that also made Theodore Roosevelt’s reputation with his Rough Riders.

And following in his father’s footsteps, he was elected to Congress but unsuccessfully ran for Governor and for President.

In 1919 when he inherited the estate, William Hearst, then 56 years old, hired architect Julia Morgan telling her, “Miss Morgan, we are tired of camping out in the open at the ranch in San Simeon and I would like to build a little something.”

For the next 28 years, the project that we know as Hearst Castle became his life’s work, his creation and hers and unbelievably, was never actually finished, even though the mansion and villas now comprise 165 rooms atop the 1600 ft. high summit of a hill. Hearst, they say, was never as happy as when he was on his “Enchanted Hill.”

Once this pasture would have held the largest private zoo in America © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

From the bus, we look out over the vast lands where Hearst had assembled exotic animals from around the world, ultimately creating the largest private zoo in America – you would have seen African and Asian antelope, zebras, giraffes, camels, sambar deer from India, red deer from Europe, axis deer from Asia, llamas, kangaroos, ostriches, emus, Barbary sheep, Alaskan big horned sheep, musk oxen and yaks. Though most of the animals were removed by 1937 (when Hearst was near bankrupt during the Great Depression), some that remain are descendents of the original herds, like the Oudads, and get still have 200 head of cattle on the ranch.

We drive the winding road that Julia Morgan designed so that the castle appears, disappears and reappears as you drive around the bends, climbing higher and higher to the hilltop.

Hearst’s guests would have come by private train, but some of Hearst’s guests – like the Vanderbilts, who flew in on a private plane in 1935 to an airstrip below, then would have been driven up these roads.

Hearst created a mile-long pergola of fruit trees, and would ride on horseback through the canopy, “the longest pergola in captivity” Morgan would joke. The fruit trees including oranges and pomegranates, yield 2000 lbs of citrus that are donated to local food bank.

All the food the castle used was produced on site; water was piped in, so the castle was completely self-sufficient.

As we get off the bus, our guide, Gregory Anderson, encourages us to take photos as we see them, because the tour goes in one direction  But to a really excellent degree, what we see is what it would have been like to visit in Hearst’s time.

One of the three villas at Hearst Castle where movie stars, industrial moguls, and political leaders would have stayed © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We stop in front of the first villa, Casa del Sol, “medium sized” at 3600 sq ft., built for a sunset view, Bob and Delores Hope honeymooned here; Edward Hubble, who originated the Big Bang Theory, stayed here; Actor Cary Grant requested a different room every time stayed (came 40 times)

We come to the 2500 sq. ft Casa del Mar cottage, where David Niven (“The Pink Panther) and Winston Churchill stayed (in 1929). Up until 1976, this was the villa that Hearst family members would stay. (William had five sons between 1904-1918, and there are some 70 descendents today and the family – the 20th wealthiest in the US – now when they come, they stay at the Senator’s House which the Hearst Corporation still owns).

King Vidor, Howard Hughes, Charlie Chaplin, buster Keaton, Jean Harlow, Carole Lombard, Harpo Marx, Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo were among the celebrities who came.

Hearst loved to take his guests on grueling horseback rides – delighted in seeing how silver screen cowboys would handle real horse.

Our guide tells us that Hearst Castle was Morgan’s 503rd of 700 projects and was one of the few architects who knew how to work with steel reinforced concrete (important for earthquakes).

Notably, she designed a new Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, still an architectural jewel, which opened within a year after the 1906 earthquake, and propelled her career and her own practice.

Morgan had already designed the block-long Spanish Mission Revival Hearst Examiner Building (1913–15) in Los Angeles. In 1919, following his mother’s death, Hearst inherited the full Hearst estate and decided to build a “modest bungalow” on the hilltop of the ranch at San Simeon – which evolved into the castle. 

I find it interesting that Morgan negotiated her commission from 6 percent for architectural services to 8.5 percent to cover the costs of “running the job.” She was providing what today would be called “design-build” services and was responsible for managing workmen, artisans, material suppliers, and warehouses of artifacts – it is fascinating to see the “home videos” of her directing the workers.

The magnificent Neptune Pool. Julia Morgan had to design and build it three times © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The most spellbinding features of the estate are the two pools – the Neptune Pool which has Grecian feel, is actually the third incarnation: 104 feet long, 58 feet wide and 95 feet wide at the alcove. It is 3.5 feet deep at the west end, 10 feet at the drains, and holds 345,000 gallons of water. Other notable aspects of the Neptune Pool include the oil-burning heating system, the Vermont marble that lines the basin, gutters, and alcove, and four Italian relief sculptures on the sides of the colonnades.

The magnificent Roman Pool in Hearst Castle © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The indoor Roman Pool tiled indoor pool decorated with eight statues of Roman gods, goddesses and heroes. The pool appears to be styled after an ancient Roman bath such as the Baths of Caracalla in Rome c. 211-17 CE.

Be sure to make time to see the “Building the Dream” biopic in the 5 story theater (plays every 45 minutes) about William Randolph Hearst’s childhood, his travels to Europe, construction of the castle estate, and his architectural collaboration with Morgan. “They built castle but also created legacy.”

Hearst Castle, which first opened for tours in 1958 and gets 600,000-700,000 tourists/year (in the 1980s, its heyday, a million tourists would come each year), is now a California state park.

There are no individual visits to Hearst Castle – you must be registered for a tour. Ticket prices start at $30/adults, $15 children (5-12). (https://hearstcastle.org/tour-hearst-castle/daily-tours/). Reserve tickets online up to 60 days in advance; Reserve online (https://www.reservecalifornia.com/Web/Activities/HearstCastleTours.aspx)

Every year from the end of November through the end of December, Hearst Castle offers a “Holiday Twilight Tour” to experience the estate as Hearst’s guests enjoyed it during the 1920s and 1930s during the Christmas season.  

Hearst Castle, 750 Hearst Castle Road, San Simeon, CA 93452-9741, 800-444-4445 (8 am-6 pm PT), hearstcastle.org.

More visitor information: visitcambriaca.com.

Next: Cambria is Great Base for Pacific Highway Roadtrip

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Utah Adventure Day 8: Arches National Park, a Geologic Wonderland

Sunrise on the Landscape Arch, Devils Garden Trail, Arches National Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, with Laini Miranda and Dave E. Leiberman

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Arches National Park is a fantastical place, a geologic wonderland, and being able to wake up before the sun in the Devils Garden Campground and stroll along the Devils Garden Trail as the formations come alive with color, is extraordinary.

Arches’ sprawling landscape of 2,000 natural stone arches – the highest concentration of arches on the planet – plus hundreds of soaring pinnacles, massive rock fins, giant balanced rocks, coupled with its accessibility and ease of getting around (well, except for traffic and difficulty finding parking) and access (through Moab) draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, making it one of the most popular national parks. Indeed, Arches is so popular (and crowded) that it requires advance purchase, timed entry reservations just to enter, between April 1 and October 31.

Arches National Park is a geologic wonderland © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We are lucky because Laini has cleverly booked two nights at the Devils Garden campground months before our trip. The campsite reservation acts as the entry ticket and for this reason but especially because of being immersed in the landscape, this is the absolute best way to experience Arches National Park. (Devils Garden Campground is pen year-round, with 52 sites, reservations for individual sites can be made up to six months in advance; for group sites can be reserved up to year in advance, www.nps.gov/arch)

Arches is the most touristic of all the places we have visited this trip and offers such a contrast with the wild camping and communion with ancient spirits (Bears Ears), the remote unmarked hikes (Grand Staircase-Escalante), the long meandering hikes (Capitol Reef) and our search through muck and mud to find archaeological sites (Glen Canyon).

Here, we go sightseeing for the dazzling arches that give the park its name, like the amazing Double Arch, the Windows, Landscape Arch and Delicate Arch, accessed along paved paths from parking lots, with restroom facilities.

A formation in Arches National Park that looks like Croesus had just been turned to rock © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Throughout Arches, there are formations – eroded monoliths – that inspire names, like Parade of Elephants, Petrified Dunes, Tower of Babel and Fiery Furnace, also trigger imagination. Some look so much like mudmen, we name them (we rechristen Balanced Rock “E.T.”, the Gossips we rename “The Suffragists,” and formations that look to me as if Nefertiti and Croesus had just been turned to rock.

The formation once known as “The Gossips” we re-name “The Suffragists” Arches National Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The source of what we see is a salt bed, thousands of feet thick in places, that was deposited across the Colorado Plateau 300 million years ago when a sea flowed into the region and eventually evaporated, according to the Arches National Park notes. The salt bed was unstable and unable to hold the weight of the thick cover of rock formed from compressed debris. It shifted, buckled, liquefied and repositioned, thrusting rock layers upward as domes, while whole sections fell into cavities.

Doesn’t this rock formation look like Nefertiti? Imaginations run wild in Arches National Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Faults make the surface even more unstable. From the visitor center, you can see the result of a 2,500-foot displacement, the Moab Fault. The faults caused vertical cracks and wind and water over 100 million years of erosion and weathering, ultimately formed the arches of salmon-colored Entrada Sandstone and buff-colored Navajo Sandstone.

The process is ongoing – new features are being formed as old ones are transformed.

Sometimes the changes happen suddenly, violently. That was the case at the Skyline Arch, just next door to Devils Garden, where a massive boulder tumbled down in the 1940s, expanding the arch.

Waking before sunrise with the moon in Devils Garden Campground, Arches National Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The most ambitious hikes in Arches National Park are to the Double O Arch (4.1 miles); the Primitive trail (2.1 miles one way, considered most difficult), and if you would do the whole Devils Garden Trail (7.8 miles, that goes to the Landscape Arch, Double O Arch, Dark Angel along a primitive trail, with narrow ledges, rock scrambling and few trail markers; be sure to take enough water— 1 liter of water per person, per hour).

We do none of these, holding out for our most ambitious hike, to Delicate Arch, for sunset but I already have my trepidations.

And, in addition to the outstanding Devils Garden trail, from the campground (which feels luxurious to us for its restrooms and running water), you can hikethe Broken Arch Loop Trail which runs past Tapestry Arch and Broken Arch, then swings south towards Sand Dune Arch and back up passed Skyline Arch before returning to the campground. (Unfortunately, we don’t have time for that hike. Next time!)

Sunrise in Devils Garden, Arches National Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

For my sunrise hike, I do the easy, paved trail, rushing to get to a good position for photos, and then continue on to do more of it, going to where I see the famous Landscape Arch. After my walk through the easy part of the Devils Garden Trail (it is surprising how fast the sun comes up, washing out the colors), I go back to the campsite where we have breakfast.

Sunrise in Devils Garden, Arches National Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

(Actually, we have to move from one campsite to another for our second night and Dave and Laini figure out to just put the tent with the sleeping bags and stuff on top of the Jeep and drive it over, which we do by check-out time.)

Landscape Arch, Devils Garden, Arches National Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We then set out to explore Arches.

We only have one full day at Arches National Park, and it’s the end of our hiking/camping adventure, so we kind of go with the flow. We drive to the different sites, and do short hikes up to the various formations, basically doing the tourist thing.

An easy trail takes you to the Skyline Arch, Arches National Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We follow a route, starting with the Skyline Arch adjacent to Devils Garden. Dave climbs to the top of that humongous boulder that fell down (scary to contemplate). The Skyline Arch Trail is short and easy, less than a half-mile roundtrip hike from the parking lot and back. The arch itself is one of the more popular landmarks in Arches. It makes for spectacular photographs, owing to its position, literally, on the skyline. And its proximity to the Devils Garden Campground makes it a perfect hike if you arrive late in the afternoon. (We arrived too late.)

Dave climbs atop of a boulder that came off the Skyline Arch © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We go next to the observation area that overlooks The Fiery Furnace, a labyrinth of narrow sandstone canyons. (Hiking the Fiery Furnace requires agility and a permit, or a ticket for a ranger-led hike that must be reserved in advance through Recreation.gov; one route is marked, but getting lost is still possible.)

The Fiery Furnace, contrasted against snow-capped peaks, Arches National Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Next, we drive to one of the famous highlights of Arches (there are many, but this one is tops for me): the Double Arch Viewpoint and Trail. The tallest arch in the park at 122 ft., there seems to be this intricate dance between the two arches. An easy gravel path leads to the base of the two huge, arching spans. Of course Dave and Alli climb up to the arches, while Laini draws.

There seems to be an intricate dance between the two arches of the Double Arch, Arches National Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Balanced Rock is another signature landmark and just about everyone (who can get a parking space) walks the short hike around the base for up-close perspectives. We re-name Balanced Rock E. T. because from a certain angle, it’s a dead ringer for the endearing character.

“Balanced Rock”is a dead-ringer for the beloved E.T., Arches National Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

(The Arches National Park newsletter guide is invaluable – it recommends how much water to take, and gives excellent information about distance and time and difficulty for each of the hikes.)

Dinosaurs, Indians!

Arches National Park (believe it or not), has no food or lodging (that is, beyond the sensational Devils Garden campground) – so we drive out of the park into the delightful, hopping town of Moab for lunch at the food truck park, and a bit of shopping.

From here, we drive a short distance to where Laini promises we will encounter both dinosaurs and Indians.

Tracks made by three-toed meat-eating dinosaurs can be seen at the Poison Spider Dinosaur Tracksite and Rock Art Trail © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We drive along Utah Scenic Byway 279 to the trailhead of the Poison Spider Dinosaur Tracksite and Rock Art Trail. It’s a quarter-mile walk up a steep, crumbly trail up a rocky hillside to two rock slabs where tracks made by three-toed meat-eating dinosaurs can be seen, as well as a wall with a good collection of petroglyphs.

This area was once a vast sand dune sea, known as an erg. These tracks would have been found along the edge of a lake between dunes. As the wind would blow across the dunes these tracks would have been gently buried in shifting sand and preserved. The preserved tracks were unearthed when the slabs fell from the sandstone cliffs above.

The trail switchbacks up the hill before coming alongside the petroglyph wall and then descends back to the parking lot. (Use caution: though short, there are a few steep areas and the trail can be hard to follow.)

(From this trailhead you can also connect to the Longbow Arch hiking trail that goes into a canyon to an arch, 2.4 miles roundtrip.)

The astonishing Utah Highway 279 Rock Art Site, where a huge rock wall face has the most amazing sets of petroglyphs and pictographs, Moab © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

A short distance along Potash Road is the Utah Highway 279 Rock Art Site, where a huge rock wall face has the most amazing sets of petroglyphs and pictographs. It looks like a museum exhibit, except this is where they were made and it is astonishing to contemplate that this is where people so very long ago stood here and carved and painted them.

The astonishing Utah Highway 279 Rock Art Site, where a huge rock wall face has the most amazing sets of petroglyphs and pictographs, Moab © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Archaeologists believe most of the rock art found here was created during the Archaic (6,000 – 1,000 B.C.) and Fremont (450-1300 A.D.) cultural periods. The art consists of pictographs (painted images) and petroglyphs (pecked, incised or chiseled images). The majority of the rock art features anthropomorphic (human forms) and zoomorphic (animal forms) but there are also curvilean lines, zigzags, wavy lines, concentric circles and abstract symbols. Sometimes both Archaic and Fremont petroglyphs can be found on the same rock art panel.

