If you don’t have religion you may find it in Zion. Whatever you believe, Zion offers proof that there is a larger spirit at work. It doesn’t matter if there is single grand architect or gods and goddesses who built a fortress of sanctuary, but the sheer cliff faces and green vegetation will take your breath away. The road to Zion twists and turns through the highland before the descent into the canyon. The last thing you see before you enter into the National Park is a farm which happens to be raising buffalo. I don’t know about you, but there is something about a buffalo that takes me back in time. They always remind me of the old west and thanks to Lieutenant John Dunbar I can only refer to them as Tatonka.
After you enter the park, my companions and I quickly became distracted by the change from prairie to mountain scape as we were greeted by Checker Board Mesa. The rock scape swooped and swirled with red, white and brown in the fashion of a twisted ice cream cone. It was preparing us for the best scene of all. The heart of the national park lies just beyond a dark 1.1 mile tunnel straight through the cliff side. It works as an interesting sensory deprivation; when you reach the other side everything pops from the light hitting the cliffs to the shadows that the arches cast.
We arrived in Zion Monday afternoon in a thunder and lightning monsoon that lasted through the night. Excellent for tent camping eh? Being confined to the tent could have been terrible, but luckily we had card games and a fun-flask. The next morning brought fair weather so we packed up and headed out to find a spot in the South Campground. We were in luck following our restless night we were rewarded with the best campsite – #77 with a fantastic view of the cliffs.
We went to several of the main attractions. It is easier to use the complimentary shuttle service that runs at various times during the day. We stared at the end and worked our way to the front:
Temple of Sinawava – This is the gateway to the Narrows which are popular slot canyons. There is a riverside walk and access to the Virgin River. The Virgin River is responsible for creating Zion Canyon.
Big Bend – Views of the Great White Throne and the Angel’s Landing Bridge. This stop has no access to trails but has great angles for taking pictures.
Weeping Rock – This stop has access to the weeping rock trail which features hanging gardens.
The Grotto – This is the entrance to Angel’s Landing and other trails. We took the Kayenta Trail to the emerald pools and then to the Lodge where we got lunch.
Court of the Patriarchs – The three largest peaks in the park named for the three Biblical fathers – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Also can be seen is the Sentinel and Mount Moroni.
Touring the park took roughly 6-8 hours. We took our time and enjoyed the day. The park is goliath and I am sure you could spend a week there and only see a small percent of what it has to offer, but with our time constraints and weather restrictions we saw a lot of what the park has to offer.
My best advice: If you plan on camping get there early! It would seem that the ideal time is around 7am-9am – any later and you risk not getting a spot in the park. There are three campsites: The Watchman campground which is for reservations only, south campground (where we stayed) which are first come, first serve, and Lava Point which is a primitive campsite and closes in October. Fear not, if there is no camping available in the park there are several other locations that would be happy to accommodate. The first night we arrived later than we liked but stayed at Zion River Resort in Virgin, UT.
My issues with Zion: the park was terribly overcrowded. Even in the off season my three companions and I had to squeeze into a shuttle to each location. As we hiked to each location of the shuttle stops we felt rather like cattle. Instead of enjoying the scenery and spectacular views – I was too busy dodging slow walkers or being caught up in a sea of fellow sight seers. In the parks defense several of the harder hikes were closed due to the un-seasonal monsoons from the previous nights. We would have attempted Angel’s Landing had the trail not been closed.
The crowding however, could never ruin the experience – the scenery was incredible. I can’t wait to return to the canyon and explore all of the areas that were closed and hopefully obtain permits to enter the protected sections.
Costs & Fees (all subject to vary):
Zion National Park entrance fee: $30 per vehicle (lasts for seven days)
Shuttle through the Canyon: FREE
Camping Fees: South Campground $16
Watchman Campground $16-$20
Zion River Resort: $45 (we stayed here the first night)
Your Cobweb Clearer ~ Kate
Today I am going to talk about a magical, lonely place somewhere between Page, AZ and Kanab, UT. As you approach the pull off there is a parking area and a sign highlighting the Grand Escalante Staircase (National Monument). To the right of the parking area is a twelve-mile dirt road leading to the most beautiful place I have ever had the privilege to visit. I strongly suggest that you attempt the last few miles if you have a four wheel drive truck or a high clearance vehicle as most of the road can be washed out at times.
