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The Great Caribbean Sailing Adventure (GCSA) of 2014 – Part 3

November 28, 2014 8:31 pm

After updating our supplies, the six of us set sail on the 26th of September, heading north for Tyrell Bay in Carriacou where we would be able to check out of the Grenadines. Along the way, we celebrated Alyson’s birthday, and Walt demonstrated his gallantry by rescuing her party-hat from an unfortunate gust of wind that carried it into the ocean. That night we grilled on the boat and spent time talking teaching Alyson and Walt the card game of Hearts. The next morning we arose early, and set sail for Clifton Bay in Union to check into St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We were met by two enterprising young men, (“Brooklyn” and Romeo), who ferried us ashore to Customs and Immigration, and with who we arranged an ashore catered lobster dinner in the Tobago Cays that night. After completing our business ashore, we left Union, made the short sail to the Tobago Cays where we spent the afternoon swimming with turtles and exploring the local islands until evening arrived.

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Then, we dressed in our best beach-ware and dingy-ed ashore where we were met by “Brooklyn” and Romeo who prepared us a huge grilled lobster feast with all of the trimmings and side-dishes. After returning to the boat, we enjoyed nightcaps and watched the stars and meteor showers before retiring for the night.

 

Lobsters

Lobsters

Girls in Sunday Best:  Allyson, Walt & Julie

Girls in Sunday Best: Allyson, Walt & Julie

The next morning, Sunday, the girls made us a huge breakfast and we spent the whole day exploring the local area – checking out the sting rays, turtles and sharks, taking the dingy across the reef to explore a deserted island, shopping at a local beach vendor’s display, and catching three large conchs that we cleaned and the girls used that evening to make fantastic homemade conch fritters and conch ceviche! After dinner, we followed the New Orleans Saints game online and finished with an hilarious game of cards before calling it a night.

Nikki & Allyson

Nikki & Allyson

On Monday, September 29th, we reluctantly left the Tobago Cays in late morning, but not before picking up another 3 conchs on the way, and cleaning them as we sailed. Walt took the wheel for most of the trip to the island of Bequia, St. Vincent where we dropped anchor in Admiralty Bay and went ashore in Port Elizabeth for drinks at Maria’s, while we waited for Customs and Immigration to reopen to check out of the country. After handling these requirements, we returned to the boat for the highly anticipated “round two” of homemade conch fritters and conch ceviche, which we complemented with a fresh salad for dinner. Another relaxing evening of music, conversation, nightcaps and cards rounded out our day.
The next morning, the boys got the boat underway at 6:30am in preparation for a very long day’s sail from Bequia to beautiful Marigot Bay in St. Lucia – a 75 mile trip! Luckily, the winds were good to us, and with the boat healed and traveling at over 9 knots, we made our destination by 4:00pm, while introducing Walt and Alyson to a whole new level of sailing, which they very much enjoyed. The favorable timing allowed us to check in and out of the country of St. Lucia and to engage a local “dingy service” (“Liquid Sunshine’s”) to take us ashore for a sunset dinner at Doolittles, where we were serenaded by singing waitresses, and we enjoyed excellent meals of local delicacies, including swordfish and mussels.
The next morning, we left Marigot Bay about 9:00am, and headed for Martinique. Again, the winds were great, and we made the 30+ mile journey in about 5 hours, arriving in the port of Marin at about 2:00pm. Along the way, we were accompanied for a while by another pod of dolphins that played about the waves on our bow. When we arrived, we anchored in the bay off Marin, jumped in and swam in the local waters. Walt grilled hot dogs and sausages for lunch, and the afternoon degenerated in a discussion of sexual prowess and demonstrations of “winky” dances.

Peter, Walt & Rocky

Peter, Walt & Rocky

That evening, we went ashore for cocktails, (beers and wine), before returning to the boat for a dinner of grilled shrimp and chicken. That night, after days of playing “possum” at cards, Walt clobbered everyone with an overwhelming victory. The next morning (Thursday, October 2nd) we went to the fuel dock to top-off, and checked into our familiar boat slip for the night. This allowed us to check into the country, to say our sad “goodbyes” to Walt and Alyson, and to pick-up two new couples, Jeff and Debbie, and Rick and Mary Jane, who arrived later that afternoon. That night, our new group of eight all returned to our previously-visited onshore restaurant where we enjoyed great food and talked of our anticipated adventures. As usual with new arrivals, the drinking and partying lasted well into the night onboard our boat.