The astonishing Utah Highway 279 Rock Art Site, where a huge rock wall face has the most amazing sets of petroglyphs and pictographs, Moab © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Some of the rock art panels depict religious rituals and are considered sacred sites. Some depict migration routes, fertility, hunting, ceremonies, and cosmic events.

The astonishing Utah Highway 279 Rock Art Site, where a huge rock wall face has the most amazing sets of petroglyphs and pictographs, Moab © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

These petroglyphs were exposed when the road was widened, and it is a surreal experience to see these magnificent, huge murals just along the road – especially because it is beside a section popular with rock climbers (one was prosecuted for rock climbing where the protected petroglyphs are).

Fremont rock art often depicts trapezoidal anthropomorphs with horns, bighorn sheep, dogs, hunting scenes with weapons, and abstract objects – and sure enough, we see plenty of examples – there are horned anthropomorphs holding shields and paper doll-like cut-outs; at the southern end of the panel, we see a large bear with a hunter at its nose and another hunter over its back. The notes say this art is 3000 to 8000 years old.

The ancient rock-art panels are next to a popular rock climbing place © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

At the northern end of the panel, round holes carved into the sandstone underneath the left side would have once held roof poles of a structure which was excavated by archaeologists before the road construction. The rock panels extend 125 feet along Potash Road.

Sunset and Star-Gazing

We return to Arches National Park for sunset (there is still a long line of cars getting in with their timed admission tickets, but because we are camping, we breeze right in).

Laini suggests we hike the 3 miles roundtrip to Delicate Arch for the sunset, but I’m actually dreading it (my feet are actually bleeding from yesterday’s 11-mile Kane Gulch hike – the folly of hiking in boots that haven’t been broken in).

My trepidation comes from the description of the hike: The Delicate Arch hike is ranked difficult – the trail climbs 480 feet up a steep slickrock slope, and just before you get to Delicate Arch, follows a narrow rock ledge for about 200 yards). I am especially nervous about hiking the 1.5 miles back in the dark.

Laini, who has done the hike on their previous trip, admits she also has been dreading it but only wanted to do it for me, because I would have been disappointed not to see the iconic rock formation that Utah uses for its state symbol.

We set out and I ask what exactly we will see and she pulls up the photo she took on a previous trip. I suggest we not bother, but rather go to The Windows where I’ve been told is a popular place for sunset.

But before we leave the trail to the Delicate Arch, we explore the Wolfe Ranch historic site and walk a little further along a path to see an excellent example of historic Ute rock art – a huge bonus to coming here.

Historic Ute rock art at the Wolfe Ranch site, Arches National Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The panel depicts a stylized horse and rider surrounded by bighorn sheep and dog-like animals which are typical of Ute rock art. The petroglyphs were carved sometime between 1660-1860.

The historic marker is fascinating because it also shows photos of an Ute on horseback in 1909. “The Utes’ acquisition of horses by the mid-1600s radically changed the way they hunted, worked and traveled.” Another photo depicts a Ute warrior and his bride, circa 1873. Utah’s name is derived from the Ute Indians who moved into this area around 1300 AD.

I’m thrilled we came here, and even more thrilled to go to The Windows for the sunset, which I had read in the park’s newsletter (so helpful!) is one of the great spots to watch the sunset.

The Windows, a great place to watch the sunset in Arches National Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Windows – just across from the Double Arch where we had been in the morning – is a pleasant half mile walk. We arrive just as the light is turning the rock deep gold, to orange, to red. I find a “comfortable” rock to sit on at the bottom of the arch while Dave, Laini and Alli (of course) climb up into the Windows.  Our view looks out to the Turret Arch and a wide open expanse, to where the sun dips below the horizon.

Watching the sunset from The Windows, Arches National Park © Laini Miranda/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We drive back to Moab to stop in for a bite and beer flight at Moab Brewery, and then return to the national park to do some stargazing before settling into our campsite.

Arches National Park is a great family park where a short walk brings you to many of the iconic features, and you can even see a lot from a car and the observation areas. Stop at the visitor center for advice, where you can watch an orientation film and see exhibits. A self-guiding audio tour is available. Ranger programs are offered seasonally.

For more information, and to reserve entry tickets and campsites, www.nps.gov/arch; info 435-719-2299; hiking info at https://www.nps.gov/arch/planyourvisit/hiking.htm

Sunrise from the Devils Garden Campground, Arches National Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

On our last morning, I awake again before sunrise and scramble up a small hill across the road from our campsite for a different view.

We pack up quickly for our departure which also entails packing up the rental sleeping bags and pads, which we ship back to Moosejaw.com from Moab, pick up breakfast from a delightful cafe, and head out for the drive back to Salt Lake City and our flight home, having had the most marvelous Utah Adventure, a trip of a lifetime for me.

Trip planning tools are available at https://www.visitutah.com/.

Advance Purchase Tickets Required

From April 1 to Oct. 1, 2023, you need to secure in advance a timed entry reservation in order to enter Arches National Park between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. Reservations must be secured three months in advance of the anticipated date of visiting Arches. A single booking of a timed entry ticket covers each registered visitor (an individual, couple, group or family). You can enjoy the park all day, entering and re-entering at will with the validated ticket. A $2 processing fee is added nto the standard park entry fee. Reservations are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis on Recreation.gov. (It may also be possible to obtain a limited number of tickets through Recreation.gov up to midnight the day before planning to visit the park.).

See:

UTAH ADVENTURE DAY 1-2: CAPITOL REEF’S COLORFUL CANYONS

UTAH ADVENTURE DAY 3-4: GRAND STAIRCASE-ESCALANTE POSES CHALLENGE

UTAH ADVENTURE DAY 4-5: DRIVING BURR TRAIL, EXPLORING GLEN CANYON, WILD CAMPING IN ARCH CANYON

UTAH ADVENTURE DAY 6: SACRED SITES, SPIRITS OF BEARS EARS NATIONAL MONUMENT

UTAH ADVENTURE DAY 6-7: HOUSE ON FIRE AMONG HIGHLIGHTS HIKING AMID SACRED SITES, SPIRITS OF BEARS EARS NATIONAL MONUMENT

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© 2023 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/KarenBRubin 

Utah Adventure Day 6-7: House on Fire Among Highlights Hiking Amid Sacred Sites, Spirits of Bears Ears National Monument

House on Fire is one of the most photographed – and dramatic – archeological sites in Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, with Laini Miranda and Dave E. Leiberman

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

What is truly special about Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa – and what draws Laini back time and again, are the remnants, artifacts and structures left by Ancestral Puebloans – ancestors of the Hopi and Zuni – who inhabited these canyons and cliffs between 700 and 2500 years ago. Arrowheads and other artifacts dating back 10,000 years have also been found in this region. Some of these sites are at once accessible yet also feel remote – so you feel you are the first archaeologist to discover, though obviously that can’t be since the BLM Rangers have left laminated info packets in metal cases in some of the dwellings. Still, we can pretend.

Our hikes bring us to these places that seem as if the occupants only recently vacated, leaving behind painted pottery shards, tiny corn husks, stone and bone tools, even their hand-prints, pictographs and petroglyphs that speak to us through time, as if to say, “We were here. We still are.”

Because these lands are sacred, all of us must be respectful of the dwellings and the archaeological artifacts that we come upon. And these sites truly feel sacred – precisely because of the artifacts, the pictographs and petroglyphs, you feel the presence of those who lived here. And because those of us who visit do show proper respect, these mud-and-stick (jacal) constructions delicate pictographs and petroglyphs etched into sandstone and  artifacts, though incredibly fragile, are here for us to discover, as if we are among the first.

It’s fairly miraculous these sites have survived Mother Nature, let alone humans.

After hiking to the Arch Canyon Ruins, Laini leads us to a trail to one of the outstanding highlights of the Bears Ears National Monument: the House on Fire, one of the most photographed (spectacular) sites in the region.

Hiking the Mule Canyon trail © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

This site features five granaries built into overhanging Cedar Mesa Sandstone with a streaked pattern that, in the early morning light, resembles flames (photo tip: because these dwellings were built to be south-facing, the most dramatic light is around 10-11 am depending upon time of year). (https://bearsearsmonument.org/house-on-fire/)

House on Fire is one of the most photographed – and dramatic – archeological sites in Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“As you take in the view, imagine how the ancient Puebloans lived here between 700 and 2,500 years ago,” Matcha writes at the visitutah.com site. “The granaries perched high in the cliffs stored corn, a main source of food. The Puebloans also ground Indian ricegrass into meal to make bread, and they ate abundant prickly pears. The ever-present yucca was invaluable, as its leaves were spun into fiber and woven into baskets, sandals, and bags, as well as ropes that are said to have helped reach some of the higher, less accessible granaries. The Native Americans used the root of the yucca for soap, and they roasted and ate the base of the plant.

House on Fire is one of the most photographed – and dramatic – archeological sites in Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“The pinyon pines that you weave around and duck under to reach the ancient sites were a key source of building material, fuel, and food. When burned, the wood created the high temperatures needed for firing pottery, while pine bark served as roofing and padding, and pinon nuts provided much-needed vitamins and protein.” (https://www.visitutah.com/articles/exploring-mule-canyon-house-on-fire-cave-tower)

You have to really look closely to discover these hand prints in House of Fire, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Laini Miranda/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Matcha further advises to search for rock art located beneath an overhanging boulder in the wash below the House on Fire. And if you continue on the trail, there are several more sites worth seeing. While some sit right off the trail, you either need binoculars to see or have to climb 200 feet to reach them. “Toward the end of the canyon is the spectacular Wall Site, which has several intact rooms built into small caves in the pock-marked cliff. Some of the roofs still have the original roof timbers.”

(South Fork of Mule Canyon trail is 4.3 miles one-way, and elevation gain is 250 feet. Cave Tower Site is 1-1.5 miles round trip, and elevation change is less than 200 feet. Passes are required for day hiking, check with the Bureau of Land Management for the current fee amount. Be prepared with exact change.)

Coming upon The Tower Ruin, off the beaten path © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

After this spectacular hike, we drive west on Hwy 95 near milepost 103, then drive onto a dirt road for half a mile. We hike in and across the way, we see The Tower Ruin – a rare, two-story structure on the other side of the canyon.

The Tower Ruin, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

At first, it seems too steep a scramble for me, but Dave and Laini go down. Dave makes it look easy. Sure enough, he comes back to guide me to the site (so glad he did!).

The Tower Ruin, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

This site is so secluded, remote and untouched, it feels as if we discovered it on our own (though I’m sure that’s not true, the feeling is still so exciting).

The Tower Ruin, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The tower construction seems to be “modern” – Laini says there is evidence of three different generations having a hand in the construction. There are fabulous pictographs and petrolyphs here. I imagine that one is a symbol for the chief.

The Tower Ruin, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Altogether, we have hiked about 9 to 10 miles today – so satisfying.

We drive into the town of Blanding for dinner and supplies, seeing signs along the way for Native American Crafts, Dinosaur Museum, State Edges of the Cedars Native American Museum.

The Tower Ruin, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Laini decides to change plans from our original itinerary and instead of leaving here for Canyonlands, we stay an extra night and day in Cedar Mesa.

So glad, because the second day’s hike is one of the best I have ever experienced.

Catching the last rays of sun driving back to our wild camping site in Arch Canyon from Blanding © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
 

Kane Gulch Trail

Take seriously the need to obtain permits in advance for certain hikes. We changed our plans in order to stay this second day in Cedar Mesa so did not get the necessary permit (limited to just 20 a day) to hike to Moon House – the only day hike that requires a permit instead of just a hiking day pass. We thought we might get away with it because we are here on Easter Sunday, but no such luck (the permit allocations fill up even months before). It is easier to get permits in summer months, which is when Laini and David found themselves the only ones at the site when they last visited (likely because of the heat; when we are here, in early spring, the weather is perfect).

Hiking the Kane Gulch Trail, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Instead, at the Kane Gulch Visitor Center, the Ranger suggests we hike the Kane Gulch Trail which starts right across the road. We purchase our day hiking passes ($5 pp – my America the Beautiful pass doesn’t count). She suggests what to look for at what distances.

Hiking the Kane Gulch Trail, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Dave gets out our hot-water maker and we have our breakfast at the picnic table outside the visitor center, then set out. Our plan is to go five miles, to the Stimper Arch, and five miles back.

Profile of an Indian Chief? Hiking the Kane Gulch Trail, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

At about a mile in, there is a short slot canyon where we see a formation to me looks like the profile of an Indian chief.

At the two-mile mark, Dave stashes our 5-gallon water jug so we have enough for the return.

Junction Ruin, Kane Gulch Trail, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com 

It’s four miles to the Junction Ruin which has some fabulous dwellings, pottery shards, and pictographs.Dave and Laini climb up sheer rock to get to an upper level (a defensive watchtower?) and could see remnants of a ladder that would have been used.

Turkey Pen, Kane Gulch Trail, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com 

Another .7 mile and we come to a site known as Turkey Pen. Looking up from the trail, it seems the cliff dwellings are cramped and close to the edge, but when we get up here, it is surprising how much space there actually is.

Turkey Pen, Kane Gulch Trail, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Here, we see some fabulous examples of mud and stick method of construction (jacal) and some exquisite painted pottery shards, pictographs, even the remnants of the actual turkey pen formed with sticks – so it almost seems you are coming upon a dwelling just after the residents left. You feel you are the archaeologist making the discovery – except for the printed notes left by the National Park Service- but still. 

Cliff dwellings along the Kane Gulch Trail, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We also come upon a square kiva (most kivas Laini and Dave have seen are circular, Laini notes).

Junction Ruin, Kane Gulch Trail, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

You wonder about whether the site was designed to defend and who to defend from – people who would take food stored in the granary? One of the pictographs depicts sheep being killed, another of “lizard man.”

Cliff dwellings along the Kane Gulch Trail, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

As we hike, we keep our eyes peeled on the cliffs above for evidence of dwellings, well off the trail and likely minimally visited. Laini says there were thousands of cliff dwellings here and only a fraction have been discovered (or are still intact, but when you consider they are 1000 years old, and the crumbling rock all around, it is amazing any remain). We spot one and Laini goes off to try to find a way to climb up to it.

Cliff dwellings along the Kane Gulch Trail, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We find a pleasant rock overhang to sit and have our picnic lunch, feeling like this would have been exactly what the Puebloans would have done.

We hike a further .3 miles to the Stimper Arch (which is the 5-mile mark), where we turn around.

Turkey Pen, Kane Gulch Trail, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Turkey Pen, Kane Gulch Trail, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Turkey Pen, Kane Gulch Trail, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Turkey Pen, Kane Gulch Trail, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Turkey Pen, Kane Gulch Trail, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

This hike has everything – it has just the right amount of physical challenge – a section where you scramble a bit and walk a narrow edge – gorgeous greenery, stunning rock formations, water features (but not too watery to hike), but best and most spectacular of all, these cliff dwellings that look like we have just discovered them, with relatively large and stunningly painted pottery shards, stone tools, stunning pictographs (I start thinking they are either indications of how many people lived in the dwelling like a census; markers of whose dwelling it is, like a family name?  or just being playful, artful?).