I couldn’t help but hum, “can you paint with all the colors of the wind?” – I have serious Pocahontas moments whenever I visit. Half way down the road you climb on green, purple, red, blue and white striated ridges that take your breath away for two reasons; for one, you can get up close and personal looking deep into the valley which has been carved out by the Paria river. Secondly, if you walk out far enough the ridges become narrow with significant drops on both sides. Walking on the ridge is not for the faint of heart. My brother, who is terrified of heights refused to walk out on the trail with me. His wife eventually coaxed him onto a shorter ridge.
Further down the road is the old Paria town site and film site. Only the foundations exist due to constant flooding and unfortunate arson. Bored teenagers decided to have a bonfire. Too bad. I admit, I have not had a look at the town site because of the rough the roads but, a lonely cemetery below the town site which holds townspeople and some native Paiute people. It is worth a stop to pay tribute to the Paria’s past residents.
At the furthest point the road stops dead at the river bank. Let me make myself clear this is an extremely remote area. When I visited in December the shallow river was frozen over and you could slide across the center. When we visited last week it was all mud – the mud people pay big money for at a spa- slimy and full of minerals. It was so muddy that we left our boots on the bank of river and continued barefoot; not to worry, we were one of two groups in the whole area – nobody would bother them. The mud was slippery and ankle-deep in some spots but it contributed to an experience of a lifetime. It was strange walking in the open canyon with no one around – surrounded by antelope, deer and bobcat tracks. We only found one other set of human tracks but they were washed away. I felt primitive as my lizard brain instincts took over – taking notes on the smell of sage, the heat of the sun, and the mud beneath my feet. As an interesting note my mom and I both noticed the varying temperatures of the ground in different spots. At one point we noticed that as we crossed a section of shaded, moving water – it was warm like stale bath water. I can’t say this for a fact but I believe it to be a geothermal spot. Which is super exciting!
After a mile and a half of trekking we came across caves and an abandoned mine carved into the sides of the canyon (after later research I concluded it may have been a gold mine). We paused to take a break in the shade. We would have explored further, but we all became wary of the remoteness and a fear of being eaten by mountain lions as it was reaching sundown. It was strange to be afraid like that so we walked on only a bit further to where the river disappeared behind the next canyon.
It was an amazing experience and I can’t wait to go back! The Paria is quickly becoming my most favorite place I ever visited. Please stay tuned for my reports on:
Your Cobweb Clearer ~ Kate
The UNESCO cultural landscape Wachau Valley pronounced ‘Vah-how’ not ‘Watch-choo’ is the largest producer of local white wines in Austria. The area produces predominantly Rieslings which profiles apple, peach, and pear but is delightfully crisp and the younger features are slightly effervescent. Rieslings are an exception to my ‘no white wine’ rule. Pour me a glass of red – I’ll be your friend forever. The Wachau valley extends for approximately thirty kilometers framing the Danube River. There is a mix of historic properties and present construction that stick out fantastically from the terraced hillsides.
Okay. Picture this. A guided day of biking fourteen miles from winery to winery, schnitzel and immersing with the locals. Fellow wanderlusters, I’m sure I previewed heaven and I approve of what I saw.
Montanna and I were at it again. Our journey would take us from the Krems train station to the tiny village of Joching. Instead of horses we went with bikes and substituted deafening heights for flat, even ground. There is a running joke about how I try to kill my friends with extreme adventures… I don’t know what they are talking about 😉
Our first stop was in the historic town of Dürnstein which is the popular tourist spot of the Wachau Valley. Don’t let that scare you off. The town remains quiet and even in the height of the tourist season there were few and far between. Our wine came from a local family winery made in the heart of Dürnstein . What I adored about Dürnstein was the ruined castle at on the hill and the blue Augustinian abbey along the Danube both with historic tales.
