Look up, look down: The highs and lows at Canyonlands

Highs and lows at Canyonlands National Park

Highs and lows at Canyonlands National Park

When friends knew we were embarking on a tour of Utah’s national parks, several told us, “Each park is different!”  And we remember thinking that red rocks are red rocks, so surely that’s not true.  But one mile into Canyonlands assured us it was.  Our first stop, Arches, wowed us with carved-by-the-wind openings and unimaginable vistas.  But Canyonlands offered above- and below-ground splendors entirely different.

Many viewing points allow you to see into the distance as well as into the deep crevices at Canyonlands.

Many viewing points allow you to see into the distance as well as into the deep crevices at Canyonlands.

The Colorado and Green rivers take credit for much of the creation of Canyonlands‘ formations.  But wind and natural erosion of layered sandstone have above-ground and below-ground beauty that is remarkably different from any other national park.  Because we’re not as hale and hearty as we once were, we mostly see national parks from our car windows and the well-marked designated trails, like those offered in the Islands in the Sky area of Canyonlands, a park that boasts over 20 miles of paved road leading to scenic vistas.

Looking up, we could see buttes from miles away:  towering, sometimes lone formations that reach to the sky, forming “monuments” of enormous size and scope.

Rugged land, some vegetation lead your eyes to the main attraction: the buttes of Canyonlands.

Rugged land, some vegetation lead your eyes to the main attraction: the buttes of Canyonlands.

We found more “up top” beauty by taking a short hike to one of the most photographed spots in Canyonlands:  Mesa Arch. And it was there that we found we were not alone!  (The word is out, by the way, that this is the spot to see, if you only see one.)

You have to wait your turn for a shot at Mesa Arch, but it's worth it!

You have to wait your turn for a shot at Mesa Arch, but it’s worth it!

But just as we found to be true at Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, if you wait your turn, you can either pose for the folks back home or you can hold on to the spot so your partner can snag an “unpeopled”  shot. It took us about half an hour, but we did both!

Beautiful Mesa Arch at Canyonlands.

Beautiful Mesa Arch at Canyonlands.

You can even move in closely to see what’s on the other side.  Worth it!

Looking through Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park

Looking through Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park

To continue our tour along the route suggested in the Canyonlands brochure you can pick up at the Visitor Center, we hiked the Shafer Canyon area, along with families, lovers, and thrill seekers, anxious to climb the structures.

Climbing the rocks at Canyonlands

Climbing the rocks at Canyonlands

And some who braved it more than others, edging outward on any jut-out available. It’s a thrill you can’t find just anywhere, of course.

Just like the commercials: lovers sealing it with a kiss in Canyonlands!

Just like the commercials: lovers sealing it with a kiss in Canyonlands!

For a “look down” view of Canyonlands, we drove to the area known as Grand View Point where standing in awe at our own smallness and focusing on distant landscapes meant that we needed to stay a while.  It was a view, for us at least, reminiscent of our first glimpse of the Grand Canyon — a stare-down, if you will, into the interior of the earth. And a spot where you naturally think of your own place in the universe, albeit a small one.

Looking out and down at Grand View Point, Canyonlands

Looking out and down at Grand View Point, Canyonlands

It’s here at Grand View Point that sandstone monuments rise from finger-like chasms knows as Monument Basin, and old trails wind their way around the openings.  It’s a “look down” we won’t forget!

Canyonlands supports all that our friends told us and more:  It really isn’t like any other national park.  And just maybe, it has the most to offer with its highs and lows. It’s definitely worth a visit, so take advantage of its can’t-beat hours:  open year-round, 24 hours a day.

Capturing the "lows" of Canyonlands -- a selfie with the canyons in the background!

Capturing the “lows” of Canyonlands — a selfie with the canyons in the background!

We’re hoping for a return trip.  And if we go back, we’ll be staying ’til dark.  After all, we’ve heard the view of the night sky from Canyonlands is the best anywhere in North America. We gotta see that!

Friends were right: Canyonlands is unique -- and different from any other national park. Don't miss the highs and lows you'll find here.

Friends were right: Canyonlands is unique — and different from any other national park. Don’t miss the highs and lows you’ll find here.