The Great Caribbean Sailing Adventure (GCSA) of 2014 – Part 2

8:23 pm

On Sunday, September 21st, we set off at 8:30am to begin our 47 mile journey to St. Lucia. The weather was overcast and rainy, and the seas were choppy, which did not make for a pleasant ride for first-timer, Elaine. Along the way, we were again blessed with a school of porpoises riding along our bow, and this cheered everyone up. Since the day was rough, and the day was long, we decided to cut our planned trip short of going all the way to Soufriere in St. Lucia, and instead stopped at The Pitons at 5:00pm, where we met by the Park Ranger, Jean Claude, who allowed us to pay for a mooring ball, and gave us “a pass” on Customs and Immigration. A local boat-boy arranged for us to purchase a two -foot tuna which we cleaned and prepared half for cooking. That night, we grilled the tuna and some store-purchased tilapia on the back of the boat, and sat and talked and listened to music until bedtime claimed us.

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Bob, Rocky, Terry & Peter

 

Elaine at the wheel

Elaine at the wheel

Terry on the Wheel

Terry on the Wheel

We arose early, and set off at 9:00am for the island of Bequia in St. Vincent. Making a stop at this port would allow us to check into the country that includes our next destination, the Tobago Cays, and would give us a chance to get supplies. The trip was long and the weather overcast, but we arrived in Admiralty Bay in Port Elizabeth before dark at ~5:00pm which gave us enough time to check into the country. While onshore, we decided to eat at Maria’s Café, where we met two interesting English gentlemen who had just crossed the Atlantic with their ~40 ft. sailboat. We sampled the local beer and food, talked with the locals and visitors, and headed back to our boat in the dark for a final nightcap an good night’s sleep. The Tobago Cays are a short distance from here, and so we rose, had breakfast and lifted anchor at ~9:00am, getting to our stop in The Cays by 2:00pm. After picking up a mooring ball, we swam with turtles and stingrays in the sanctuary, explored the local islands, met with the local supply boat-men (“Mandy Man” and “The Today” boat – our former contact, Mr. Quality, was “on holiday”), and grilled our remaining tuna for dinner. The next morning we spent leisurely enjoys the Tobago Cays, as we snorkeled until lunch before we let loose our mooring ball at ~11:00am and headed for Union, the largest southern-most island of St. Vincent, where we could check out of the country. The local boat-boys were very helpful shuttling us to shore and aiding some of us in getting ice, wine and charcoal while others checked out at Immigration.

Tobago Cays

Tobago Cays

Turtles

Turtles

We made it out of Union by 1:00pm and sailed the rest of the day to the Port Louis, Grenada, arriving in the dark at ~7:00pm. We carefully entered the bay, nervously maneuvering around anchored boats, until we found a suitable place to set our own anchor. We then grilled chicken and shrimp on the BBQ, complemented with veggies, salad and wine, and took the dingy to shore at ~9:00pm to pick up our next guests – Walt and Alyson. After confusion over which dock to meet on, we met up, loaded their gear and them into the dingy and took them on a journey into a sea of darkness, until we arrived at our boat, where they were welcomed with drinks, conversations and music into the wee hours of the night. The next morning, after checking into immigration, we sailed a short distance to Dragon Bay where we swam along the coral reef and explored the underwater art statue exhibits of Jason Taylor at Moilinere Bay (www.underwatersculpture.com/projects/grenada). We then ate lunch at the local Dragon Bay beach restaurant, watched Alyson play dominoes with the locals, and then went into the Dream Yacht’s Port Louis Marina, where we docked for the night. That night, the 4 of us (Rocky, Julie, Terry and Elaine) checked into a beach resort down the coast for a little “R&R”, and met everyone a walk-away down the beach that night at a restaurant called Umbrella’s – a place we had been before on a previous trip that we knew we would all enjoy. After dinner and a good night’s sleep, we bid adieu to Terry and Elaine and rejoined our boat and friends on Friday morning back in the Marina.