Turkey Pen, Kane Gulch Trail, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The trail is not specifically marked – so you have to figure your own way using the landscape and intermittently placed cairns.

Turkey Pen, Kane Gulch Trail, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The actual turkey pen, Kane Gulch Trail, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Turkey Pen, Kane Gulch Trail, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Even though this is a popular trail, we come upon other people only occasionally (but it kind of reassures us we are going the right way).

The trail actually goes on for miles (days), connecting to other trails. (We meet a group of college students who are making a multi-day backpacking trip and will return on the Fish and Owl trail.)

Turkey Pen, Kane Gulch Trail, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Turkey Pen, Kane Gulch Trail, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Kane Gulch Trail, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We get back to the start at 6:30 pm (we set out around 10 am), having hiked about 11 miles. (It took us 5 hours to get 5 miles (including the time exploring the archaeological sites) and 3 ½ hours to hike back.

Stimper Arch, Kane Gulch Trail, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

After this full day’s hike, we drive to Arches National Park. It’s a fairly long drive and already sunset by the time we arrive. This is the first time we have to set up camp in the dark and there is a strong wind that makes it difficult to keep the tent from blowing away (especially since I can’t find my tent stakes so we improvise, until they are ultimately found under the footprint.)

Dave makes a fire and we prepare dinner from our supplies.

It is night by the time we set up camp at the Devils Campground in Arches National Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

If You Go….

The Moon House Ruin is one of the best archaeology sites on Cedar Mesa, consists of three separate structures with 49 rooms; well preserved pictographs grace the walls of an interior courtyard and some of the rooms (the hike is 3.2-5.6 miles roundtrip). More of the best hikes in Bears Ears at http://www.hikingwalking.com/index.php/destinations/ut/ut_se/blanding

Day hiking in Bears Ears National Monument requires a day hiking pass. Day hiking passes are unlimited.

Bears Ears National Monument does not charge an entry fee where your America the Beautiful Pass would typically apply. However, activity fees called “Individual Special Recreation Permits” are charged for day hiking and backpacking (typically $2 at the trailhead). Visit the permits page for more information (https://www.blm.gov/programs/recreation/permits-and-passes/lotteries-and-permit-systems/utah/cedarmesa).

Visitor Centers:

Kane Gulch BLM Ranger Station, UT-261 36 miles west of Blanding. Open: March 1-June 15, September 1-October 31, 8 am-noon daily

Monticello Visitor Center, 216 S Main St., Hours: 9 am-5 pm, closes at 3 pm on Sunday, Phone: 435-587-3401

Blanding Visitor Center, 12 North Grayson Parkway, 9 am-5 p.m., closed Sunday

https://www.blm.gov/visit/bears-ears-national-monument

See:

UTAH ADVENTURE DAY 1-2: CAPITOL REEF’S COLORFUL CANYONS

UTAH ADVENTURE DAY 3-4: GRAND STAIRCASE-ESCALANTE POSES CHALLENGE

UTAH ADVENTURE DAY 4-5: DRIVING BURR TRAIL, EXPLORING GLEN CANYON, WILD CAMPING IN ARCH CANYON

UTAH ADVENTURE DAY 6: SACRED SITES, SPIRITS OF BEARS EARS NATIONAL MONUMENT

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© 2023 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/KarenBRubin 

Utah Adventure Day 6: Sacred Sites, Spirits of Bears Ears National Monument

Exploring the Arch Canyon ruins, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, with Laini Miranda and Dave E. Leiberman

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa is the highlight (out of so many) of our Utah Adventure – hitting on all cylinders of stunning landscape, fascinating cultural heritage, and the opportunity to really explore, adventure and discover for ourselves on some of the most wonderful hikes (Kane Gulch!) anywhere.

Wild camping in Arch Canyon, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Finally! I get to do wild camping that I have been so intrigued about ever since Dave and Laini spent much of a summer exploring the West in their Subaru Forester which they converted into a campervan.

Dave drives our rental Jeep down a dirt road into Arch Canyon until we find a spot we can claim for our own (it happens to be immediately adjacent to an Indian reservation, with a warning sign posted on a fence, “No trespassing.”). There are many other wild campers in this area in the spring and we get one of the last suitable spots. (But this is still so much more interesting than going further down the road to an actual campground where you need advance reservations for official campgrounds,  recreation.gov, information at 435-587-1500 M-F, 8 am-noon. No reservation is required for any BLM land that does not clearly prohibit camping and the custom is to find a site that already has a stone circle for a fire pit.)

Wild camping in Arch Canyon, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Where we set up is just a walk down a path that leads to the Arch Canyon trailhead and the Arch Canyon Ruins, where we get to explore cliff dwellings.

Indeed, Cedar Mesa is a network of canyons that are home to ancient archaeological ruins and rock art panels – the ultimate combination of spectacular scenery and fascinating cultural sites.

Streams carve into the banded yellow-gray and reddish-orange sandstone, creating fabulous formations and arches – Mother Nature’s sculpture. Cliffs are streaked with “desert varnish” – thin deposits of minerals including iron, manganese, magnetite and clay particles, combined with bacteria – which add to the painterly ambiance. And some of these have provided the overhang for dwellings.

Hiking the trail into Arch Canyon, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

What is truly special about Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa – and what draws Laini back time and again, are the remnants, artifacts and structures left by Ancestral Puebloans – ancestors of the Hopi and Zuni – who inhabited these canyons and cliffs between 700 and 2500 years ago. Arrowheads and other artifacts dating back 10,000 years have also been found in this region. Some of these sites are at once accessible yet also feel remote – so you feel you are the first archaeologist to discover, though obviously that can’t be since the BLM Rangers have left laminated info packets in metal cases in some of the dwellings. Still, we can pretend.

Hiking the trail into Arch Canyon, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Our hikes bring us to these places that seem as if the occupants only recently vacated, leaving behind painted pottery shards, tiny corn husks, stone and bone tools, even their hand-prints, pictographs and petroglyphs that speak to us through time, as if to say, “We were here. We still are.”

These sites in Bears Ears truly feel sacred – precisely because of the artifacts, the pictographs and petroglyphs, you feel the presence of those who lived here © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Indeed, there are a mind-boggling 100,000 known archaeological sites protected within the Bears Ears National Monument, which spans 1.35 million acres. The buttes and surroundings have long been held as sacred or significant by a number of the region’s Native American tribes.

But it has not been without controversy. 

Bears Ears National Monument was established in 2016 by President Barack Obama to preserve thousands of these indigenous cultural and archaeological sites. The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, an alliance of five sovereign Tribal nations with ties to Bears Ears (the Hopi, Navajo, Uintah and Ouray Ute Indian Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute and Zuni Tribe), was the driving force behind its designation and are partners in managing the monument along with the federal Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service.

These sites in Bears Ears truly feel sacred – precisely because of the artifacts, the pictographs and petroglyphs, you feel the presence of those who lived here © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In their proposal to have Bears Ears designated as a national monument, the Coalition described these canyonlands as ancestral land and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) described the Bears Ears as “the most significant unprotected cultural landscape in the U.S.”

These sites in Bears Ears truly feel sacred – precisely because of the artifacts, the pictographs and petroglyphs, you feel the presence of those who lived here © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

But in 2017, catering to mining, fossil fuel and other extraction industry interests, Donald Trump drastically reduced the size of Bears Ears (by 85 percent) and Grand Staircase-Escalante (by half) – the single largest rollback of public lands protection in history. These changes exposed archaeological and paleontological sites to vandalism, looting and opened the door to drilling and mining. Moreover, Trump’s Interior Department, under Secretary Ryan Zinke (who left in 2019 in disgrace) offered meager plans for managing what remained of the monuments, leaving important cultural sites and wildlife habitat vulnerable.

These sites in Bears Ears truly feel sacred – precisely because of the artifacts, the pictographs and petroglyphs, you feel the presence of those who lived here © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Various groups brought lawsuits and President Joe Biden (who appointed Deb Haaland Interior Secretary, the first native American to hold the cabinet position and the first to lead the department which historically oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs) restored the territory under protection in October 2021. The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition and the federal government officially signed a cooperative agreement, unveiling the first monument boundary sign on June 18, 2022,

The Bears Ears National Monument is named for a pair of buttes that rise to elevations of 8,900 feet and 9,000 feet © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The monument is named Bears Ears for a pair of buttes that rise to elevations of 8,900 feet and 9,000 feet – more than 2,000 feet above Utah state routes 95 and 261. The monument includes the area around the Bears Ears formation and adjacent land to the southeast along the Comb Ridge formation, as well as Indian Creek Canyon to the northeast. The monument also includes the Valley of the Gods to the south, the western part of the Manti-La Sal National Forest’s Monticello unit, and the Dark Canyon Wilderness to the north and west.

These sites in Bears Ears truly feel sacred – precisely because of the artifacts, the pictographs and petroglyphs, you feel the presence of those who lived here © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Because these lands are sacred, all of us must be respectful of the dwellings and the archaeological artifacts that we come upon. And these sites truly feel sacred – precisely because of the artifacts, the pictographs and petroglyphs, you feel the presence of those who lived here. And because those of us who visit do show proper respect, these mud-and-stick (jacal) constructions delicate pictographs and petroglyphs etched into sandstone and  artifacts, though incredibly fragile, are here for us to discover, as if we are among the first.

It’s fairly miraculous these sites have survived Mother Nature, let alone humans.

These sites in Bears Ears truly feel sacred – precisely because of the artifacts, the pictographs and petroglyphs, you feel the presence of those who lived here © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Indeed, we are able to see artifacts and sites that date back 1000 years, but it is mind-boggling to contemplate that this area has been inhabited since 12,000 BC to 6000 BC by the PaleoIndians; the Archaic (6000-2000 BC); Early Agriculture (2000-500 BC); Basketmaker II (500 BC to 500 AD); Basketmaker III (500-750 AD); Pueblo I (750-900 AD), Pueblo II (900-1150 AD-we see evidence of their kivas, plain gray pottery, black-on-white pottery); Pueblo III (1150-1290 AD, when the Four Corners Area was abandoned).

Arch Canyon Ruins

Hiking the trail into Arch Canyon, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Each day of our Utah Adventure, which so far has taken us through Capitol Reef National Park, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, has been so different in highlights, experience and even theme. Today’s theme is cultural, as we go in search of cliff dwellings through these canyons.

We wake up in our “wild” campsite and after breakfast, stroll down Arch Canyon Road and soon come to the Arch Canyon Ruin.

Seeing these structures, how they were built high up in the rock overhangs, camouflaged in rock, you wonder whether they were designed for defense: Who or what were they defending against? The fact that the Navajo named the Ancestral Pueblo people who were there before them, Anasazi – “enemy ancestors” (as we learned at the Anasazi State Park Museum in Boulder) suggests that there were conflicts among tribes or clans. Were these groups afraid of being attacked for their food or water? Or were they built so far above the river because of flash floods?

Arch Canyon ruins, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

A panel provides background about the Puebloan People and these cliff dwellings: Few people lived in Cedar Mesa from 700-1050 AD, but by 1050, there were many Pueblo communities throughout the mesa and its canyons. During this time, Cedar Mesa’s cultural landscapes were interconnected with those of Chaco Canyon to the southeast, Mesa Verde to the east and the kayenta region to the south. Later, smaller groups moved into Cedar Mesa’s canyons to occupy nearly inaccessible but defensible places such as cliff face alcoves and ledges. But by 1280 AD, a combination of social and environmental factors prompted the Puebloan people to migrate again from Cedar Mesa to lands to the south and east. Cedar Mesa’s descendant populations now reside among the Hopi of Arizona, the Zuni and Keres-speaking pueblos of New Mexico and the Tanoan peoples along the Rio Grande.

Arch Canyon ruins, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I note the word “defensible” and wonder about who and what they were defending against.

In one of the structures, we see an innovation: shelves! We climb under boulders and see a pictograph of four hands.

We spend about two hours in this section, and then get the Jeep to go to the next destination. (You can hike between Arch Canyon and House on Fire, via Arch Canyon Road and Mule Canyon trail, 5.7 miles, or two hours, one way.)

Exploring the Arch Canyon ruins, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We stop for a picnic lunch at Mule Canyon Ruin site along the road (almost a rest stop, complete with two bathrooms).

Laini leads us to a trail to one of the outstanding highlights of the Bears Ears National Monument: the House on Fire, one of the most photographed (spectacular) sites in the region.

If You Go….

Day hiking in Bears Ears National Monument requires a day hiking pass (there is no limit on the number of day hiking passes issued).

Bears Ears National Monument does not charge an entry fee where your America the Beautiful Pass would typically apply. However, activity fees called “Individual Special Recreation Permits” are charged for day hiking and backpacking (typically $2 at the trailhead). Because your America the Beautiful Pass does not cover Individual Special Recreation Permits, it does not apply toward your backpacking permit, Moon House permit, nor day hiking pass. Visit the permits page for more information.

Visitor Centers:

Kane Gulch BLM Ranger Station,  UT-261 36 miles west of Blanding. Open: March 1-June 15, September 1-October 31, 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., 7 days a week

Monticello Visitor Center, 216 S Main St., Hours: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Closes early at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, Phone: 435-587-3401

Blanding Visitor Center, 12 North Grayson Parkway, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., closed Sunday

More information: https://www.blm.gov/visit/bears-ears-national-monument

Next: House on Fire, Kane Gulch Trail

See:

UTAH ADVENTURE DAY 1-2: CAPITOL REEF’S COLORFUL CANYONS

UTAH ADVENTURE DAY 3-4: GRAND STAIRCASE-ESCALANTE POSES CHALLENGE

UTAH ADVENTURE DAY 4-5: DRIVING BURR TRAIL, EXPLORING GLEN CANYON, WILD CAMPING IN ARCH CANYON

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© 2023 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/KarenBRubin 

Utah Adventure Day 4-5: Driving Burr Trail, Exploring Glen Canyon, Wild Camping in Arch Canyon

In search of Defiance House archaeological site, tucked away in the Forgotten Canyon © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfaranadnear.com

By Karen Rubin, with Laini Miranda and Dave E. Leiberman

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

It’s the afternoon when we leave the Grand Staircase-Escalante after having a sensational hike through Big Horn Canyon, and drive through the Dixie National Forest on our way to Glen Canyon Recreation Area.

We stop in Boulder where the Magnolia burrito food truck that Dave and Laini love is based in the parking lot of the Anasazi State Park Museum. I wander into the museum for a quick look – the displays are really wonderful and had I had the time, I would have taken advantage of the interactive exhibits (you can grind corn using a mano and metate, identify seeds with a microscope, make rubbings of pottery designs).