For more information:

Canyonlands National Park official website: https://www.nps.gov/cany/index.htm

Visit Moab/Canyonlands website: http://www.discovermoab.com/canyonlandsnationalpark.htm

Tips:

  • No lodging is available in Canyonlands.  We recommend a stay in Moab, about 32 miles from the entrance to the park.
  • For boomer travelers:  Islands in the Sky region is easily navigable by car.  Hiking to scenic spots is quite “doable,” but some trails may have slippery sand or elevated stairs.  A walking still makes a great companion.
  • For photographers:  Sunrise and sunset are the best times for photographing the red rocks at any of the Utah national parks.  And you’ll love a telephoto lens to catch the distant vistas.

For more posts on Utah’s national parks, visit our Travel Series:  We Saw Utah!

 

Posted in Travel, Utah, We Saw Utah! | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

Save Double Arch for Sundown: Arches National Park, Utah

Rays of the sun light up the structure known as Double Arch in Arches National Park.

Rays of late-afternoonsun light up the structure known as Double Arch in Arches National Park.

Sometimes seeing a national park means prioritizing sites rather than just driving from Point A to Point B.  And that’s certainly true for Arches National Park.  Rangers at visitor centers know how to deal with us tourists and amateur photographers, so we make it a point to begin at the beginning by grabbing a map and some good advice first thing.

Shadow play at Double Arch, Arches National Park

Shadow play at Double Arch, Arches National Park

Exploring Arches is fairly easy with the National Park Service map — just follow the red line from Park Avenue to Balanced Rock to Fiery Furnace Viewpoint, all the way to Devils Garden Campground with a detour for Lower Delicate Arch.  But here’s what the ranger recommended — and we took to heart:  Save Double Arch for sundown. It meant going past the Windows Section and on to Delicate Arch, then return to catch Double Arch at the end of the day when Ol’ Sol turns on the rays for a spectacular red rock display.

Double Arch offers a short trail from the parking lot to the site with mostly loose sands to contend with.  Pretty easy for any walker.  And being among the non-climbers has its own reward — we found a flat rock on the trail to sit on, so we could watch the show from below.

Walking the trail to Double Arch, early afternoon before the setting sun changes the color of the rocks.

Walking the trail to Double Arch, early afternoon before the setting sun changes the color of the rocks.

Even before sundown, showy, brilliant reds light up the towering rocks in a way that no fiddling with your camera or Photoshop  can duplicate.  But the show begins in earnest right when the sun starts to dip.  (Remember to ask the rangers for sundown times the day you arrive.)

Hikers enjoy the view from the center of Double Arch.

Hikers (lower left) enjoy the view from the center of Double Arch.

You may be content to enjoy the view from inside the arch.  But if you continue past the comfort of the rock’s “cradle,” you’ll be rewarded with wide-open views and late afternoon changes on the other side of Double Arch.

At the top: looking out from the "O" at Double Arch.

At the top: looking out from the “O” at Double Arch.

Of course, anywhere in Arches is a good place to be when the sun goes down.  And the walk back to the parking lot offers faraway vistas with the ruddy beauty of late afternoon.

View from the parking lot at Double Arch: structures lit up by afternoon sun at Arches National Park

View from the parking lot at Double Arch: structures lit up by afternoon sun at Arches National Park

Since you can’t be in all places in Arches National Park at once, you may not catch every formation lit in the optimal late-day light.  But you may be able to enjoy the rocks silhouetted by nature’s back lighting.

Nothing like sundown in America's national parks!

Nothing like sundown in America’s national parks!

For more information:

Arches National Park, Utah:  https://www.nps.gov/arch/index.htm

And for more posts on the national parks in Utah, check out We Saw Utah! on our homepage.

 

 

Posted in Travel, Utah, We Saw Utah! | Tagged , , , | 27 Comments

Bound for Provence

Photo from pexels.com

Oh, the Places We See will be blank for a while.  We’re finally checking off a few places in Italy and France we’ve always dreamed of seeing:  Lake Como in Italy, a Viking River Cruise from Lyon to Avignon, a week in Provence seeing Les Baux, Aix-en-Provence, Rousillon, and the coast from Cassis to Nice.  Well, that’s the plan, at least.  Who knows where the trip will take us since we’ve been known to veer off the charted path just to see another field, an interesting abbey, or a tiny town with cobblestone streets.

We don’t blog on our trips — just trying to enjoy and keep up with the guides!  But we post daily here:

So much to see.  So little time! But join us online when you can.

–Rusha and Bert Sams

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Layer cakes and windows: Arches National Park, Utah

"Windows on the World" at Arches National Park, Utah.

Layers of red rock and sandstone form “Windows on the World” at Arches National Park, Utah.

If Utah is blessed with one thing, it would certainly be national parks. And one of them, Arches National Park, is known for sandstone layers, wind-and-water erosions, and structures that make you want to park your car and move in for a closer look.