Guys on the Wheel

Guys on the Wheel:  Bob, Rocky, Terry & Peter

 

The Great Caribbean Sailing Adventure (GCSA) of 2014 – Part 1

8:10 pm

Our great adventure started with rising early (4:00am) in the morning of September 11th, driving 2 hours to Nikki & Peter’s in West Palm Beach and meeting them there to catch the Tri-Rail train to Miami Airport (a 2-hour train trip). From Miami, we flew to St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands where we took a taxi to our hotel for the night near the Ferry Terminal. The day was long and travel was wearing on us as we prepared to travel to the British Virgin (BVI) the next day. On September 12th, we took the Ferry to Tortola, BVI, a 1-hour passenger ferry ride which prepared us for some of the rough weather we might see over the next 6 weeks. In Tortola, we met Bob who had flown in the night before and was staying at the motel associated with the marina where our rental bareboat was located. After lunch at Pusser’s, we climbed aboard our boat, “The Grande Plaisance III”, for the first time – a 53’ Jenneau from Dream Charters located in Hodge’s Creek, Maya Cove in the east end of the island. The boat was an upgrade from what we expected with power winches, power heads (toilets) and a bow-thruster. Our day was then consumed with preparation by the 5 of us (stocking food and drink, checking out of the country at Immigration & Customs) and “moving-in” and we spent that night meeting “neighbors”, swimming in the marina pool and getting excited for tomorrow’s departure.

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Grande Plaisance III

On Saturday, September 13th, (Rocky’s birthday), at 9:00am, we left Hodge’s Creek and the BVI, and set a heading for the overnight 140 nautical mile trip across open waters to the port of Charlestown on the island of Nevis. The winds were good from the east, and the boat performed well traveling at ~8 knots. That night, the skies were clear and the half-moon-plus rose in the night sky at about 10:15pm. Bob, Rocky and Peter took overlapping 4-hour shifts throughout the night with two people on the helm at all times. Everyone on deck wore harnesses and stayed “clipped-on” to our boat-long “jack-lines” which we rigged for safety during night sailing. That night, we passed 3-4 squalls beating us with winds and drenching anyone on deck. Nikki slept below, but Julie was feeling a little queasy and stayed with the boys up-top trying to stay dry and to catch a little sleep. In the night, we passed the lights of the islands of Saba, St. Eustace and St. Kitts – places we would consider stopping upon our return trip.
We arrived at Charlestown, Nevis on a beautiful Sunday morning of September 14th at about 9:00am – earlier than we had planned. After checking in and out at Immigration & Customs (which required calling their staff into the office and allowing us the opportunity to have a few drinks while we waited for them to arrive), we took note of some issues that we encountered during the night. It seems that a couple of the “cars” that guide the main-sail up and down the mast were damaged, and we were having problems with the engine electrical system where the battery would drain unless we ran the engine to charge it every 4 hours. We decided to try to work through these for the next few days. For lunch, we went ashore to eat at Mr. Sunshine’s – a little beach bar & restaurant that we had heard of. We had a wonderful lunch, celebrated Rocky’s belated birthday, took a look at the local “pet” monkeys there, and headed back to the boat where we had dinner, (birthday) partied on-board and prepared for our trip’s next leg.

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Mr. Sunshine’s Restaurant

At 8:00am the next morning, we left Charlestown and set course for Little Bay, Monserrat, a “short” 33 mile journey. The island of Monserrat had never been visited by any of us before, as t had been off-limits in the past due to a 1997 serious volcanic eruption of Mount Soufriere that caused the island’s evacuation. At the time, 11,000 residents inhabited the island (under British control) that saw it being evacuated and its Capitol being buried in volcanic ash. Today, that end of the island is still a wasteland, and only 5,000 residents returned. We arrived at Little Bay, Montserrat at 3:00pm, and after checking in and out of the country, ran across a gentleman who ran a little bar and restaurant at the head-rocks to the Bay – John Pont. John had built his restaurant – his dream – by hand and had been evacuated to England for 10 years, but now he was back and he offered to open-up for the night just for us five. We came back that evening for drinks and snacks and he even drove Peter to town to get ice for our boat’s refrigerator. His establishment is in a spectacular garden setting with a deck built out over the rocks of the water’s edge. John proved to be one our favorite new acquaintances that we made along this trip.