I find it fascinating that “Anasazi” is actually a Navajo word meaning “ancient enemies” or “enemy ancestors” but it is not actually known what these people – Ancestral Pueblo who inhabited the area before the Navajo – called themselves. Still, the name has stuck. They were village-dwelling farmers – that is to say, not nomadic people – who lived in the Four Corners between 1 and 1300 AD, when there is some mystery about why they suddenly left en masse (some suspect it was the drought of historic proportions, only rivaled by our current 20-year drought). Behind the museum you can walk a short trail to the Coombs Site Ruins and a life-size, six-room replica of part of the pueblo as it would have existed 800-900 years ago. Beyond that are several more unexcavated areas. (Anasazi State Park Museum, Boulder, UT, 435-335-7308, www.stateparks.utah.gov)

Long Canyon on the Burr Trail © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfaranadnear.com
 

Just down the road from the museum, we turn onto the Burr Trail Scenic Backway, considered one of the most picturesque drives in Utah. Paved and graded in some sections, gravel and dirt in others, the road extends 66 miles from Boulder, passing the slickrock canyons of the Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument, the Badlands of Capitol Reef National Park, the Waterpocket Fold, and painted rock desert of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, ending at Bullfrog Basin on Lake Powell – our destination on the fourth day of our Utah Adventure.

Singing Canyon on the Burr Trail © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfaranadnear.com

I find it interesting to learn that the Burr Trail was originally developed as a cattle trail by stockman John Atlantic Burr (born in 1846 aboard the SS Brooklyn sailing across the Atlantic; his family established Burrville, Utah, in 1876). Burr developed the trail so he could take his herd through the rough, nearly impassable country around the Waterpocket Fold, Burr Canyon and Muley Twist Canyon.

Singing Canyon on the Burr Trail © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfaranadnear.com
Dave tries out the acoustics in Singing Canyon on the Burr Trail © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfaranadnear.com

We drive through Long Canyon and soon come to one of the highlights along the route, which accounts for its nickname, Singing Canyon. It looks like a setting for Jurassic Park. We walk in, feeling so small against these gigantic, high cliffs of red rock. Dave gets out his mini-guitar for the occasion and we revel in the acoustics that give the canyon its name (I can imagine proposals and weddings happening here).

Driving along the Burr Trail, it is eerie to see how such mighty rocks crumble © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfaranadnear.com

As we drive this rustic highway, we see giant red rock boulders strewn all over, having broken off from these cliffs, so close to road. Some are precariously balanced. We wonder over what period of time they came down (last century, or last week?), and whether more are likely to come down anytime soon.

Driving along the Burr Trail, it is eerie to see how such mighty rocks crumble © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfaranadnear.com

This is a landscape that seems at once fixed and yet is constantly changing. Burr Trail is like driving through destruction – you see these enormous, massive walls of rock collapsed in heaps and think how fragile it all is, how even the mighty can fall. It is as if it is all falling apart and you wonder how long before these rocks turn to mounds of sand.

The view from the top of the famous Burr Trail Switchbacks © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfaranadnear.com

We next come to the famous Burr Trail Switchbacks. The view from the top to the Henry Mountains and Waterpocket Fold is stunning. The intriguingly named “Waterpocket Fold” is a geologic wonder: a nearly 100-mile long warp in the Earth’s crust. Aclassic monocline – a “step-up” in the rock layers – it formed between 50 and 70 million years ago when a major mountain building event in western North America, the Laramide Orogeny, reactivated an ancient buried fault in this region.

The view from the top of the famous Burr Trail Switchbacks © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfaranadnear.com

After taking in the view, Dave maneuvers down the series of ridiculously steep, tight turns (scary!) several hundred feet to the valley below.

Starting the harrowing descent down the Burr Trail Switchbacks © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfaranadnear.com
 

[A note from the Bureau of Land Management: Although in dry weather the Burr Trail is easily accessible to passenger cars, wet weather may make the road impassable even for 4WD vehicles. Check with rangers or local officials for weather and road conditions. Recreational vehicles are not recommended. (https://www.visitutah.com/places-to-go/cities-and-towns/boulder/burr-trail)

The harrowing descent down the Burr Trail Switchbacks © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfaranadnear.com
The Burr Trail Scenic Backway, considered one of the most picturesque drives in Utah © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfaranadnear.com

We don’t get to do our wild camping tonight either, but rather have found what seems one of the few motels around, Tikaboo Lodge, and make do with the remaining food supplies we have.

(Note that there are very minimal amenities in the Bullfrog/Ticaboo area during the off-season. There are, however, two helpful outdoor outfitters/gas stations open until 4pm. )

Boating in Glen Canyon, Wild Camping in Arch Canyon

Our destination the next morning is Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Spanning 1.25 million acres, it stretches for hundreds of miles from Lees Ferry in Arizona to the Orange Cliffs of southern Utah.

Lake Powell is only 13% of the National Recreation Area, but is (or rather was) one of the largest man-made lakes in North America. At full pool (3700′ elevation) it is 186 miles long, has 1,960 miles of shoreline, some 96 major side canyons, and a capacity of 27 million acre-feet (32 million cubic meters). Its maximum depth (at Glen Canyon Dam) is 561 feet.

Boating on Lake Powell in Glen Canyon Recreation Area in search of cliff dwellings © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfaranadnear.com

But since 2001, declining water levels (the lake had dropped over 100 feet over a two-year period at the time of our visit) due to climate change and 20 years of drought have reshaped Lake Powell’s shoreline and changed or closed boat ramp access points, on-lake facilities, and dramatically altered the landscape. (Check conditions, www.nps.gov/glca/learn/changing-lake-levels.htm)

Boating on Lake Powell in Glen Canyon Recreation Area © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfaranadnear.com

I think that similar conditions must have been what caused the Ancestral Puebloans to leave their communities in 1300 AD after hundreds of years living here, because they also had experienced a 20-year long drought; the drought today is the worst since then.

The gorgeous formations reveal themselves on Lake Powell in Glen Canyon Recreation Area in search of cliff dwellings © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfaranadnear.com

Laini has rented a power boat from Bullfrog Boat Rentals (435-684-3010) at the Bullfrog Marina so we can explore the canyons that were flooded when they created the controversial Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River. We are in search of signs of cliff dwellings or petroglyphs that may have been exposed with the drop in water level.

We get a map from the boat rental company and try to follow the mile markers on the lake that help us orient.

Compared to our two days of adventuring in Grand Staircase-Escalante, this day is like a resort vacation, with the luxury of a boat allowing us to traverse 20+ miles in one afternoon. 

The water level has dropped so much over the past two years that trees are poking out from the bottom.

Boating on Lake Powell in Glen Canyon Recreation Area in search of cliff dwellings © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfaranadnear.com

Dave navigates to Forgotten Canyon where Laini has information that a trail will lead to Defiance House Archaeological Site, an 800-year old cliff dwelling (nps.gov, 800-227-7286).

Because the water level is so low, we come to the edge of the water much earlier than expected, and pull up the boat onto a beach, have a picnic lunch (avocado on bread, peanut butter/jelly) under a rock awning (like the Ancestral Puebloans might have), and then set off on foot in search of the cliff dwelling.

Exploring Forgotten Canyon © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfaranadnear.com

This really feels like Indiana Jones, because there is no actual trail. We follow the water  – slogging along the deep mud, crisscrossing to avoid deeper water. Dave comes with me as Laini and Alli bound ahead to explore in the limited time we have before we have to get back to the boat. 

The site (which is only reachable by boat then foot) is usually just a quarter mile past the end of the water, but with the water level so much lower, it’s now over two miles away and we don’t have the time. Also there is so much overgrowth and prickly thickets that Laini and Alli can’t get through wearing shorts. They turn around and tell us we should make our way back to the boat.

In search of Defiance House archaeological site, tucked away in the Forgotten Canyon © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfaranadnear.com

Even with this disappointment, it has been an immensely fun adventure. 

As we boat out of the canyon, we see a vulture contemplating eating a dead fish on the shore.

Boating on Lake Powell in Glen Canyon Recreation Area in search of cliff dwellings © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfaranadnear.com

We are close to the time when we need to return the boat, but Dave pilots us into the Lost Eden Canyon. This turns out to be an absolutely magical (overused word but really apt) place – a superb finale to our adventure.

Lost Eden Canyon, Lake Powell in Glen Canyon Recreation Area in search of cliff dwellings © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfaranadnear.com
Lost Eden Canyon, Lake Powell in Glen Canyon Recreation Area in search of cliff dwellings © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfaranadnear.com

There are golden dapples on the gray rock faces like gold coins shimmering in sunlight. The water is a surreal emerald green under a brilliant blue sky, the rocks are orange, tan and gray, making interesting patterns, as we wind through the narrow canyon.

Lost Eden Canyon, Lake Powell in Glen Canyon Recreation Area in search of cliff dwellings © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfaranadnear.com

You can easily imagine how ancient artists were inspired not just by the colors, but the patterns in rock faces.

Lost Eden Canyon, Lake Powell in Glen Canyon Recreation Area in search of cliff dwellings © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfaranadnear.com

When we get back to the marina, it takes 30 minutes just to refill the tank ($200!) – which we hadn’t calculated for in getting the boat back in time.

Driving from Lake Powell on our way to our next stop, Bears Ears National Monument-Cedar Mesa, we stop at Outpost Marine Trading Post – as significant today as it must have been for early pioneers. It has a fabulous selection of gear and groceries for camping as well as fantastic sandwiches at incredibly reasonable prices (considering how desperate people can be at this point in their journey) – Reuben, probably best outside of NYC, $8; thick burgers; fresh sliced turkey only $4.99/lb (Dave can’t believe it so buys 2 pounds). Everyone is absolutely delighted as we savor our car dinner when we get back on the road.

We soon see a dead calf on the road and vultures hovering.

We stop at Hite Overlook for spectacular, iconic views of the Western landscape.

The historic marker here relates how in 1883 Navajo Chief Hoskininni led Cass Hite to the Canyon below, where he found gold. He opened a small store and post office, making his fortune off the miners. After World War II, the town’s population “swelled” to more than 200. This time, miners were searching for “hot” rocks (uranium). This mining boom also went bust and Hite returned to its small town existence. But in 1964, the waters of Lake Powell swallowed up Hite, leaving behind the only true treasure: the view.

Hite Overlook © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfaranadnear.com

We drive to Bears Ears-Cedar Mesa where we finally get to do the wild camping I have been so excited about (that means no services at all, just wilderness). The sun is descending and we are hoping to set up camp before dark.

Hite Overlook © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfaranadnear.com

Dave finds his way down a dirt road leading to Arch Canyon and we finally find a suitable site literally next door to a sign marking an Indian reservation (no trespassing!).

We set up in time before dark, but the full moon shines like a giant lantern, rising just as the sun sets, making flashlights unnecessary.

Wild camping in Arch Canyon © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfaranadnear.com

We sit around the campfire, enjoying the peace and reveling in our adventure. We will finally get to use our winter-rated sleeping bags and pads Dave had rented from Moosejaw (https://www.moosejaw.com/content/gear-rental, 877-666-7352). 

Each day of our trip, we are immersed in landscape that manifests different personality, character, color, texture, ambiance, even theme, and provide the contours for our experience.

Tomorrow we will get to meet Bears Ears and the spirits of the Ancestral Pueblo people.  

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, www.nps.gov/glca, 928-608-6200; Bullfrog Visitors Center, 435-684-7423.

See:

UTAH ADVENTURE DAY 1-2: CAPITOL REEF’S COLORFUL CANYONS

UTAH ADVENTURE DAY 3-4: GRAND STAIRCASE-ESCALANTE POSES CHALLENGE

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© 2023 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/KarenBRubin 

Utah Adventure Day 3-4: Grand Staircase-Escalante Poses Challenge

Hiking Big Horn Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, with Laini Miranda and Dave E. Leiberman

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is a Delaware-sized museum of sedimentary erosion that takes you down a 200-million-year-old “staircase” – a series of plateaus that descend from Bryce Canyon south toward the Grand Canyon.

But it’s relatively new and unexplored: it was the last part of the Lower 48 United States to get cartographed. President Bill Clinton set aside these 1.87 million acres as a national monument in 1996 because its untrammeled significance distinguishes it for researchers and explorers alike – but it has been controversial ever since, as Trump and Republicans sought to reverse its protected status, slash the size of Grand Staircase in half and neighboring Bears Ears by 85%,and open up vast sections of both – including areas sacred to indigenous people – to extraction and exploitation. Biden reinstated the protected areas in 2021.

Unlike the exceptionally popular and trafficked Capitol Reef (which we visited on our first two days of our Utah Adventure), Zion, Bryce Canyon and Arches National Park, Grand Staircase-Escalante is for more hard-core adventures – most of the trails are barely marked, require four-wheel drive to reach the trailhead, and have minimal services (you are on your own).

David and Laini have been here before, so have scouted and know the ropes – like how to drive down the rustic, 55-mile long Hole-in-the-Rock road that begins on Highway 12, just southeast of the town of Escalante, and ends at the edge of a cliff. That road leads to the trailheads of the minimally marked trails into many slot canyons that Laini most wants to explore. When they came the last time, the road was almost impassable – we are lucky today, that the gravel and sand are not so deep. (Pro tip: go in early spring shortly after the road is regarded; in summer and fall, the washboard road has been so well-traveled and destroyed that it takes over an hour to drive just 20 miles, even in a four-wheel drive car with high clearance, as David and Laini learned through experience).

Hole in the Rock Road is actually a famous historic Mormon Trail. The off-highway portion begins/ends near Halls Crossing on Utah Highway 276 and goes near to the pioneer crossing of the Colorado River (now Lake Powell). A large group of Mormon settlers in wagons traveled this route on a journey from Escalante to Bluff, which they expected to take six weeks but actually took six months. It is an amazing expanse of open country. This is also the famed road featured in Edward Abbey’s cult classic, “The Monkey Wrench Gang”.

Names here are very descriptive and should give you some idea (they might as well use skull and crossbones instead of trail markers): Devils Garden (the easiest and most enchanting hike), Spooky Gulch (a moderate hike), Little Death Hollow, Death Hollow (a difficult hike). And then there’s Hell’s Backbone – a rugged, 45-mile long mostly unpaved mountain road from Escalante to Boulder through Dixie National Forest into Box Death Hollow Wilderness area that climbs far up the southern slopes of Boulder Mountain, reaching the summit at 9,200 feet; without stops takes nearly 2 hours to drive, is closed in winter and usually impassable during the snowmelt season of late spring.

The trail to Zebra Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The canyons are a rugged, desolate adventurers’ paradise – Jurassic Park comes to mind – and draws hard-core hikers, canyoneers and other outdoors enthusiasts. There are very few people around (the town is tiny), even reaching the trailhead requires four-wheel drive capable of off-road, and the trails are not marked, beyond a sign at the trailhead, and even these are rare.

As we head out for hikes, we have to be extremely mindful of carrying enough water and snacks. David hauls a 5-gallon collapsible water jug that he stashes for the trip back, and carries a 4L Hydrapak water bladder that he uses to refill our personal water bottles. We’re here in cool weather, but in summer, it can be dangerously hot. You are cautioned not to start out on these hikes after 10 am. David and Laini are also big fans of the lightweight Clif Energy Bloks that you can stock up on at Escalante Outfitters in town, where we get breakfast before heading out.

Dave, Laini and Alli hiking the trail to Zebra Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Besides water, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, snacks (and me a camera), a light compactable jacket, we try to carry as little as possible. (This means I can’t take my Nikon Z5 mirrorless –too big, bulky; on the more challenging hikes I rely on my Panasonic Lumix, my Olympus T6, and my Google Pixel phone, which actually capture the richest colors). Laini and David advise us that in some spots the slot canyons are only 10” wide and simply cannot accommodate a backpack.