The castle once jailed Richard the Lionheart of England during the third crusade. He was released upon request by the pope. The hike is fairly strenuous as you gain elevation quickly. The bright side is that you can make it up the hill in about ten to fifteen minutes. The top reveals an incredible, panoramic view of the Wachau Valley.
The next top spot of Dürnstein is the Augustinian Abbey constructed in the 15th century. Our guide told us that the church was painted blue in the 18th century simply because the Pope said “don’t paint the church blue”. The Austrian’s replied “we do what we want!” and painted it blue anyway. The guide also mentioned that this was a legend. Truth or not, take a moment to appreciate the rebel culture.
The last stop before heading back to Krems was in Joching which is a tiny village with more family owned wineries. What is amazing about villages like this are the community pubs that rotate according to their wine supply. The pub we sampled from was up in the hills and overlooked the Danube. It was a welcome reward after a tough cycling session.
The wine was fabulous. The towns were quaint. In the end, my legs (among other body parts) were terribly sore. Want to a perfect day trip out of Vienna? Make sure you visit the Wachau Valley. I only covered only half of the incredible region, but, the towns visited were truly a step back into time. You could take a guide or rent your own bikes. The valley is easy to navigate and almost impossible loose your way. I would have loved to take two or three days to immerse into the villages, but, time was of the essence.
Want to do a self tour? Rent a bike and hop on a train from Vienna Wien Franz-Josefs-Bahnhof to Krems an der Donau starting at 11 Euros.
Your Cobweb Clearer, Kate
V-Bar-V Ranch south of Sedona, AZ hosts one of the largest, most prolific examples of Beaver Creek Rock Art. The site consists of over one thousand images spread over thirteen rock panels. Upon excavation, archaeologists unearthed even more petroglyphs. The guide explained that relics were discovered up to six feet under where we stood and were covered back up after excavation. For that reason, you aren’t permitted to walk up to the carvings. Around 1300 AD the Sinaguan residents of the Verde Valley used the site to leave important messages and stories. The glyphs mostly consist of zoomorphs (animal images) and anthropomorphs (geometric designs).
The site is hosted by the National Parks service which means it can only be accessed with a guide. A Red Rock Pass is required for parking and can be obtained online or at the ranger station a short walk from the parking lot.
More from Arizona ancient history? Check out Badass Arizona History: Unreal Dwellings in the Red Rock
North in Sedona are two fantastically preserved heritage sites that showcase some of the largest cliff dwellings in Red Rock Country along with pictographs. I had not heard of this site previously but saw the entrance in after hiking Fay’s Canyon. I’m glad I stopped! After driving several miles down an unpaved road – my Ford Fiesta thanked me – I began my adventure at the visitors center. There are two sites Palatki (meaning Red House) and Honanki (meaning Badger House) both inhabited first by the Sinagua tribes in 1200CE followed by a plethora of other groups like the Yavapai and Apache up until 1875. A Red Rock Pass is required for both sites, but not to worry, you can purchase them at the visitors center in a pinch for $5.
The Palatki site features a cliff dwelling to the east and one to the west of the visitors center. There is some uphill climbing involved but, not to worry it’s tame.
The last switchback approaching the site reveals the first glimpse of the sandstone structures. The long-standing dwellings are situated at the base of the sheer red rock cliff. A southern facing home offers protection from the brutal summer sun and warmth in the winter months. Above the first pueblo is a carving which archaeologists believe to more or less act as a sigil or a clan symbol.
On the other side of the site is a grotto that shows off incredible examples of pictographs and petroglyphs. Archaeologists suspect that some of the images tell stories and legends while others act as celestial calendars to keep track of planting seasons.
Sister site to Palaki and another several miles down the road is a larger complex but lesser pictographs. Be sure to show your Red Rock Pass!
Honanki complex is situated under a shallow cut out of a cliff. The monster complex in it’s hay day had over 70 rooms. After a fire destroyed most of the complex the site came under the care of the National Parks Service.