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Pont’s Bar

The next day, Tuesday, September 16th, we left Monserrat at 7:00am and sailed the 60 nautical miles to the city of Basse Terre in Guadeloupe at a brisk pace. We arrived at 4:00pm, and this was our first encounter with a French island, where Peter’s “pigeon” French contributed greatly to our success. Immigration & Customs at The Barracuda Restaurant was closed but that only allowed us the opportunity to have drinks and eat dinner there. It was also here that we encountered our first serious problem with the boat, as the engine battery died and the engine could not be started. After consulting via phone with Dream Charters, we jumped the engine to the domestic batteries and started the engine, but we decided to divert the next part of our trip to get these problems resolved. Therefore, the next day, instead of sailing to Isle de Saintes, as planned, we motor-sailed around the island of Guadeloupe, to the southern major port of the island at Pointe de Pitre, where we took the boat into a temporary marina slip near the major cruise-line dock, so that they could replace the main-sail “cars” and the engine battery. This was completed in a very timely manner, and so we then left Pointe de Pitre that afternoon and sailed to Petit Havre, Guadeloupe, arriving at ~5:00pm. Tired and drained, we took swims, showers and ate at a restaurant onshore.
The next morning we rose early and set sail for Roseau, Dominica. Because we had not spent the night further south in Isle de Saintes, we had a long trip to make of about 60 miles to get back on schedule. Luckily, the winds we again favorable, and sailing along this leg at ~8.5 knots, we were joined by our first pod of porpoises, riding along our bow-wave for a number of minutes. We anchored just offshore near the cruise-line dock, went ashore for Immigration & Customs check in and out, picked up supplies, and headed back to the boat. Here, as in most of the islands, the town’s markets and stores were not really geared to be open for tourists, yet, as their “high” season doesn’t start until November 1st. Therefore, we cooked and ate on-board, and we left the next morning at 7:00am to head to Martinique.
Fort de France in Martinique was a 50-mile sail which we did in 9 hours, arriving at ~4:00pm. Here, we found a vibrant little town with a beautiful park and little shops. We checked in, explored town and found a nice bar/restaurant where we sampled local snacks and drinks into the evening.

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Nikki & Peter

The next morning was Saturday, September 20th, and so we made a short sail down the coast of Martinique to the city of Marin, where we had a marina slip waiting for us, allowing us to fill up on fuel and water, and pick up our first guests, Terry and Elaine. We arrived at the Marina at 9:00am, and it was a large, well run facility with eateries, laundry and showers, which we used extensively. The grocery stores were accessible with a marina free shuttle, and we were refreshed to welcome our guests who arrived that afternoon. After settling them in, we all went to dinner at a nice restaurant on-shore, and then partied and talked on the boat until the wee-hours of the night. Tomorrow would start the second part of our journey, now with 7 people on-board.

sunset

Moscow, Russia

July 20, 2014 7:20 pm

Moscow, Russia – July 2014

Moscow 1

In Moscow, we started off by visiting the Kremlin.  Since the fall of communism in Russia, the Kremlin has been opened to the public giving access to what was unseen for over 70 years.  The Russian word “Kremlin” indicates “walled fortress” and many Russian cities have Kremlins.  The ancient walled Kremlin of Moscow has been the traditional seat of Russian Power since the capital was moved there hundreds of years ago, and it houses the State Armory (actually the country’s oldest museum of royal gifts and items of value and historical significance) and Assumption Cathedral, as well as State Parliament and Government buildings.

Moscow 2

Moscow 3

Moscow 4

We also toured Moscow at night, including our first visit to Red Square (Red meaning Beautiful), which we could not visit in the day due to a Formula 1 race taking place there.  The Square is lined by the Kremlin to one side backing the Tomb of Lenin, and the huge Gum Shopping Center/store on the other, with St. Basils Cathedral at one end and the Historical Museum at the other.  We also toured the a Nunery, Tretyakov Art Gallery and took the Metro to Arbat Street to explore the local shops.  Our final day there left us free to explore the details of the city at our leisure.

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Overall, Russia was as amazing as we had always thought it would be, and we found the people friendly and hard working.  We did note that, although support for the Russian Leaders and Putin was uniformly strong across generations, the acceptance of free-market economics and adaptation to the rapid changes in their culture and economy is much more strongly supported by young people than the older generation who had always had a “safety net” under the Soviet leadership.  The only thing that was clear is that Russia is in for many more changes over its near future.  For our part, we wish them “the best” and very much appreciate what we saw and learned during those two weeks.