On a previous trip, David and Laini had a sophic guide named Ace (or Yoda), who said things like, “Let the land reveal itself to you and you will ultimately find the red zone.” (I have no idea what the red zone represents but it sounds very Zen and I think it has something to do with the fact that there is no real trail – we have to find our own way using instinct, intuition, or just common sense, as well as the verbal descriptions of landmarks.)

The trail to Zebra Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

(Actually, you don’t have to go off on your own – the Visitor Center can provide a list of outfitters in Escalante. David and Laini hired Ace Kvale on their first trip to the area; he’s a photographer and guide, https://acekvale.com/; see https://www.visitutah.com/Articles/Roaming-Grand-Staircase-Escalante. And apparently, there is actually a “red zone’, Laini tells me later, “literally an area of red swirly mounds in the middle of the otherwise white and yellow landscape.”)

This first morning, we hike to the Zebra Canyon – a slot canyon which is often too flooded to visit, as it was when Laini and David were last here. It’s a two-mile hike across flat open terrain to get to the entrance (virtually no shade).

Laini reads notes to direct our route that sound like Indiana Jones navigating by looking out for cryptic descriptions of land formations.

“Named after the vivid stripes that line its walls, Zebra Slot Canyon in Grand Staircase Escalante is perhaps the most unique canyon in Southern Utah,” the notes read. “To reach the stunning canyon requires an 8-mile drive down a dirt road, a 5-mile round trip hike that can be tricky to follow, and a challenging climb through very narrow canyon walls. Even though the Zebra Slot Canyon itself is only about a quarter-mile long, the long journey to reach it is completely worth the effort.”

The landscape here in the Grand Staircase Escalante is so different from Capitol Reef – swirls and folds, amazing color, the formations sensuous.

Moqui marbles on the trail to Zebra Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We come upon a literal pile of perfectly round rocks (“Moqui marbles”)—that look like chocolate bon bons or rubber balls formed by hand–that native peoples used like marbles or balls.

Zebra Canyon is wide open where it joins Harris Wash, but within 10 minutes, becomes deeper and narrower. Where it narrows, there can be a few pools of water from ankle to waist deep (you may want to take off your boots, but keep them with you); “15 minutes up the canyon you enter the short, but amazing Zebra section that ends at a small dryfall you can upclimb. This is the best section of Zebra. Above the small dryfall is a large pothole and the canyon opens. Head back down to Harris Wash when finished,“ the notes say.(www.roadtripryan.com/go/t/utah/escalante/zebratunnel)

The trail to Zebra Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I make it through a little ways, squeezing my way in, but then it becomes even narrower, with barely 10 inches to get through. This is much more technical, requiring real climbing skill, where you have to use your hands and legs to shimmy up the walls of the canyon and slither through. Essentially, every “step” is problem-solving a puzzle – involving seeing the puzzle in its full-dimension, thinking out of the box to use all your resources, and transfigure/manipulate/reshape your body. You need to be flexible (I’m not), have good strength in your upper body, hands and knees (I don’t), and it helps to be thin (no comment).

This is my first experience in a slot canyon, and I am intimidated. I don’t want to hold back the others or have them worry that I will be completely trapped inside (my worry), so I tell them to go on ahead and wait for them in a small wider section, enjoying watching others go through (and not return).

Laini demonstrates her rock climbing skill as she navigates the Zebra Canyon in Grand Staircase-Escalante © Dave E. Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Dave and Alli meet the challenge of Zebra Canyon in Grand Staircase-Escalante © Laini Miranda/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It feels surreal, but I can hear people laughing through the rock walls, as if embedded in the rock (it’s weird).  While I wait, I watch the various techniques people use to scramble up the sides and solve the problem of slithering through. Very creative! (I’m sorry to have missed the experience but I did not want David and Laini to be concerned for me.) 

Dave demonstrates his climbing technique to get through the narrow sections of Zebra Canyon Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
 

Our plan is to next go to Tunnel Slot. The directions say to go down Harris Wash a little less than a mile (20-30 minutes) from Zebra to the first side canyon coming in on the left. Go up this side canyon about 10 minutes to reach the Tunnel. It can be dry, or a deep pool.

But instead of exiting to the other end of Zebra where I would expect these directions apply, David, Laini and Alli come back to where I am at the beginning, and we continue on in search of the Tunnel Slot Canyon that is supposed to be nearby.

Finding our way in Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Canyons don’t have signs or markers. People just know where to go. In some instances we find cairns (a marker made of piled-up rocks that leads you to the right path. I keep that in mind to throw back at bigots who have turned my name, Karen, into a slur: cairns lead the way to the right path).

But mostly, we just go (a tad unnerving because of the vastness of emptiness and the thought of actually wandering around totally lost, as I’ve seen in Survivor and/or Disaster movies).

Laini recalls another of Ace’s sagacious aphorisms, “Whichever way you go, that’s the best way.”

Dave demonstrates his climbing technique to get through a narrow slot canyon in Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

So, we find ourselves paving our own trail (that’s fun too) , walking over a vast section of slickrock – amazing white, swirled smooth mounds of rock like petrified ice cream – and instead find another slot to explore. This time, I scramble over boulders to get in (very proud of myself), but it doesn’t go far. Still. I did it and it gives me confidence for another day. We don’t actually find the Tunnel Slot Canyon.

We find our way to the trail we came in on (whew!), and return to the trailhead.

We’re back to the Jeep by 4:10 pm, having hiked for 6 hours (6 miles).

There are more slot canyons in this region of Utah than anywhere in North America, Laini says. (See: Top 10 Slot Canyons in Utah, https://www.utah.com/articles/post/top-10-slot-canyons-in-utah/)

The slots are reached along Hole in the Rock Road. And after these ambitious hikes, we continue driving on the road to Devils Garden, 13 miles south of Escalante

Devils Garden is an astonishing sight – a whole cityscape of hoodoos and arches. These are incredibly dramatic, mysterious – not rock at all, but seem to be imbued with spirits (hence the name, no doubt). To me, this place evokes Easter Island (and I wonder if that’s how the Easter Island statues were actually formed – originally hoodoos that islanders then carved). How is this place not so famous that everyone knows about it and comes? Don’t miss the Metate Arch.

Hoodoos abound in Devils Garden, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Metate Arch, Devils Garden, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Devils Garden, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Devils Garden, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

This is probably the easiest trail in the area, and is absolutely magical. There is also a lovely picnic area and bathrooms.

Back in the Jeep, Laini leads us down a wild path to the no-name hoodoos overlook that she and David discovered wild camping on a previous trip (the drive was harrowing enough, like being in an ATV). From this high elevation we look through these towering rock formations to the vast expanse below. It’s tempting to camp here, but we return to our cozy cabin at Canyons of Escalante RV Park in Escalante.

Hoodoos overlook Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Hoodoos overlook Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

At the trailhead, we had met two “influencers” who seemed to us to be amateurs since they were not even carrying much water. We see them again in  Zebra Canyon, where they were dressed incongruously in flowy blue dresses for a fashion shoot. At the end of the day, we happen upon them again at a restaurant adjacent to our campground, and learn they had completed Zebra, Tunnel, Spooky, and Pickaboo slot canyons all in one day!

Our cozy cabin at Canyons of Escalante RV Park, Escalante, Utah © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Big Horn Canyon

For our second day exploring Grand Staircase-Escalante, we head to Big Horn Canyon.

I’m more prepared today for this hike and basically, go with the flow (as Ace would say).

Big Horn Canyon is a tributary of Harris Wash. It runs for three miles through alternating slickrock and sand – the first two miles are in the wash. The slots cut into the Navajo sandstone rock layers displaying an unusually wide range of colors and forms.

We follow instructions which say to park at the two blue containers, then make our way down to the river bed (exactly where do we start?) and follow Harris Wash  of the Escalante River, crossing it many times (and can be hard to reach when the water is higher.)

This first part of the hike to reach the canyon is pleasant – we go back and forth over a riverbed which on this day, is mostly dry.

Hiking through Burr Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There are two slot canyons. The first over to the left is shorter and the hike ends when it becomes too narrow to pass through. The second one is long and the colors are spectacular. For a change in perspective, once the canyon walls open you can hike on the creamsicle swirled ice cream rocks. 

Hiking through Burr Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Unlike Zebra, Big Horn Canyon is really easy to navigate (no need to slither up walls) – ideal for neophytes like me.

Hiking through Big Horn Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Hiking Big Horn Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Big Horn Canyon is magnificent. Nature puts on a fantastic display of colors, patterns, swirls and shapes. You can imagine how the ancients got their inspiration for their art. Walking through, it feels like you are the ball in a psychedelic pin ball machine.

Hiking Big Horn Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Hiking Big Horn Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Hiking Big Horn Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

This hike reminds Laini of Dr. Seuss’ “Oh the Places You Will Go.”

And I think to myself, how is this canyon not more popular!?! In fact, for the most part, we are completely alone – not a soul around (in contrast to Zebra which seemed to draw lots of people, despite its difficulty). It makes it all the more surreal when a couple does pop up in our space, bursting the reverie.

Hiking Big Horn Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The hike altogether is about six miles – absolute perfection.

We are back in the car at 2:14 pm, and head out to drive to our next stop, Glen Canyon, via the Burr Trail, a scenic byway. 

I have it on my list to tackle more of the best hikes in Escalante:

  • Spooky Gulch is a short slot canyon hike in the Grand Staircase-Escalante area, considered moderate difficulty. You can also visit Dry Fork and Peek-a-boo as a six-mile loop, each slot slightly more difficult and narrow than the last. Laini says this was one of her most favorite hikes. (Spooky gets to be only 10-inches narrow in some spots).
  • Calf Creek Falls is one of the most enchanting areas of the Grand Staircase-Escalante area, a verdant oasis amid tumbled stone monoliths, considered moderate difficulty.
  • Coyote Gulch isa winding, semi-narrow canyon that snakes its way down through incredible red rock, considered difficult. Laini says that she has had this one on her list, but it requires an overnight on the hike, or a 16+ mile hiking day, 8-10 hours.

Other moderate-rated hikes include Fortymile Gulch; Golden Cathedral; Little Death Hollow; Peek-a-boo Gulch and Round Valley Draw.

Information at Escalante Interagency Visitor Center, 755 West Main, Escalante UT 84726, 435-826-5499, www.blm.gov/programs/national-conservation-lands/utah/grand-staircase-escalante-national-monument. Another visitors center is at 745 US-89, Kanab, UT 84741, 435-644-1200.

Also, https://www.utah.com/destinations/national-monuments/grand-staircase-escalante-national-monument/

See:

Utah Adventure Day 1-2: Capitol Reef’s Colorful Canyons

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© 2023 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/KarenBRubin 

Utah Adventure Day 1-2: Capitol Reef’s Colorful Canyons

Hiking the Cohab Canyon Trail in Capitol Reef National Park, the first stop our Utah Adventure © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, with Laini Miranda and Dave E. Leiberman

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Travel is as much about resilience, adaptability and problem-solving, as it is about personal growth, rejuvenation, and human connection. And so, though our intent was to camp (mostly wild camping) for our 8-day expedition through Utah’s wilderness and immerse ourselves in the topography and indigenous culture, the forecast for the first half of our trip in mid-April was for temps down to the 20s. In fact, when we arrived, there was a fierce gale-force wind blowing at 60 mph that pushed our rental Jeep around and made it difficult even to open the door.

Laini and Dave have taken the temperature into account and fortunately booked a spacious two-bedroom AirBnB in Teasdale (https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/41151071) just outside Capitol Reef National Park for our first night, and a one-room cabin at Canyons of Escalante RV Park for two nights in Escalante (where Dave has arranged for delivery of winter-grade sleeping bags and pads from Moosejaw.com).

Laini and Dave – who are making their third trip back to Utah and have invited their friend Alli and me to join – have carefully planned the itinerary. Each day has its own highlight and each destination its own topography and character and therefore, the experience we have. At Capitol Reef National Park it is the colored rock formations; Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument (for hard-core adventurers) offers slot canyons and hoodoos; Lake Powell in the Glen Canyon Recreation Area is our boat expedition into the flooded canyon; Cedar Mesa offers hiking expeditions in search of cliff dwellings and petroglyphs; and Arches National Park offers the most dramatic, expansive landscapes.

Fortunately, during the course of our trip, just about all the hikes and experiences we have are new for Dave and Laini. 

We land at Salt Lake City Airport and pick up an off-road Jeep capable of plowing through deep gravel and sand from Alamo, and set out for the four-hour drive. Laini has planned to stop off at Walmart in Provo along the way to pick up food and camping supplies, and we find a delightful coffee shop (Java Junkie) for a snack and what becomes our all-time favorite coffee (Isis Roasters’ Grogg). 

Gorgeous views from the Scenic Drive through Capitol Reef National Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We arrive at Capitol Reef in the late afternoon and (I suggest) we take advantage of the gorgeous light and weather and drive the Scenic Drive to get a sense of the park. It is utterly perfect – the warm light, rich colors – and we get such a wonderful introduction.

The Scenic Drive is a 7.9 mile (12.7 km) paved road, suitable for passenger vehicles. You would need about an hour and half roundtrip to drive the Scenic Drive and the two dirt spur roads, Grand Wash and Capitol Gorge which go into canyons and lead to trailheads. (You can follow the Park Service’s Virtual Tour: https://www.nps.gov/care/planyourvisit/scenicdrive.htm; the tour is free but you still need to pay the $20 park entrance fee when you drive the Scenic Drive – though my America the Beautiful Pass satisfies.)

(The Scenic Drive, Grand Wash, and Capitol Gorge roads can be closed due to snow, ice, mud, and flash floods. Check at the visitor center or call 435-425-3791, for possible road closures.)

‘A Wrinkle in the Earth’s Crust’

“A Wrinkle in the Earth’s Crust” is the poetic description of Capitol Reef – referring to how this stunning landscape was formed. “The light seems to flow or shine out of the rock rather than to be reflected from it,” is how Clarence Dutton, a geologist and early explorer, described it in the 1880s.

Capitol Reef’s topography was caused by intense crustal pressure which reactivated a fault buried deep beneath the sedimentary rock layers of the Colorado Plateau. This caused the overlying sedimentary rock layers to fold or bend into a one-sided slope called a monocline © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Located in south-central Utah in the heart of red rock country, Capitol Reef National Park is a tapestry of cliffs, canyons, domes, and bridges. What makes Capitol Reef so special is how the rock layers tilt. The notes say that this was caused by intense crustal pressure which reactivated a fault buried deep beneath the sedimentary rock layers of the Colorado Plateau. This caused the overlying sedimentary rock layers to fold or bend into a one-sided slope called a monocline, which is uplifted 6,800 feet higher on the west side.

The Waterpocket Fold is named for the numerous small potholes, tanks, or “pockets” that hold rainwater and snowmelt and extends almost 100 miles from Thousand Lake Mountain to Lake Powell © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is named the Waterpocket Fold because of the numerous small potholes, tanks, or “pockets” that hold rainwater and snowmelt and extends almost 100 miles from Thousand Lake Mountain to Lake Powell. The Waterpocket Fold  has been impacted and shaped over eons by the geological processes of erosion, deposition, and uplift, all playing a part in the “drama” of Capitol Reef. This geologic feature is what accounts for the vibrant palette of constantly changing hues, as the light hits the towering cliffs, massive domes, arches, bridges and twisting canyons.