Allow for at least three to four hours if you really want to get to know the place. Two to three hours if you just want to check it out. I recommend this place if you are into history and have an affection for rocks. Personally, I find rock art fascinating so I had to be drug out by my hiking boots.
I have some more inspiration for you:
We’ve all been on awkward dates. My own terrible date memories include salad bits lodged in my teeth for the duration and another where my suitor and I took a stroll in a secluded trail. He meant no harm but, as serial over thinker I prepared to evoke warrior princess mode making for a jumpy and well – awkward self. My first trip into Budapest, Hungary was just as blundering as one could imagine.
I’ll take it from the top: I’d been flirting with Budapest since I started planning my Europe trip. When I found out that the mysterious, history soaked city was a train ride from Wein I jumped at the opportunity to swipe right. I skyped my mom to tell her the news. She likes to know where I visit with the proviso that she will embrace her inner Liam Neeson and reenact “Taken” on the poor fool who steals away her one and only daughter. “You should talk Montanna into going with you” she suggested. Montanna, my bestie, would visit Austria for a week during my stay in Wien. Great! It’s decided – I wouldn’t even have to talk Montanna into it. Here was the catch, time would only allow for a day trip as the cats I was looking after would be mighty hungry should I not return. Challenge accepted!
The efficient way (and for those in a time crunch) to visit Budapest from Wien is by train. Take Wien HBFon an ÖBB train to Budapest-Keleti. Exit the train into Budapest in about 2.5 hours as opposed to 3.5 hours or more. The trade off is that the ticket cost is set steeply at €29 and up for a one-way, direct advance ticket. The plan was to leave on the 8:40 AM train and be there by 11:20 AM which gives us until 7:40 PM which is the last train back to Wien for the evening. That gave Montanna and I a minimum six hour experience, taking into consideration time to situate in the city and also to walk back to Keleti. Budapest is essentially two cities stuck together so, traveling on foot would not be efficient. I researched a Hop-on & Hop-off tour that included free goulash for lunch and various free alcoholic beverage offers throughout the city for €25. Score. The pick up point was at the Grand Hungarian Hotel. Two minute walk from the train station! Perfect!
Anyone who has traveled under my watch understands that I’m passionate about two topics: having a plan A,B,&C so on and being early. Catching trains are no exception. Naturally, Montanna and I arrive at Wien HBF in time to purchase tickets, stop for coffee, some apple strudel, and people watch. 8:40 rolls around and the train is delayed five minutes. Not an issue. Then fifteen. Then thirty. At this moment in time I’m pacing between the timetable board and our spot on the platform. The thought of lateness makes my skin crawl. You can’t control time, I know, I know. Fifty minutes later the train finally arrives. Okay, one hour down. Five hours is still workable with the plan.
Our unreserved seats in second class left us sweaty and slightly bruised from the backpackers and ladies with large bags walking across the train. I refused to let that matter the trip was in motion. By the time the train pulled into Keleti and situated with bus tickets the time approached half past noon. You could speculate what happened next – the bus was late too. Montanna and I waited an additional thirty minutes for the bus to arrive. In the bus’s defense, traffic was horrendous. I had a sinking feeling there would be no time for goulash or shots. At this point we just wanted to witness what Budapest was offering.
Under any other circumstance I’m sure my plan would have been full-proof. Luck was just not on my side. My pictures are hurried and taken from a moving bus but, it’s all I have of my intriguing first date. I want to delve deeper into Budapest, maybe next time, lateness will not be an issue. It’s always an adventure.
Your Cobweb Clearer, Kate
Horseback riding is an excellent way to get lost in nature while your travel. If you have ever imagined yourself galloping across a golden beach or climbing up a misty mountain searching for Mordor – this is your post. Guided tours are available all over the world. Most farms cater to visitors of all experience levels. One thing that seems to be missing in the travel blogging world are tips and tricks to turn your riding experience from night-mare (horse pun) to a rainbow unicorn. There are thousands of travelers who have never touched a horse but, sign up for treks. This is fantastic! Allow me to make your ride a little less stressful.
