Christian Kemp's USA travelogs

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The Best Western "Butch Cassidy Inn" that I stayed in, in the town of Beaver, Utah. After a good night's sleep, I walked over to the hotel lobby of my Best Western to get some coffee and make use of their continental breakfast. There wasn't any real seating, so I quickly headed outside again to pack my car; only venturing back minutes later for another coffee refill.

Cedar Breaks would just be a relatively short drive away from Beaver, UT; even if it meant taking the Interstate. There was a construction zone on I-15, but traffic moved swiftly, and I made it to the first viewpoint of Cedar Breaks National Monument in about an hour.

Cedar Breaks

Cedar Breaks is a giant amphitheater - a high plateau, with mountain forests and meadows suddenly breaks away, and the visitor looks down into an astounding vista of small canyons and ridges coloured in all shapes of red, brown and white. Many fins and so-called hoodoos remain standing in bizarre forms and shapes as the ridges around them were eroded away by frost, snow and water.

I stopped at all the viewpoints, and took copious amounts of pictures. At the park headquarters, I purchased a National Park pass - once more, a tremendous value, considering that this $50 expense will get me into every American National Park and Monument for free, for the next twelve months.

After spending about two hours in Cedar Breaks, I headed back to I-15 for a short while, and then entered the Kolob Canyons.

Zion National Park - Kolob Canyons

One of the better lighting situations at Zion's Kolob Canyons The Kolob Canyons part of Zion had been on my list of places to visit since 2001. Back then, our schedule didn't allow the detour; but this time I was determined to at least drive the main road, even if my knees wouldn't allow me to walk around much.

Unfortunately, lunch time was probably the worst time to get there - the sun was out, but illuminated the spectacular mountains in a dull, slightly foggy, and altogether uninspiring way. Or at least that was my complain while I was there; and to some extent this would be a recurring theme throughout the trip... with me always expecting perfect weather conditions and then being slightly annoyed when nature didn't cooperate. Of course nature rarely cooperates, and it all boils down to sheer luck.

After less than an hour, I had covered the main viewpoints along the road, and was back on the road. The temperature had gradually increased throughout the morning, and as I was loosing elevation it was rapidly approaching 100°F.

I decided that I wouldn't head into Zion National Park, and instead drove on towards Hurricane. The temperature reached a high at 108°F, and I was glad to have the air conditioning blasting cold air at me.

This church and building in Grafton Ghost Town (against the backdrop of Zion National Park) look freshly renovated Grafton Ghost Town

As I was heading Southeast on UT 59 towards Arizona, I remembered reading about a ghost town just outside of Springdale. Of course I was long past the intersection to Springdale, but was relieved to find that just ahead, there would be a dirt road heading North that would take me straight to Grafton.

Smithsonian Butte Road wasn't a challenge to my Chevrolet Blazer, and I made good progress towards Grafton even though I stopped multiple times to take pictures and panoramas.

I could see clouds coming up over Zion Canyon, but as I got closer to Grafton temperatures were still in the one-hundred range. Grafton used to be a derelict ghost town, but I was surprised to see that a small church and an adjacent building had been perfectly restored. They were surrounded by a fence; and some of the surrounding areas seemed to still be inhabited, so I decided not to venture up close.

Grand Canyon - Tuweep/Toroweap section

Impressive rain clouds on the way to Grand Canyon I decided that my next destination would be the Tuweep/Toroweap section of Grand Canyon - I had done some reading-up on this virtually empty section of the National Park, and thought it would be a nice destination that would be certain to get me away from the crowds... not that I had encountered that many people before.

This would require several hours of driving over unpaved roads. I took what seemed like the most logical route: south on CR 5 shortly after Colorado City, then continuing on CR 115.

The road was mostly flat, with no obstacles to speak of; and I didn't see any other car the entire time. A thunderstorm developed in front of me, and for a moment I was wary of driving straight into it, but then again, my only other option would be to turn back the same way I came. It would have been stupid to miss out on a perfectly nice destination, and I was well-prepared: spare tires, plenty of water and food, ample time; so I headed on.

I stopped many times, vainly hoping to capture one of the many lightning strikes on camera, but didn't succeed. What I would capture though were the most impressive-looking cloud formations I've ever seen.

As I got closer to the National Park boundary, it started to rain; but still not enough to make me worry enough to turn around. I pressed on, drove past the Ranger Station that was most likely empty, and shortly afterwards finally could see the Grand Canyon in the distance.

My camp site for the night, sheltered from the thunderstorms under a big rock There is a small campground maybe a mile (by road) from the rim, and there's two camping spots just next to the rim. Seeing all the lightning strikes inside of the canyon, I thought it would be more prudent in the campground; rather than exposed on the edge of the rim.

I drove over the remaining couple of hundred feet of slickrock to a nice camping spot - sheltered from most of the rain and (so I hoped) any potential lightning strikes by a giant overhanging rock, and parked the car.

It had become darker, but there was still at least an hour of daylight left. I had dinner, and then when the rain stopped roamed around the campground for a while.

When I was sitting on a rock, a chill went right through my spine, and I remembered reading that in a lightning strikes, the electricity does not travel down from the clouds, but that there's a link going up - I'm not sure if that was the case at that moment, but I thought it would be more prudent to retire to the safety of the rock, and my car.

As I was walking back, I heard a rattle. I made an instinctive move one or two steps away from the noise, and could just see the tail end of what must have been a rattlesnake disappear under a rock.

This brought me back to the Blazer for good, and I retired to my sleeping bag shortly after.

Miles driven: 236mi (380km)

Campground Accommodation: Tuweep Campground (Toroweep, Grand Canyon National Park): 0$

Written 16th March 2005 in Luxembourg.