On the way back from our Scenic drive, we stop at a fascinating site, the Fremont Culture petroglyphs, not far from the Capitol Reef Visitor Center. The petroglyphs are reached after a short stroll on two boardwalks. The shorter boardwalk provides views of large, anthropomorphic (human-like) petroglyphs, zoomorphic (animal) petroglyphs of bighorn sheep and other animals, as well as geometric designs; the longer boardwalk parallels the cliffs and the petroglyphs along it are closer to the viewer but harder to see because of a patina that has developed over them.

Walk a short boardwalk to see the Fremont Culture petroglyphs © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The indigenous people who lived in what is now Utah for about 1000 years, from 300-1300 CE are known as The Fremont Culture, named by the archaeologists for the Fremont River canyon where they were first defined as a distinct culture. These petroglyphs (images carved or pecked into stone) are one of the most visible aspects of their culture that remains, according to the historic panels at the site.

Writing or art? Or Both? The Fremont Culture petroglyphs © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Prehistoric people of Fremont Culture used area rock for tools and projectile points, and for the foundations of their homes. Clay was used for pottery, construction and to make figurines. Fertile floodplains supported crops of corn, beans, and squash along the streams of Capitol Reef until about 1300 CE.

(You can link to the audio guide, narrated by Rick Pickyavit, whose Southern Paiute ancestors lived here when the settlers arrived in the 1880s. https://www.nps.gov/care/learn/historyculture/fremont-culture-petroglyphs.htm)

Writing or art? Or Both? The Fremont Culture petroglyphs © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Pickyavit says that unlike his ancestors, who were nomadic, the Fremont people settled in these canyons and became farmers and hunter-gatherers. It is not known if they were related to the better-known Ancestral Puebloans. What is known about the Fremont people’s daily lives comes mainly from artifacts and from these petroglyphs, but it is not known where they came from or why they left suddenly in the 13th century (though I believe it is now widely accepted that the people left after a historic, 20-year drought). “As you walk these paths and hidden places, do not even touch the petroglyphs. Protect their legacy, even as I respect it.”

It is natural to imagine the meaning of the images, but, Pickyavit says, “Caution must always rule in the interpretation of petroglyphs. With few exceptions, we cannot really be sure what the ancient maker of the petroglyphs had in mind. Some consider almost all petroglyphs a form of writing, while others consider most of them to be art, not writing. The large trapezoid-shaped human figures excite interest. Many have headgear and horns. Figures are commonly seen with necklaces, earrings and sashes. Animals, especially bighorn sheep, appear in many petroglyphs, indications that they were hunted and perhaps revered.”

I wonder, since these were created by different people in different times, isn’t it possible some were messages (writing, information) and some were art?

Writing or art? Or Both? The Fremont Culture petroglyphs © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

He notes that “Following the disappearance of the Fremont people in the 13th century, no one resided in the Waterpocket Fold country for 500 years. During this time, however, Ute and Southern Paiute hunters and gatherers roamed the region. They lived in close harmony with the natural environment and left little evidence of their presence.”

We stop in Torrey at the Torrey Grill and BBQ which offers a sheltered outdoor setting complete with firepit (we are still concerned about COVID) and is serving late.

The wind is still howling when we get to the AirBnB – home with gorgeous interior design, so cozy and comforting. I wake in the middle of the night to a blizzard – gale force winds, giant flakes of snow – that leaves 3-5 inches by morning. I feel (without hyperbole) we would have died –crushed under the snow or frozen to death – had we camped. I imagine us in some Survivor (or Disaster) movie based on fact (not the last time this image occurs to me during our Utah Adventure).

Hiking Capitol Reef National Park

The Hickman Bridge trail is a perfect first hike in Capitol Reef National Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Considering the weather, we phone the Visitor Center to get their recommendation for hikes, and the Ranger recommends Hickman Bridge and Cohab Canyon, both in the nearby Fruita area (435-425-2791). The snow, so gorgeous in the morning, is gone by the time we arrive at Capitol Reef but for some oddly frozen patches, and we have perfect winter hiking weather.

Both these trails are extremely popular – and for good reason.

Gorgeous arches, formations and colors along the The Hickman Bridge trail makes it one of the most popular hikes in Capitol Reef National Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Hickman Bridge Trail, just 1.8 miles roundtrip, is the most popular trail (so the most crowded): it is geologically fascinating, relatively easy, great for families, with each step offering stunning visuals – red rock with beige and blond striations, textures, overhangs – and eminently doable to get the full  appreciation, with the climax of a spectacular arch. The hike encapsulates for us what Capitol Reef is about.

The Hickman Bridge, Capitol Reef National Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Along the Hickman Bridge Trail, you see high-desert views, traces of prehistoric American Indian culture, and evidence of the Civilian Conservation Corps’ work in the 1940s. After ascending through a scenic sandstone side-canyon, the trail loops under the grand 133-foot span of the Hickman Natural Bridge. This is considered a “moderate” trail, but I would say it is easy. What an introduction!

The 133-foot span of the Hickman Bridge, Capitol Reef National Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

From the same parking lot (and when it’s popular, it may well be difficult to find a parking spot so you have to wait for one to open), you can walk something like two miles to one end of the Cohab Trail. We smartly decide to move the car to a small, dirt parking lot, 1.2 miles down the Scenic Drive from the Capitol Reef Visitor Center, diagonally across from the picturesque historic Pendleton Barn, to access the trailhead at the other end (actually it is the beginning).  (If this dirt parking lot is filled, you can backtrack 2/10 mile and park at the picnic area.)

The picturesque, historic Pendleton Barn across from the Cohab Canyon trailhead © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We have our lunch in the picnic area before starting out on the Cohab Trail.

Cohab Canyon trail is of easy-to-moderate difficulty with gorgeous vividly-colored rock formations and shapes. The first 0.3 mile is a tad steep (I’m glad I brought my hiking poles for this hike). A series of switchbacks lift you up 400 feet, all the while you gaze out at gorgeous views of the Johnson Mesa and Fruita Cliffs. But once within the canyon, the hiking is fairly easy.  

Hiking the Cohab Canyon Trail in Capitol Reef National Park, the first stop our Utah Adventure © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Cohab Canyon is called a “hanging canyon” because it sits above the Fremont River floodplain. The entire trail is so beautiful – we come upon a few slots to explore, a 20-foot high mushroom shaped hoodoo (a tree is growing out of the top!) surrounded by slickrock, the Cohab Canyon arch, then some stunning overlooks of the valley and Fruita.

A 20-foot high mushroom hoodoo on the Cohab Canyon Trail, Capitol Reef National Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We opt not to do the whole hike, which goes 2.9 miles one way to the Hickman Trail parking lot (which would require taking a shuttle back, or, if you do the round trip, would take 4 hours). We hike in about 1.7 miles and return.

Dave ventures into a small slot off the Cohab Canyon Trail, Capitol Reef National Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The two hikes – Hickman and Cohab Canyon – afford a very different experience, though both offer dramatic landscapes that are signature Capitol Reef. Hickman is well-traveled, ideal for families, and you feel like a tourist – but Cohab Canyon is all but devoid of other people so you feel the isolation (even if you do come upon another hiker here and there).

The climatic view from the Cohab Canyon Trail hike, Capitol Reef National Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Laini had The Castle Trail hike on her to-do list but unfortunately, we don’t have the time. (It’s described as an old trail that apparently is no longer “advertised” to the enigmatic “back side” of the Castle, exploring a hidden canyon lined with mammoth boulders and violet-colored hoodoos, taking about two hours.)  

You can see the cragged hunk of The Castle from just outside the Visitor Center. One of Capitol Reef National Park’s iconic landmarks, The Castle is a prominent sandstone formation made up of three primary layers: the bottom sandstone layer, the Moenkopi Formation, is 245 million years old; the middle gray-green layer, the Chinle Formation, was laid down as volcanic ash 225 million years ago; the top layer, including the Castle, Wingate Sandstone, formed 200 million years ago.

The Castle, one of Capitol Reef National Park’s iconic landmarks © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Also, though we didn’t hike Grand Wash on this trip, Laini and Dave hike it on their next one and highly recommend entering through the lower trailhead for an easy 20-30 minute walk through the most dramatic and narrowest part of the canyon, with towering walls over 100 feet overhead.

In the Fruita area, there are 15 hiking trails with trailheads located along Utah Highway 24 and the Scenic Drive. These offer a wide variety of hiking options from easy strolls over level ground to strenuous hikes involving steep climbs over uneven terrain near cliff edges. Round trip distances range from a mere quarter mile to 10 miles, and are well-marked with signs at the trailhead and at trail junctions and by cairns (stacks of rocks) along the way. Some trails have self-guiding brochures, available for a fee at the trailhead and visitor center.

The best detailed descriptions of these hikes are available at https://liveandlethike.com/category/utah/capitol-reef-national-park/

Capitol Reef also offers many hiking options for serious backpackers and those who enjoy exploring remote areas. Minimally marked hiking routes lead into narrow, twisting gorges, slot canyons, and to spectacular viewpoints high atop the Waterpocket Fold. Popular backcountry hikes in the southern section of the park include Upper and Lower Muley Twist Canyons and Halls Creek and in the Cathedral Valley area. A backcountry permit is required for camping outside of established campgrounds. The permit is free and can be obtained in person at the visitor center during normal business hours.

Capitol Reef offers so much to explore, Laini says, you really need more time there. Tourists overrun the main part, but there is a whole “backcountry” side that most miss.

See: https://www.nps.gov/care/planyourvisit/trailguide.htm  and https://www.nps.gov/care/planyourvisit/hiking.htm

Scenic Byway 12

Driving out of Capitol Reef we come to an overlook just as the sun is at a perfect angle to make the red rocks blaze.

We drive 64 of the 124 miles of the Scenic Byway 12 to Escalante. Scenic Byway 12 is Utah’s first “All-American Road,” (and one of Laini’s favorite roads in the country) winding through vast slickrock benches and canyons. We reach the summit, 9,600 feet – and the temp has dropped to 15 degrees – with sweeping vistas of the Henry Mountains, Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument and Capitol Reef National Park.

The view back to Capitol Reef National Park as we drive along Scenic Byway 12 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Because the forecast had been for temps in the 20-30s, Dave and Laini booked a cabin  at Canyons of Escalante RV Park, right in Escalante. It is one room for the four of us– very cozy (we still have to go outside for the bathroom, so we have that camping experience). And we’re able to have dinner at one of their favorite places from their previous adventures, Escalante Outfitters, serving up the best pizza outside of New York.

Driving on Scenic Byway 12 from Capitol Reef National Park to Escalante © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I find this day’s hikes in Capitol Reef perfect to acclimate and just become immersed in the spectacular scenery. And, I soon find out, these hikes are so very different from what we have yet to experience in the Grand Staircase-Escalante, where our Utah Adventure continues. Because Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is for more hardcore hikers.

Next: Grand Staircase-Escalante

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© 2023 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/KarenBRubin

A Stone’s Throw From Daytona Beach, Finding ‘Florida as it Used to Be’

Snack Jack’s along A1A just north of Ormond Beach, retains the vibe of “Florida as it used to be.” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

To be candid, I would not have traveled to Florida except for a special occasion presenting an opportunity to visit with family I haven’t seen in quite some time. Luckily, this is a mere week before Omnicron hit with such fury or is even a thing, but I still don’t feel Florida particularly appealing for a long list of reasons.

My destination is the immensely popular Daytona Beach area. So even though Omnicron has yet to hit and though I am triple vaxxed, because of Florida’s contempt for preventive public health measures, I remain extremely vigilant in using a mask, staying outdoors as much as possible and avoiding crowds – even the wedding I attend is a small, intimate affair held outside.

Fortunately, the Ormond Beach area, a mere few miles north of Daytona Beach, and north along the famed Highway A1A, where, my cousin – a native Floridian – takes me, is the fabled “Real Florida,” and provides the perfect setting.

Lotus Inn, a delightful boutique hotel on Ormond Beach, with its pool stunningly lit at night © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I stay in a delightful boutique hotel, the Lotus Inn, refurbished with chic touches (stunning pool, fire pit, landscaping), right on the beach, so that each morning, I can grab a cup of coffee from the lounge and walk out onto the beach before the sun rises, when the colors begin to burst in the sky.

I do this each of the four mornings of my visit, and each day, the experience is very different and dramatic in its own way – the colors most vibrant on the first day, a tad less so on the second but the experience enhanced when I discover Jeffrey Dunne, who has come out every morning to photograph the sunrise for something like 10 years, posting them and drawing his own following, as well as taking photos for visitors. There are other regulars I get to meet as well, which includes a flock of seabirds who are drawn to this one spot because of a woman who comes each day with crackers (sharing with visitors who delight in the experience). The colors are different on the third day, but now I focus on the activity – the regulars who come, like the group of swimmers in their wetsuits, who come no matter the season. My fourth morning, there isn’t a sunrise at all, but I get to see the beach in its moody blue-grey colors.

Sunrise on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Sunrise on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Sunrise on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Sunrise on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Jeffrey Dunne, who has come out every morning to photograph the sunrise on Ormond Beach, while his friend feeds the sea birds © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Even though you can see Daytona Beach from Ormond Beach, the atmosphere here is completely different. Here there are mostly low-rise, low-density hotels like mine, the Lotus Inn.

My first night in Ormond Beach, I drive my rental car the four miles down A1A to Daytona Beach and walk the charming boardwalk, really enjoying discovering the 1930s-era Bandstand, coming upon the boardwalk games, and then the long pier itself, alight in neon announcing Joe’s at the end, with a stunning view back at the shoreline. I also get a glimpse of the heart pounding, adrenaline pumping thrill rides at Screamer’s Park.

The Bandshell on Daytona Beach boardwalk © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Eat at Joe’s on the Daytona Beach pier © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Daytona Beach boardwalk © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Daytona Beach boardwalk © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Daytona Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Now of course, Daytona Beach is famous for auto racing and the Daytona 500 – that began on the beach (cars are still allowed in specific lanes, and plenty of people bike on the flat, hard sand, which became the International Speedway. I would venture that most who come are car people, and touring the speedway and visiting the Racing Hall of Fame are musts. The Daytona International Speedway has just undergone a $400 million “reimagining” and transformed into a state-of-the-art motorsports facility. You can even get behind the wheel of an actual race car with NASCAR Racing Experience and take laps around the world famous 2.5-mile Speedway. (“Speedway Tours” run multiple times  each day; tour tickets are sold on a first come first serve basis, and include the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, https://www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com/tours/).

Daytona International Speedway © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I stop by for a look at the gi-normous stadium, how it is banked at a 30-degree angle so the cars don’t just fly off at the turns, but spend my time discovering what my cousin, Ray Weiss, a former journalist, calls “Florida as it used to be.”

Ray drives me up the famous A1A, to Ormond by the Sea up to Flagler Beach, which cannot be more un-touristy. Here, he stresses, you can still park your car alongside the two-lane road (they call it a highway), on a patch of sand bordered with sea grass, and walk right onto the beach – such a contrast to Daytona Beach, which seems to be competing to have as many high rises and parking meters as Miami Beach. (My cousin describes Daytona Beach perfectly: “a bit of an Atlantic City feel with a redneck flair.”)