I grew up on the back of a horse and attribute most of my wanderlust-y ways to my experience with horses. Riding brings out this primal side and inspires me to press on for undiscovered adventure. I have trained in English and Western styles. My specialty is groundwork and saddle breaking young horses. Horses require a delicate balance of acting as an alpha and acting with kindness. They are herd animals and are prey in the wild. This causes their fight or flight instinct to be at the forefront of their decision-making process. You have to act as a team because there are two brains at work.
It’s my personal goal to ride in every country I visit. So far, I have taken treks in Ireland, Iceland, and Scotland. I could be doing better with my goal I must admit.
Take into consideration the length of time, the difficulty of the ride and the number of riders they accept for a typical ride. Check out the About page. Find out the experience levels of the guides. A respectable company will have complimentary reviews. Some key points to look for in reviews include: behavior of the horses, if the riders felt safe and quality of the guide. Corporate and private owners are normally required to carry some sort of liability insurance as horse riding is an inherent risk. Inquiring about insurance is reassuring but, usually not essential. Normally, the day of your ride you will be required to fill in a liability waiver. Be sure to answer the waiver truthfully.
For the love of the equine gods wear a damn helmet. I don’t care if it ruins your hair and I know it makes you look like a mushroom head. Take advice from the girl who was wearing a helmet and still had her brain scrambled in a freak accident. Ride enough, you will experience the premature dismount. Don’t let your trek in the Italian country side end in disaster. If the farm doesn’t offer you the use of a helmet you are under no obligation to ride. You may want to look for different accommodations. Wear a damn helmet!
As far as tops go it really doesn’t matter. Take into consideration temperature and weather. A loose-ish pair of jeans are typically the best for a ride. Shorts I would advise against unless you wish to experience the worst chafing of your entire life. Sport pants or yoga pants are okay, but they don’t offer much grip. It’s also important to pick the right shoes: sneakers will do, hiking boots are ideal, sandals are a no-no.
Take a minute to stretch out before you mount and after you dismount. You will thank me later. Cowboys walk all bow legged for a reason. Touch your toes, a quad stretch, maybe a runner’s lunge – anything to wake those legs up!
The secret to staying balanced and center: pretend there is a straight line from your shoulders, hips to ankles. Keeping this position will firm up your center of gravity. Inexperienced riders tend either sit too far back or too far forward which causes your legs to swing too far forward or back. Results: premature dismounting. Keep upright and centered with your shoulders square for best balancing.
The likelihood that the owner of operations would willingly pair you with a dangerous animal is slim but, you should always remember that any 1,500-pound animal is dangerous. Fear is healthy but, remember that the horse knows what it is doing. Freaking out or raising your voice is only going to make the situation worse. If you are having an issue alert the main rider in a low, calm voice. If you truly believe that your life is in danger, dismount.
Those leather pieces you hold in your hands? Those are attached to a metal bar inside your new friend’s mouth. Refrain from pretending to start a lawnmower to steer. Instead, if you wish to turn use short, slow pulls in the direction you want to go. Want to look like a pro? Press your opposite leg into your horse’s side. Viola! Steering. To stop, the normal cue is to pull back slowly on both reins at once and say Woah.
Risky behavior can include riding and taking pictures. It’s all too tempting to whip out your phone and snap some photos. Use your better judgment and disconnect from the world for an hour or two. Consider this too, it’s risky when you aren’t paying attention but, even more, risky for your phone if you drop it. Farms are not responsible for your technology if it gets ruined.
These creatures are gentle and don’t deserve to be treated badly. I swapped horror stories with owners about individuals on holiday (particularly stag parties) drinking while on a trek and hurting the animals. Be sure to listen and respect your guide – it’s their job, after all, to keep you safe! Regarding the mistreatment of any animal:
Horseback riding is my favorite thing to do when I travel. Remember to keep safe and have fun!