Red rocks and striations at Arches National Park

Red rocks and striations at Arches National Park

Arches National Park lies atop a salt bed on the Colorado Plateau that has endured and changed over the last 300 million years.  As floods and oceans covered the salt bed, rock shifted to form layers, most noticeably salmon-colored Entrada Sandstone and buff-colored Navajo Sandstone.  That shifting, combined with destructive forces of wind and chemical weathering, left over 2,000 freestanding arches and unique structures now protected by the National Park Service.

But even if these red rocks seem to remain stable in form, they change hourly with the sun. And that variation in light stirred our fascination with Arches.  For example, Three Gossips (in the Courthouse Towers section) caught our attention for unique form.

A distant, almost haunting view of Three Gossips in Arches National Park.

A distant, almost haunting view of Three Gossips in Arches National Park.

But in different light, the hues changed. Three Gossips became more distinct as we moved closer.  Black swaths blended into the red.  Layers of pink and salmon and white took shape.  And the gossips themselves seemed ready for conversation.

See how light changes this structure known as Three Gossips?

See how light changes this structure known as Three Gossips?

Balanced Rock changed with light also.  But other factors, like proximity and angle of vision, came into play.  The closer we moved in, the more details we saw — massive height, erosion of the sandstone layer, and differences in overall shape and texture and form.

Balanced Rock at a distance.

Balanced Rock at a distance.

Standing near the base of Balanced rock, Arches National Park

Standing near the base of Balanced rock, Arches National Park

A closer view allows you to see various layers and textures of Balanced Rock.

A closer view allows you to see various layers and textures of Balanced Rock.

Sometimes it was luck that changed our perception.  We chose not to take the long hike to Delicate Arch (the signature rock in brochures about Arches National Park). Instead, we took a shorter path, stood on a distant perch across the canyon, and watched heartier hikers roam ant-like around the well-known window.

The view of Delicate Arch from across the canyon at Arches National Park

The view of Delicate Arch from across the canyon at Arches National Park

But when a fellow photographer offered us his arm-length telephoto lens to get a better view, we never hesitated.  After carefully swapping it out with our smallish lens, we snapped this view of Delicate Arch, giving us a front-row seat that we thought only the hale and hearty had. Oh, the kindness of strangers!

Using a telephoto allows you to see Delicate Arch (and the visitors to the site) in detail.

Using a telephoto allows you to see Delicate Arch (and the visitors to the site) in detail.

North and South Windows stood out on our map as a stop to take.  Even from a distance, the whole of it intrigued us — size, dual windows, and interesting erosion.

North and South Windows, Arches National Park as seen from the parking lot.

North and South Windows, Arches National Park as seen from the parking lot.

But closer looks afforded us details not see from afar: richer color, views through the arch, and interesting twists and turns in the rock, no doubt formed by years of water, wind, rain, and snow.

Moving closer to the North Window at Arches National Park

Moving closer to the North Window at Arches National Park

We waited patiently for opportunities to see “windows” without people.  And finally, we did.  But not without patience and long wait-time. Visitors love these structures, understandably so.  And, thanks to the national park system, pathways and man-made steps make these treasures accessible to all. But if you want a “no-people” view, prepare to wait.

Pathway through a window at Arches National Park

Pathway through a window at Arches National Park

If you haven’t visited Arches, you should.  If you’ve been before, go again.  Each hour, each day, each season is different.  Arches National Park is layer cake and windows heaven.

Bert looks out at the grandeur of Arches National Park.

Bert looks out at the grandeur of Arches National Park.

Check out our next blog on sundown at Double Arch.  And follow our series We Saw Utah for more pictures of  Utah’s amazing national parks.

Early afternoon view of Double Arch, Arches National Park

Early afternoon view of Double Arch, Arches National Park

For more information:

Arches National Parkhttps://www.nationalparks.org/explore-parks/arches-national-park

Information in this post based upon “Arches,” the brochure and map obtainable at the Arches National Park Visitor Center.

Posted in Utah, We Saw Utah! | Tagged , , , , , | 26 Comments

Doors of the Cotswolds: Part Two — Thursday Doors

Bert and our driver from Stanton, Gloucestershire, admire one of the doors so typical of this lovely little town.

Bert and our driver from Stanton, Gloucestershire, admire the transom windows, iron bell, and door knocker of this original door.