“Florida as it used to be,” along A1A between Ormond Beach and Flagler Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

This stretch between Ormond Beach and Flagler Beach, though, is exactly as he has described it and what he cherishes – there are the colorful, weatherworn, funky beach places, miles of undeveloped open beach (vacant of people) and thousands of acres of pristine land called the Loop – woods, water and marshland. “It’s like stepping back in time to what the rest of Florida once looked like when the Seminoles were here,” he says. He should know because my first memory as a child was visiting his family in old Miami and seeing Seminole Indians wrestling alligators.

Driving The Loop © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Driving The Loop © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
“Florida as it used to be,” along A1A between Ormond Beach and Flagler Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
“Florida as it used to be,” along A1A between Ormond Beach and Flagler Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Flagler Beach is a Florida town that is seems stuck in the 1950s. No high-rises here, only modest houses on the beach. (My thoughts alternate between thinking that the property they sit on would be $1-2 million in Long Island, and thinking that sea level rise caused by the climate change Florida’s governor denies makes them worthless.)  Ray points out several old style restaurants, stopping at Snack Jack’s right on the beach – his favorite and I can see why.

Flagler Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Flagler Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Flagler Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Back in Ormond Beach, we stop to visit The Casements, John D. Rockefeller’s 1890s winter home, so beautifully set on the river.

The Casements, John D. Rockefeller’s 1890s winter home, Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

On my own, I also discover some of the attractions that make actually living here wonderful – starting with the Museum of Arts and Science (MOAS).

When I arrive, I ask the receptionist what is special, what should I definitely look out for. She replies, “Well, we have the biggest collection of Coca Cola bottles, and a skeleton of a giant sloth.”

Root Family Museum of what is probably the largest collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia, at the Museum of Arts and Science, Daytona Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Root Family Museum of what is probably the largest collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia, at the Museum of Arts and Science, Daytona Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Walking into the Coca-Cola collection, you can’t help but let out an actual “Wow,” It turns out that the guy who invented and manufactured that classic glass Coke bottle in Indiana, Chapman J. Root (he got 5c royalty on every bottle sold), also had interests in Coca-Cola bottling plants in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Illinois and Florida, and when he retired, his grandson Chapman S. Root took over the company and moved it, in 1951, to Daytona Beach. Over a 50-year period, Chapman S. Root and his wife Susan Root Fieblman, collected some 100,000 objects that make up the $5 million Root Family Museum collection – probably the largest of Coca-Cola memorabilia – housed within MOAS. We see not only a timeline of all the bottles and bottling equipment, but the delivery trucks, the different vending machines, all with the trademark Coca Cola red color. It is pure Americana – both for the Coca-Cola cultural iconography and the story of an entrepreneur and innovator making good. (See: For Coke Fans, Collection is ‘The Real Thing’, https://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/os-xpm-2001-10-14-0110120609-story.html)

The Giant Sloth at MOAS, discovered just 2 ½ miles away © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Then I walk into the “Natural Florida” exhibit and there it is. When you think of “sloth” you might think of Sid in the “Ice Age” movies. Now imagine The Hulk but probably three or four times the size. The skeleton of the Eremotherium – the largest sloth to have ever existed – that we see assembled in its fearsome pose was collected just 2 ½ miles away. It would have weighed up to five tons and stood 15 feet tall – only the Wooly Mammoth was larger in the Western Hemisphere. Phenomenal.

A fantastic collection of African tribal masks, on view at MOAS © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The Warehouse at MOAS, Daytona Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The rest of the museum has some fabulous, unexpected and eclectic collections: African tribal artifacts including incredible masks, Chinese art, and the American decorative arts collection of Anderson Child Bouchelle (a fifth generation Floridian, his father was Florida’s first cardiologist, brought to the state by Henry Flagler). I especially love “The Warehouse” where you can peek at treasures that otherwise would be stored away. (352 South Nova Road, Daytona Beach, Florida 32114, 386-255-0285, www.moas.org/visit/index)

Walk the nature trail outside MOAS © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Before leaving, I follow the Nature Trail that starts just outside the museum that takes you on a boardwalk into the jungle (note the sign that warns of such creatures as snakes and alligators).

Sunrise on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Sunrise on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The next day, after my ritual beach walk to revel in the daily miracle of the sunrise, I go off to two other signature attractions, both very close together at the southern tip of the barrier island.

Marine Science Center, Daytona Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Marine Science Center, Daytona Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The modest but intimate Marine Science Center, is mainly an aquarium but also is where you can see its medical facilities where sea turtles are being restored to health (you can even watch operations through a glass) and a sanctuary for rescued birds. The small area is packed with fun things to look at, interact with and learn about Volusia County’s rich marine life – like how they are re-growing (not just restoring) coral so crucial to the survival of ecosystems. This is a delight for families with children (100 Lighthouse Drive, Ponce Inlet, Fl 32127, 386-304-5545, www.marinesciencecenter.com)

Ponce Inlet Lighthouse © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Walk up the 203 steps to the top of the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Nearby, The Ponce Inlet Lighthouse, constructed in 1887, is a treasure. At 175 feet tall, the lighthouse is the highest in Florida and second highest in the country. You can walk up all 203 steps winding around and around, and step out for a 360-degree view. Most interesting are the other structures and buildings – all original – that you can visit and the exhibits that show the life and times of the lighthouse keepers, and wonderful videos showing the history. In the modern Ayres Davies Lens Exhibit Building, you can see a world-class Fresnel lens collection. There is also an exhibit of Cuban Rafts that carried refugees trying to make their way to freedom on these fragile homemade boats and rafts. There is really a lot to see and explore, including nature trails and you can walk out to a very long break-water. (4931 S. Peninsula Drive, Ponce Inlet, FL 32127, 386-761-1821, ponceinlet.org)

Ayres Davies Lens Exhibit Building at the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse has a world-class Fresnel lens collection. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

For more historic sites, you can trace the footsteps of educator and civil rights activist Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune on a tour of her former home, and visit the historic Jackie Robinson Ballpark (where in 1946, a year before he broke the major league racial color barrier in Brooklyn, Robinson broke the color barrier with the Montreal Expos, the triple A minor league affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers, after being rejected from other Florida cities, Ray relates).

Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The next day, I visit the extraordinary Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art, which is on the same campus as MOAS. This is the most astonishing find of all. Since 1997, the Browns made it their mission to collect art representing Florida. After being a traveling exhibit for some time, what is the largest collection of Florida art is now housed in this stunning, brand new two-level structure. The museum features a rotating collection of 2,600 Florida-themed oil and watercolor paintings. The Museum’s grand central gallery and mezzanine showcase the collection’s signature pieces, while six smaller galleries feature beautiful changing exhibitions with Florida themes. Most impressive are the way the paintings are selected, framed, how they are hung together, and the absolutely fascinating notes that accompany each and every one – not only a biography of the artist, but the context for the painting, something of history, and then really fascinating notes that are like a painting tutorial. (https://www.moas.org/explore/cici-and-hyatt-brown-museum-of-art/index)

Sunrise on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Sunrise on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Sunrise on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Jeffrey Dunne, who has come out every morning to photograph the sunrise on Ormond Beach, while his friend feeds the sea birds © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Jeffrey Dunne delights in taking photos for beachgoers on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

While not my focus on this trip, I would be remiss not to include some of the immensely popular and new attractions in Daytona Beach:

Speedway Indoor Karting (SIK), which opened in late 2020, offers state-of-the-art electric powered karts and gives guests of all ages and skill levels a full racing experience on a 16- turn road course featuring multiple elevation changes and a slick tri-oval.

Daytona Lagoon Premier Waterpark and Family Entertainment Center, just north of the pier area and steps from the beach, added a wave maker Treasure Lagoon Wave Pool, arcade games, and two water slides: Kraken’s Revenge, a 54-foot-high, four-lane mat racer slide; and Shaka Halfpipe, a thrilling inner-tube experience that shoots riders backwards over a 50-foot drop. These new features, along with mini golf, go-karts, the MEGA arcade, and Sky Maze indoor ropes course make this a favorite year-round family spot.

More my speed: a new Riverfront Esplanade. The park that runs the length of historic downtown Daytona Beach is being transformed. When complete in 2022, the Riverfront Esplanade will extend a mile along the Halifax River and include a promenade along the water’s edge, running and walking trails, and landscaping designed to encourage relaxation and reflection including water features, shade trees and raised botanical gardens.

Interactive maps for themed trails are available on DaytonaBeach.com including the new Cars, Craft and Culture trail, Share The Heritage Trail, Monuments & Statues Trail, an Iconic Trail and a Motorsports Trail to add to its popular Hiking & Biking Trails and the Ale Trail.

For more information, Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau,126 E. Orange Avenue, Daytona Beach, FL 32114, 386-255-0415, DaytonaBeach.com.

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© 2022 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Weekend Getaway in Enchanting Mendocino

Mendocino, California in its values and culture, is more “Coastal Elite” than “49er.” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Eric Leiberman & Sarah Falter

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

At first blush, Mendocino on California’s northern coast is reminiscent of Cape Cod’s coastal towns but with a definite Western twist, like the wooden water towers (we wondered if they are still used, considering Mendocino’s water crisis), some repurposed into shops, like one that houses a Spells shop. This is expressed also in the charming architecture, much of it Victorian and the natural setting – high cliffs than drop into the Pacific Ocean – dramatic and spectacular.

Indeed, Mendocino seems to epitomize today’s California in
values and culture – the northern part, at least. The boutique shops,
restaurants and markets are high end, high quality but not pretentious –  they are artful and earthy. There are any number of holistic, New Age-y, naturalist services and organic food markets.  Mendocino is more “Coastal Elite” than “49er.”

 

Headlands Coastal Trail. Menodocino is more “coastal elite” than “49er” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The town itself hugs the rocky coast, providing a stunning scene from the coastal cliff walk, Headlands Coastal Trail, that snakes around and turns on itself for two miles. There is constant drama as waves rise out of green, aquamarine ocean crash against rocks, rush through rock tunnels with a roar and then spit up through a rocky blowhole.

Despite COVID and despite a drought so severe the town has
to truck in water, Mendocino is charming, welcoming, and exudes tranquility (and resiliency) – all is right with the world in this slice of heaven.

Fog Eater Cafe, Mendocino © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

After a pleasant, relaxing morning at Little River Inn, we head to a delightful Sunday brunch at Fog Eater Cafe. Indeed, we join a line
that has formed before the quaint restaurant with a 1940s/50s diner vibe for indoor dining and a gorgeous garden for outdoor dining, even opens. The hearty menu is a vegetarian fusion of Deep South/New Orleans and NorCal (if you can imagine that), big on comfort food, served on gorgeous, random antique China with silver utensils.  It’s a hoot, a feast for the eyes. You didn’t imagine Southern food could be vegan? The whole menu is vegan except for poached eggs and the preparations make you forget you’re not eating meat. 

Sunday brunch at Fog Eater Cafe, Mendocino: corn bread French toast © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I get the corn bread French toast with apple, soaked in syrup. There’s fried cauli+ waffles (fried cauliflower and green onion sorghum waffle with pepper jelly and spicy sorghum syrup); pimento cheese and
black-eyed pea sausage biscuit sandwich; savory oatmeal with local tempeh bacon, roasted carrots, braised greens with either poached egg or tofu. Fog Eater Café is open for Sunday brunch, happy hour, and dinner when menu items might include Cheesy Pumpkin Grits, Fried Blue Oyster Mushrooms, fried green tomato biscuit sliders and a Southern Plate featuring mac ‘n cheese. The beignets come with a rhubarb jam. Natural wine, local beer and wine-based cocktails are also served. (Outdoor dining available for all; indoor dining for fully vaccinated guests; also take out; no reservations, 45104 Main St., Mendocino, CA 95460).

“Come in for a spell” at Loot and Lore, Mendocino © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

With great delight, we walk each street to explore the lovely shops and galleries in Mendocino (the village’s scale is perfect) – coming upon such special places as the Mendocino James & Preserves, Moore Used Books and Big River Trading Company on Main Street; the Artists Co-op of Mendocino, My Chic Farmhouse, and Icons on Albion Street; Mendocino Country Store on Ukiah; Mendocino Chocolate Company, Déjà Vu, on Lansing Street. Most intriguing is Loot and Lore, a wicca supplies shop on Albion, housed in a former water tower, where the sign that greets you is “Come in for a spell.” (We peek in through the window because it was closed when we visit.)

Water tower houses Loot and Lore, Mendocino © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We particularly loved Compass Rose (613 Albion Street), featuring American Crafts – the oldest family-run business in Mendocino, established 50 years ago; the father makes the leather items; there are also stunning objects in glass. Also, Rainsong offering exquisite contemporary clothing, accessories – you could imagine a millionaire coming to Mendocino for a weekend, buying a house and furnishing it and their wardrobe in one spot – the quality and designs are spectacular (10470 Lansing Street).

Compass Rose, Mendocino © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The galleries are marvelous – you never know what you will discover. I am enthralled coming upon the wildlife and nature photography of Jon Klein at the Lansing Street Gallery, which accurately describes itself as  “a hub for coastal and Bay Area artists, representing a diverse, vibrant and creative community” in the best fashion (lansingstreetgallery.com)

I especially love Mendocino’s rich heritage – mixed or repurposed but preserved – like the water towers that once supplied the homes (and may well again, considering the drought). Besides the historic Ford House that now serves as the Visitor Center for Mendocino Headlands state park, the Kelly House Museum serves as the town’s historical society and offers docent-led walking tours ($20 pp) as well as self-guided audio tours (707-937-5791, www.kelleyhousemuseum.org).

Historic Mendocino Hotel © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We loved wandering into the historic Mendocino Hotel, established 1878 – as you walk through the door with its etched glass into the Victorian lobby, you feel you have crossed through a time portal.

But what most transfixes me is the sculpture atop the Masonic Hall, dating from 1873, “Time and the Maiden,” which has become Mendocino’s iconic landmark.

 

“Time and the Maiden” atop the Masonic Hall has become Mendocino’s iconic landmark © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I later learn that this exquisite sculpture by Erick Albertson, “the first Worshipful Master” of the Masonic Hall, was hand-carved “out of a single virgin redwood trunk”, is over 10 feet high and wasn’t specifically commissioned for the hall. Albertson, who undertook construction of the hall in 1866, “created the statue as a personal exercise of craftsmanship” but the Masonic members wanted it for the hall, so had a cupola built to support it.

 

Also known as ‘Father Time and the Weeping Maiden,” the haunting scene depicts a weeping girl reading from a book that rests on a broken column, an hourglass at its base; she holds an urn in her left hand and a sprig of acacia in her right, as Father Time, depicted as an angel with wings and carrying a scythe, stands behind her, tenderly braiding her hair.