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Moscow 12

MS Leo Tolstoy River Cruise Russia

7:18 pm

MS Leo Tolstoy river Cruise, Russia – July 2014

Ship 1 boarding

After 5 days we boarded our ship, the Leo Tolstoy!  This Riverboat was originally designed for the Soviet Leadership, but after the fall of communism, was privatized and owned as part of a fleet by Vodohad Company, although this particular boat was recently retrofitted and modernized and was being leased to Vantage.  The ship was very comfortable with reasonable cabins and plenty of common space, including the Restaurant, a Library, Theater/Meeting Room, Lounge with Bar, and even an indoor Swimming Pool with Bar.  Meals were excellent and the ship was clean and friendly.

Ship 2

 

Ship 3

We began our 7-day trip up a series of rivers, canals and lakes, including the River Svyr, Lake Ladoga and to the craft village of Mandrogi.  We then proceeded through Lake Onega to Kizhi Island which has preserved the historic wooden structures from the area that were constructed 100-200 years ago.  We eventually entered the Volga River to finish our journey to Moscow, but not before visiting the towns of Goritsy, Yaroslavl, Roston and Uglich.  These towns allowed to to see Russian life outside of the city, and gave us a chance to visit some historic sites, (Church of Elijah the Prophet, Church of St. Nicholas the Miracle-Worker, Yaraslovl Governor’s Mansion, St. Jacob Monasery), as well as visit local school children, local families, and even have tea with a local school teacher.

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Ship 5

 

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The ship’s cruise ended when we arrived at the port terminal outside of Moscow.  There, we transferred to the Grand Marriott Hotel on Tverskaya street.

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St. Petersburg, Russia

7:18 pm

St. Petersburg, Russia –  July 2013

With only 38 days’ notice, we decided to take advantage of an excellent offer from Vantage to visit Russia, a place that has long been our list to explore.  This trip started with flights from the USA to Frankfurt, Germany, and on to St. Petersburg for 5 days in the city and surrounding area.  We stayed at the St. Petersburg Radisson, which was excellently located on Nevsky Prospect in the heart of the city.  Our exploration of the city started with tours of Peter and Paul Fortress where many of the Romanov Family are interred, and where Peter The Great first founded the city in 1703 in response to Finland’s expansionistic hopes.  When the Bolsheviks took over the country in 1917, the city was renamed first Petrograd, and then Leningrad, but its original name was returned at the end of the 20th Century.  We went to the Palace Square and toured the gilded halls, and visited the Church on the Spilled Blood, built on exactly where Tsar Alexander II was murdered by extremist for attempting to abolish serfdom.  Our evening concluded with a ballet presentation of Swan Lake.

St Pete  1

 

St Pete 2

 

St Pete 3

 

St Pete 4

The next days were spent with city and other nearby excursions, and personal exploration of the city by walking.  Key highlights included touring the Hermitage (museum) where fantastic collections began by Catherine The Great include art and historical mementos from the ruling families from over 3 centuries.  We also toured the city via riverboat, as the city might be considered very similar to Amsterdam or Venice as it is situated on a series of islands divided by canals and waterways.  We took in evening shows that included heritage and folk performances and dancing.

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St Pete 6

 

St Pete 7

 

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St Pete 9

 

St Pete 10

We also took excursions out of the city to Catherine’s Palace in Pushkin and toured its halls and extensive gardens, and to Peterhof Grand Palace and Gardens on the shores of the Baltic Sea.  Both were magnificently restored from the devastation of World War II, and are now all available as National Heritage Museums.

St Pete 11

 

St Pete 12

Rafting the Grand Canyon

July 19, 2014 8:28 pm

Grand Canyon Rafting      June 2014

We met in the Desert Rose Lobby at 5:00am to begin our journey to the Canyons shores.  It started with a bus trip to the local airport and a flight (two planes) back to Lee’s Ferry where we picked up supplies (beer and wine), loaded our gear onto the rafts and were introduced to our guides.  Our group (now at 14 people plus our two guides) took one raft, and we were teamed-up with a second raft to travel the week together, for safety purposes.

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It soon became obvious that the trip was going to be characterized by “hot” weather (90 – 100 deg. F) and cold water (47 at the beginning to 53 at the end – deg. F)!  Our first half-day on the water was minor rapids (Level 1’s) and “riffles”, and we all began to get comfortable with riding the raft and camping on shore.  The next morning we rode our first real rapids (Levels 5-6) and everyone did well and was having a great time, alternating freezing (while wet) and roasting (while dry).

