Monday, May 30, 2011

snow canyon

May 21, 2011:  Saturday morning brought us sunshine and the balmy temperature of 53 F.  Well, at least it was sunny.  We again had breakfast at the condo and packed a cooler, then headed off to Snow Canyon State Park, on the near side of Kayenta.  I don't know what I was expecting but it wasn't what we found: Snow Canyon is spectacular!  Massive red rock walls, waves of chunky black lava rock, rolling white rock hills ... all just minutes from downtown St. George.  There are camping sites (hook-ups with water/electric, group sites and tent-only sites) with showers and restrooms, and more than eighteen miles of hiking trails.  We re-upped for our state park pass at the entrance and then cruised the West Canyon Road, scoping out where we wanted to stop.

Petrified Dunes, Snow Cyn SP

We first paused at the Lava Flow Overlook where you can see all three rock colors (red, white and black) from one vantage point.  Then we took a short walk up into the Petrified Dunes, crossing the Navajo sandstone formations and solidified red sand dunes - stunning under the (finally) clear blue sky.  Next we walked the Pioneer Names Trail, under a towering red cliff, to where there's some 1880s graffiti: names of pioneer folk written on the rock in axle grease.  Then, slightly chilled from the shade under the cliff, we strolled on part of the sunny Whiptail Trail as it meandered along the red sand dunes, spotting lizards, a bunny and tiny ground squirrels (?).  I walked back barefoot in the dunes, which were still cool underfoot - but which I imagine are scorching when it actually gets hot out.

H's folks stroll the Whiptail Trail

We exited the park at the northern entrance and, utilizing our new book, Utah Byways by Tony Huegel (picked up at the Zion NP gift shop), took backroads through Veyo, Gunlock (stopping to photograph an impressive waterfall coming out of the Gunlock reservoir) and a Paiute reservation (stopping to photograph a bunch of cattle and their calves crossing the river as cowboys drove them to another pasture).  Our destination was Mesquite, just over the border in Nevada.  There's really not much there, this little town carved out of the desert, but there are casinos so we stopped in at one, the Eureka, after snarfing our sandwiches in the car, and played the slots/low limit blackjack and had a couple of $2.50 (read: small) beers.  It was a good thing we went to Mesquite because it was there that we hit the high temperature of the whole trip:  82 degrees.

It was then a quick drive north on 15, back to St. George.  Since we got back with plenty of time before dinner, H and I changed into hiking clothes and went back to Snow Canyon SP and did the Three Ponds Trail, a 3.5 mile RT with rocky slopes and deep sand, ending up in a slot canyon where holes have been worn in the rock that hold seasonal rainfall.  Due to all the recent rain, those holes were full, and full of little frogs whose cheeping echoed off the 400-foot canyon walls.

That sand was not easy walking!

After we got back and cleaned up, we went to dinner at the Gun Barrel Steak and Game House (1091 N. Bluff St., St. George) where we had an amazing meal: tender, mesquite-grilled steaks and salmon, served with sugar snap peas, garlic mashed potatoes and the most incredible whole cooked mushrooms I've ever tasted (and I have no idea how they did them - but if you go, make sure you get the mushrooms).  The space is rustic, with a massive two-sided stone fireplace, and all sorts of taxidermied animals, and our server was great, the perfect combination of friendly and unintrusive.  A really fantastic dinner and the perfect end to our last full day in St. George.


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