If you thought all doors in the Cotswolds would be similar, you’d be mistaken.  And we stand mistaken.  We envisioned most of them as brown, heavy wooden structures, some with hand-forged hardware, some just plain.  But really we didn’t think much about Cotswolds doors until we saw them.  If there are a thousand doors, then there are a thousand styles.  And each is to be appreciated for its individuality.

Of course, one door we were most grateful to see was this one , a most sought-after door for tourists!

A welcome sight in the Cotswolds!

A welcome sight in the Cotswolds!

Want to see more doors today?  You’ll find them on Norm’s Thursday Doors.

And for our first round of Cotswold doors, click here.

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A Cotswolds Stay: Lords of the Manor Hotel and Restaurant

Front entrance, Lords of the Manor

Front entrance, Lords of the Manor

Sometimes you yearn for a bit of luxury in your life.  And if you’re staying in the Cotswolds of England, that bit of luxury — and more — can be found at the award-winning Lords of the Manor Hotel and Restaurant in Gloucestershire known for fine cuisine and lovely English gardens.

Lords of the Manor Hotel & Restaurant, Upper Slaughter, Gloucestershire, England

Lords of the Manor Hotel & Restaurant, Upper Slaughter, Gloucestershire, England

A former rectory, Lords of the Manor is situated on eight acres in Upper Slaughter, a perfectly charming village near other picturesque towns such as Bourton-on-the-Water and Stow-on-the-Wold.  Named “Country House Hotel of the Year” by Good Hotel Guide, this luxury inn more than lives up to its reputation and Michelin Star rating.

The Welcome

Even if you arrive after dark as we did, you find the kindest of people at the ready to acclimate you to Lords of the Manor and your special room.  As we discovered, almost anything can be had for the asking.

Friendly, helpful, and downright conversational -- the desk clerk at Lords of the Manor

Friendly, helpful, and downright conversational — the desk clerk at Lords of the Manor

On the second morning of our stay, we told the woman at the desk (cheery even after long days extending into night) that wintertime didn’t afford us the opportunity to actually see the place in daylight since we spent our days touring, arriving “home” after dark.

Early morning tour of the grounds at Lords of the Manor

Early morning tour of the grounds at Lords of the Manor

She immediately offered us a map of the walled garden, flashlights for our convenience, and wellies by the door!  Welcome to Lords of the Manor!

Wellies by the door: Lords of the Manor

Wellies by the door: Lords of the Manor

The Accommodations

We can’t speak for all rooms, but our bedroom could be described as luxuriously comfortable.  It was what we expected of English decor — a blend of patterns on curtains and bed linens, creamy walls, good lighting for reading, and more than ample seating.

Crisp linens and plush bedding at Lords of the Manor

Crisp linens and plush bedding at Lords of the Manor

Add to this a writing desk with stationery, in-room wine and cheese that you can order, well-appointed bathroom, and soft-to-the-touch monogrammed bathrobes.  (Well, it is luxury, after all.)

Bert found time to write a postcard and sip some wine in our room at Lords of the Manor.

Bert found time to write a postcard and sip some wine in our room at Lords of the Manor.

Comfort extended to other areas of this anything-but-stuffy manor house. With the option of dining near the fireplace in a well-appointed drawing room, we accepted the offer and felt duly pampered. Staff members, efficient but unobtrusive, prioritized comfort and privacy for guests at Lords of the Manor, even during the bustle of winter holidays.

The Food

Choices abound for breakfast at Lords of the Manor, but we chose the buffet over a made-for-us bounty.  Who could resist in-house granola, preserves, fruits and breads with a presentation that invites you to try at least some of the chef-prepared offerings?

And although we tried one night to have Michelin Star Dining at Lords of the Manor (Click here to see a gallery of pictures), we were too late.  Word to the wise: Make reservations ahead of time.  Frequent travelers and nearby residents recognize quality, so they book in advance.  You may want to do the same.

The Extras

The staff at Lords of the Manor will tell you that there are no extras.  Everything is lovely, and everything is included in your stay.  And they’d be correct.  But by extras, we mean what we don’t normally see at just any bed-and-breakfast or hotel. Like live Christmas trees — numerous ones — in the entrance hallway, common areas, and dining rooms.

Colorful Christmas at Lords of the Manor

Extra special, extra colorful: Christmas at Lords of the Manor

And service beyond compare.  Even with our distinctly Southern accents, the staff understood what we asked for and found it — whether it was a light dinner by the fire or map of the area for early-morning exploration.  Fine service isn’t an extra at Lords of the Manor; it’s business as usual.  And we loved it!