 

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Our guides were R.D. and Grace, experienced Canyon Runners with a wide range of skills, training and college education.  The provided us with safe maneuvering down the river, detailed information on the history and geology of the Canyon, gourmet meals, and anything else that we could possibly need.  In short – they were amazing. Days were typically breakfast early and rafting all day, with shore stops for lunch and side-excursions.  The side excursions were sometimes strenuous, but always exciting, and included exploring old caves and mines, hiking to ancient civilization’s granaries, swimming in side canyon’s rivers, streams and waterfalls, and a ½ day on the Little Colorado River.  Evenings we put ashore, set up cots and sleeping bags for a comfortable night’s sleep and enjoyed typically amazing meals provided by our guides.

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The Little Colorado is much warmer than the Colorado, and carries dissolved minerals that make it a turquoise blue.  We hiked upstream to an area where we could swim and “slide” down the natural “sluice” created by the river – truly an amazing day.

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The last couple of days of the week long trip saw the most adventurous of the rapids (Level 10’s).  They shook and threw people around, but by this time, everyone was an old-hand at riding what the River could throw at them.  The trip ended with a helicopter ride out of the Canyon (5-at-a-time) to the Bar-10 Ranch for a shower, lunch, and an air flight back to Las Vegas.

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That night while cruising down the Vegas Strip, the excitement around us there seemed no match for the past 10 days that we had all experienced.  Adventures with friends are always so much better, and this one delivered a highlight that rivals any of our others.

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Grand Canyon North Rim

8:25 pm

Grand Canyon North Rim      June 2014

After the day at Bryce Canyon and another well-deserved night of rest, we set off south to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  Most visitors of the Grand Canyon approach it for viewing from the South Rim, but the North Rim is 1000-2000 ft. higher with spectacular views of the Southern Rim and Canyon Vistas.  We spent the day exploring different viewpoints, visiting the Canyon Lodge and making short day hikes into the edges of the Canyon.  At key viewpoints, we could see the mighty Colorado River at the bottom of the Canyon, over 1 mile below us, where we would soon be floating our way along our next 185 mile-long adventure.

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The next day, we traversed our way to the bridge crossing over the Grand Canyon near Lee’s Ferry, the only river crossing for vehicles until one would reach Hoover Dam.  From the bridge, we watched the majestic Condors that nested there among the Canyons steep walls.  But then, it was time to return west to Las Vegas, and prepare for our Rafting Adventure

 

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Bryce Canyon National Park

8:25 pm

Bryce Canyons National Park        June 2014

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After a great day in Zion Park, we proceeded to Bryce Canyon National Park.  Bryce is characterized by geologic formations referred to as “Hoodoos” – a remnant of ancient beliefs that the vertical rock formations were fossilized ancient people that some form of “voodoo” cast to stone.  The softer rocks are simply “capped” by harder rocks, and the eons of water and wind erosion has made for an unbelievably beautiful set of canyons, which we explored with hikes along trails to the extent that we had the time.  Standing in the shadows of the canyon walls and watching the setting sun’s changing light of the formations provided an ever-changing romantic glow of oranges, reds and yellows.

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Zion National Park

8:24 pm

Zion National Park June 2014

Our Canyon Adventures began with a flight to Las Vegas and an overnight stay at the Desert Rose Hotel just off the “strip”.  There we met up with friends and family from across the country and from across the globe.  The entire excursion was planned and organized by our friend Cliff Crowe, who applied his expert geologic training to set us on a 2 week exploratory journey.

Our next morning, we (18 of us) boarded 3 SUVs and headed to our first park excursion – Zion National Park in Utah.  After arriving in Springdale and checking into our motel for that night, we ventured into Zion National Park where we hiked through ankle-to-knee-deep water upstream in “The Narrows” to a point where spectacular water carvings hollowed out the local geology.  We could have pursued even narrower upstream locations, but we retraced our steps to explore other parts of the park.

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While most went to Emerald Pools, 5 of us decided to attempt to climb to “Angel Point”, even though we barely had 2 hours of daylight left.  The ascent was ~2000 ft. through mostly a well maintained trail, although composed of steep switchbacks.  However, the last ½ mile was scrambling over ancient dunes, climbing rock faces with the help of rail-chains, and tightrope-walking narrow ledges.  The views from the top were indeed spectacular and worth the effort.  With now time to waste, we made it down in just under 2 hours, just before darkness settled, and in time to catch the last park bus and make dinner.  It was an exciting but tiring day.

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