“Time and the Maiden” atop the Masonic Hall has become Mendocino’s iconic landmark © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

According to Wikipedia, the hour glass symbolizes the brevity of human life; the scythe and the urn foreshadow its end; the broken column symbolizes a life cut short prematurely, the weeping maiden represents those who mourn; the open book represents the enduring record of accomplishments. Acacia was the wood is specified in the Book of Exodus to use to build the Ark of the Covenant, and is also an evergreen known for its resistance to fire and decay, signifying the immortality of the human spirit. The symbols are drawn from history or mythology, and are used in Masonic rituals and rites. 

The masons have their own understanding of the symbols which boil down to “time, patience and perseverance will accomplish all things.” 

But to me, the girl symbolizes lives cut short – so common in Albertson’s day. Father Time is also the Angel of Death but his scythe remains in its sheath. He is taking his time, tenderly braiding her hair. Perhaps she is telling him she has not yet had the opportunity to fill the pages of that book. Perhaps we are witnessing a negotiation. Has the hour glass run out for her?

The Masonic Hall was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, and though sold to a savings bank in 1977 which operates on the first floor, the Masons continue to hold their meetings there on the second floor.

Mendocino cherishes its heritage © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Mendocino was the first of several north coast towns founded between 1851 and 1920 – the heyday of the lumber industry. German immigrant William Kasten was bound for gold country in 1850 when his ship ran aground off Mendocino coast; in 1851 he filed papers claiming the land. San Francisco engineer Harry Meiggs built a sawmill at Big River in 1852 and Little River was founded in 1854 as a mill town supplying the lumber that built San Francisco.

In 1854 Jerome B. Ford, superintendent of the first sawmill and founder of the town, built a home overlooking the Pacific. Today, the Ford House serves as the visitor center for Mendocino Headlands State Park and houses various exhibits.

Mendocino cherishes its heritage and what’s old can be new again © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Many who found their fortune not in California’s gold but in lumber built these magnificent Victorian buildings. But over-logging resulted in depletion of the forests and led to businesses and the school being abandoned – until new enterprises, like the vineyards and tourism, repurposed and repopulated the area. (We stay at Little River Inn, opened by Ole Hervilla, a pioneer of Mendocino’s tourism, who converted his 1857 house into the inn in 1939).

We can’t leave Mendocino without returning for a brief walk on a favorite section of the Headlands trail, just before it starts to rain. Considering the drought, I expect to see people rushing out and dancing.

Headlands Coastal Trail, Mendocino © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

During our all-too brief but oh so perfect weekend in Mendocino, every moment is filled with something special, and yet so unhurried and relaxed. We are able to enjoy the Skunk Train, Glass Beach, Noyo Harbor and Headlands Coastal Trail, as well as exploring Mendocino’s lovely shops, boutiques, markets and eateries. But there are scores of other places and experiences – so many with enchanting names and providence (Glass Beach, Pygmy Forest, Fairy Trail) – and we can’t wait to return.

On our list (with help of the Brewery Gulch Inn and Little River Inn):  

Beaches

Van Damme State Beach (the Little River Inn has its own trail down to the beach directly below). Among the activities, this is the launching point for sea cave tours by kayak (Kayak Mendocino, www.kayakmendocino.com, 707-813-7117)

Caspar Beach on Point Cabrillo Drive off Highway One. “Good rock and tide pooling during low tide”

Big River Beach just north of the bridge in Mendocino, where the redwoods meet the sea, is reached from the Presbyterian Church on Main Street to a staircase to the beach. “The most popular beach with lots of activity- surfers, volleyball, etc. Soft sand, river side is often warmer, currents can be dangerous”

Hikes:

The Haul Road at Big River – “Flat and straight, easy walk into the redwoods with a stroller”

Van Damme Pygmy Forest: Fern canyon and ecological staircase walk.“Wooden walkway has educational signage about the pygmy forest. Both walkway and trail are easy for shorter legs and strollers.”

The Fairy Trail – inside the Botanical Gardens in Fort Bragg. “Discover fairy dwellings and other surprises. The Gardens are hilly, so bring stroller or prepare to carry little ones.”

Jug Handle State Preserve – just north of Caspar on Highway One, which is recommended by a couple we meet at the Fog Eater. “Best example of an Ecological Staircase in the Western Hemisphere.”Hike through six different ecological zones – a five million year old ecological staircase with ancient marine terraces – wander through tall pygmy forests along a creek canyon. “Great educational science hike for older kids. Be sure to pick up the guide in the parking lot that explains everything.”

Montgomery Woods – first-growth redwood groves (there is an uphill half-mile hike to the virgin redwood groves)

MacKerricher State Park – scenic boardwalk along the ocean to tide pools and seal observation points or walk around the lake.

Ten-Mile Beach – dunes and miles of deserted beach, just north of Fort Bragg past the railroad trestle. – good for walking and biking.

Activities/Attractions

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens – 47 acres overlooking the Pacific

The Point Cabrillo Light House – (Schedule of events at PointCabrillo.org)

Bryan Preserve – in Point Arena: Preserve and breeding of endangered African hoof animals (Weekends, by appointment only). “The 2-hour Jeep tour better for older children”

CV Starr Aquatic Center, Fort Bragg: Water park with lazy river, water slide (must be 48”), and fountains.

Driving 128 through the Navarro Redwoods Forest © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The drive back to Sonoma along Route 128 is gorgeous – taking you through the Navarro Redwoods Forest and Anderson Valley wine region where we stop off at Husch Winery for a wine tasting (we enjoyed the wine at both the Brewery Gulch Inn and Little River Inn). It is very picturesque setting for wine tasting amidst the 21-acre vineyard of Pinot Noir (the vineyard was the first to grow Pinot here), Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer grapes (they require a warmer climate). Husch, founded in 1968, was one of the pioneering vineyards in the Anderson Valley and has used sustainable farming techniques since the 1960s (owl boxes help with gopher control, no till farming, sheep as mowers, insectory, cover crops, fish friendly farm).  In 1971 Husch made history by becoming the first bonded winery in the Anderson Valley. H.A. Oswald (neighboring grape growers) purchased the winery from Tony and Gretchen Husch in 1979; today the Oswald grandchildren run the day-to-day. (Husch Vineyards, 4400 Highway 128, Philo, CA 95466, 800-554-8724, huschvineyards.com)

Husch Vineyards © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We also stop at the PennyRoyal farm in Boonville, famous for its cheese and wine, happy to show off its 23 acres of vineyards, sustainable farming practices and traditional winemaking methods. The rain now coming down heavily (and you need a reservation for a tasting or tour), we stop just long enough to buy delectable cheese produced from their sheep and goats (www.pennyroyalfarm.com).

For excellent planning help: Visit Mendocino County, 866-466-3636, 707-964-9010, www.visitmendocino.com.

See also:

WEEKEND GETAWAY IN MENDOCINO: BREWERY GULCH INN

WEEKEND IN MENDOCINO: HISTORIC SKUNK TRAIN INTRODUCES A NOVEL RAILBIKE EXPERIENCE

WEEKEND GETAWAY IN MENDOCINO: LITTLE RIVER INN

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© 2021 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights
reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at
goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

Driveable Getaways: Great Time to Time-Travel in Sandwich, Cape Cod’s First Village

The Dexter Grist Mill in historic Sandwich, Cape Cod, Massachusetts © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

One of my favorite places for a driveable getaway is Sandwich, Cape Cod’s first village, settled in 1637. Sandwich is an enchanting jewel where history, exquisite architecture, fascinating attractions abound in a compact, walkable area, a short distance from the delightful Sandy Neck beach as well as the Cape Cod Canal biking trail. It is quintessential New England, an idyllic place to visit, to stay, to make your hub for exploring Cape Cod.

All through Sandwich, you see homes that bear the names of the ship captains who commanded the packet ships and clippers that made this area a mercantile center.

Many of these quaint historic houses and buildings (including a church) have been turned into charming bed-and-breakfast inns, but if you want to extend your time travel back to when the Patriots were debating revolution, a wonderful choice is the Dan’l Webster Inn and Spa, at the heart of the village. It is also is the most substantial in size, with 48 rooms, amenities and services that include a full-service Beach Plum Spa, offering the best of past and present.

The present inn sits on property that was once a parsonage, built in 1692 by Rev. Roland Cotton; in the 1750s, it was converted to the Fessenden Tavern, one of the first and most famous of New England’s taverns and a Patriot headquarters during the American Revolution (the Newcomb Tavern, just across the pond, served as Tory headquarters). In the late 1800s, the inn, then known as the Central House, hosted famous visitors including President Grover Cleveland and poet Henry David Thoreau.

In 1980, the Dan’l Webster was acquired by the Catania family’s hospitality company which operates the popular Hearth n’ Kettle Restaurants, as well as the John Carver Inn in Plymouth and the Cape Codder Resort, in Hyannis. Since acquiring the Dan’l Webster, they have restored it with exquisite taste and respect for its heritage – there are antique furnishings and Sandwich glass.

The Conservatory at the Dan’l Webster Inn, Sandwich, MA © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Catania family also acquired the historic house next door. A marker outside the house tells the story: Nancy Fessenden married Capt. Ezra Nye in 1826 and moved into the house following their wedding. She was the daughter of the innkeeper (now the Dan’l Webster Inn). Nye was a famous captain who broke the speed record by sailing his clipper ship from Liverpool in 20 days, in 1829. Restored by the Dan’l Webster Inn in 1982, the house now offers accommodates four luxury suites, each named after prominent people associated with the inn, dating back to 1692.

Historic Fessenden house, now part of the Dan’l Webster Inn, Sandwich, MA © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Dan’l Webster has become an award-winning hotel, spa and dining destination. Recognized as a Distinguished Restaurant of North America (placing it in the top 1% of restaurants in the country) it offers a choice of the casual Tavern at the Inn, the cozy Music Room or the more formal (and romantic) ambiance in a lovely glass enclosed Conservatory.

The Tavern at the Inn is an authentic replica of the two-centuries-old tap room where Daniel Webster made regular visits and which had been a meeting place for local Patriots during the Revolution.

This is an especially good time to visit. The inn is offering a special package, Mosey & Museum Package, that captures the real essence of small-town Cape Cod (through October 3). It includes admission to the Sandwich Glass Museum to appreciate the art of glass making and Sandwich’s contribution to the industrial craft, and to Heritage Museum and Gardens to celebrate their Pollinator Festival. (Check the website for more packages.)

Dan’l Webster Inn & Spa 149 Main Street, Sandwich, MA 02563, 800-444-3566,[email protected], www.DanlWebsterInn.com.

So Much to Do in Sandwich

Heritage Museum & Gardens, Sandwich, Cape Cod, Massachusetts © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In a village of many substantial attractions and places of interest, what truly stands out is the Heritage Museum & Gardens – a destination attraction. It hits on a spectrum of cylinders – 100 acres of magnificent grounds and trails on the banks of the Shawme Pond; the vast, stunning and notable gardens that feature internationally important collections of rhododendrons, including those created by Charles Dexter, collections of hydrangeas, over 1,000 varieties of daylilies, hostas, herb, heather gardens, and more than a thousand varieties of trees, shrubs and flowers along beautiful and easily walked paths.

The JK Lilly III collection of vintage cars and folk art at Heritage Museums & Gardens, Sandwich © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Also, the JK Lilly III collection of vintage cars and folk art, and  you can take a ride on a delightful working vintage carousel. There is also – imagine this – Hidden Hollow, an enchanting family-friendly outdoor adventure center where you can get a “squirrel’s perspective” of the forest.  You should allocate the better part of a day to visit. (Heritage Museums & Gardens, 67 Grove Street, Sandwich, MA 02563, 508.888.3300, www.heritagemuseumsandgardens.org, open daily through Mid-October.)

See the forest from a squirrel’s eye view at Hidden Hollow at Heritage Museums & Gardens, Sandwich, Cape Cod © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

What built Sandwich, though (and likely the reason that so many of its magnificent buildings reflect the prosperity of the early-1800s) was that in 1825, Deming Jarves built a glass factory to manufacture glass with a revolutionary process that made it affordable for the masses (Sandwich glass is still a thing). The factory grew rapidly to be one of the largest producers in the country with over 500 workers producing over five million pieces of glass annually by the 1850s. By the 1880s, labor strikes, an economic depression, and new factories being built further closer to natural gas fuel sources forced the factory to close.

Today, you can visit the Sandwich Glass Museum which displays original pieces created during the 1800’s and provides demonstrations of glass blowing techniques. The museum’s theater shows a great documentary of the history of Sandwich. Throughout the village there are several glass blowers and artists with open studios to visit, creating a dynamic center for contemporary glass art (Sandwich Glass Museum,120 Main St., 508-833-1540, www.sandwichglassmuseum.org).

Historic Dexter Grist Mill, Sandwich, Cape Cod’s first village © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

A short walk from the Dan’l Webster Inn is the Dexter Grist Mill, a working grist mill since 1654 where you can still buy ground cornmeal, or draw fresh water from the well (as many locals do for their personal supply).

The Hoxie House, built in 1675, was lived in until the 1970s but was never modernized with electricity or plumbing. This saltbox is named after a whaling captain who owned the house in the mid-1800s. it is now a wonderful little museum house showing what family life was like in the 1600s.

Benjamin Nye Homestead & Museum, is the 18th-century home of one of the first 50 men who settled in Sandwich.

Also, the Wing Fort House, built in 1641, the oldest house in New England continuously owned and occupied by one family (63 Spring Hill Rd., 508-833-1540).

A short distance away, you can visit the Green Briar Nature Center & Jam Kitchen (6 Discovery Hill Road off Route 6A), which celebrates author and naturalist Thornton W. Burgess, who wrote the Peter Cottontail stories. There are nature programs, nature trails, a working 1903 Jam Kitchen, jam-making classes (508-888-6870, www.thortonburgess.org). 

Scene biking along the Cape Cod Canal © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
 

One of my favorite things about Sandwich is the proximity to the Cape Cod Canal which offers a 6.2 mile-long paved path (on each side) for biking, roller blading or just walking (the banks of the canal are also popular for fishing). Along the trail, you can visit the Aptucxet Trading Post, built by the Pilgrims in 1627 to facilitate trade with the Dutch at New Amsterdam and the Narrangansett Indians.

The Cape Cod Canal is a marvel (there is a visitor center on the mainland side that tells the history). The canal was constructed in 1914 – up until then, there were a tragic number of ships that were wrecked trying to sail around the peninsula. But it is astonishing to learn that interest in building the canal dated back to the earliest settlers: in 1623, Pilgrims scouted the area as the place best suited for a canal. In 1697 the General Court of Massachusetts considered a formal proposal to build a canal, but no action was taken. In 1776, George Washington, concerned about its military implications, studied the site. But it took until 1909 for construction to start. (60 Ed Moffitt Dr., 508-833-9676, www.capecodcanal.us).

Cape Cod also has the most marvelous network of dedicated bike trails.

Sandwich offers easy access to other marvelous places to visit on Cape Cod, like Falmouth, Wood’s Hole, Hyannis but you should spend at least a day on the other side of the Sagamore Bridge, in Plymouth, to visit a score of historic attractions associated with the Pilgrims, including the Mayflower II and Plimoth Plantation, one of the best living history museums anywhere.

For more information, contact Sandwich Chamber of Commerce, 508-681-0918, [email protected], www.sandwichchamber.com.

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