Sitting room: Lords of the Manor

Sitting room: Lords of the Manor

So, if you’re visiting the Cotswolds, consider Lords of the Manor.  Whether your stay in the winter involves cozying up by the drawing room fire or your visit in spring allows you to photograph perennials in the garden, you won’t be disappointed.  It’s a place for all seasons.  And one of the finest spots in the area for English hospitality.

Enjoying a special stay at Lords of the Manor

Enjoying a special stay at Lords of the Manor

For more information:

Lords of the Manor Hotel and Restaurant, Upper Slaughter, Gloucestershire; www.lordsofthemanor.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/LordsOfTheManorHotel

Twitter: @CotswoldLords

 

Posted in Bed & Breakfast Inns, England, Stay the Night, Travel | Tagged , , , , | 14 Comments

Memorial Day 2017

With grateful appreciation for all who have served.

Posted in Travel | 7 Comments

Travel theme: Flowers in the Rain

Rain-soaked purple clematis

Rain-soaked purple clematis

We didn’t have to travel far to accept the challenge posed on Ailsa’s blog, Where’s My Backpack.  In fact, it was a treat to combine our usual morning walk with this week’s rain theme and a reason to stop and look closely at flowers along the way.

 

 

From Southern magnolias in all their splendor . . .

Magnolia with raindrops on stamen and carpel

Magnolia with raindrops on stamen and carpel

Raindrops on petals of Magnolia Grandiflora

Magnolia Grandiflora kissed by the rain

to broad-leafed hosta catching raindrops . . .

Raindrops on hosta

Hosta leaves welcome the moisture

and sunny daisies seeking nourishment.

Daisy at the mailbox

Shasta daisy standing welcoming the elements

Rain-soaked purple clematis sporting royal color caught our eyes . . .

Purple clematis in the rain

Purple clematis in the rain

as well as the one lone hollyhock left in our garden.  (Neighborhood rabbits dined on the rest!)

Hollyhock -- left by the rabbits!

Hollyhock — left by the rabbits!

All part of nature’s plan, I suppose . . .

Tennessee iris

Tennessee iris

and the beauty of flowers in the rain.

Almost spent, this magnolia holds onto its beauty for one more day.

Almost spent, a magnolia holds onto its beauty for one more day.

For more on this week’s Travel theme: Rain, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Photography, Tennessee, Travel Theme | Tagged , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Weekly Photo Challenge: Harbor Town Reflecting

Hilton Head harbor under repair

Hilton Head harbor under repair after Hurricane Matthew

We’re finding that we like renting from AirBnB — good properties, full disclosures, ratings from actual renters.  But sometimes even the owners don’t know the whole story. When we craved a week-long getaway at a South Carolina destination, we found a home away: a condo completely renovated after Hurricane Matthew hit Harbor Town at one end of Hilton Head Island. “Our place” lived up to its excellent rating with its brand new kitchen, bath, carpet, and furnishings that would make HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” jealous.  Except for the view from the balcony.  When we looked out at Harbor Town, we could barely see the lighthouse in front of us for all the platforms, cranes, and boatloads of equipment.  The harbor was closed for repair.

As the week wore on though, we found ourselves taking coffee outside just so we could “sit a spell” and watch the transformation of the harbor.  Workers arrived each morning.  And we watched them with great interest as they hauled, hammered, and handled equipment, all without falling into the brink.

By week’s end, they were gone.  No more barges piled high with machinery.  No cranes lifting beams.  No men wielding heavy drills and hammers.  They were done.  Leaving us with a clear shot of Harbor Town lighthouse, reflected in unobstructed waters.

Harbor Town light reflected in uncluttered waters

Harbor Town light reflected in uncluttered waters

Who would have guessed that during a week away we’d see both a favorite coastal town and men dealing with nature’s wrath?

Sundown at Harbor Town, Hilton Head Island

Sundown at Harbor Town, Hilton Head Island

To say the least, it was a week of reflection.

For more reflecting, check out the other entries in this week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge.

 

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Doors of the Cotswolds: Part One — Thursday Doors

Perhaps there’s one thing to be said for meandering through the Cotswolds in December when nary a bloom is on the vines:  “It’s all the better to see the doors, my dear!” We’ve written about the charm of stone cottages in the area, but the doors — ah, the doors — bear a second look.

Like this sturdy wooden door standing in stark contrast to pale gray stones surrounding it, and adorned by an arc of vines. Classy colors.  Stately architecture. Memorable statement.

 Or this nail-studded door with a pouf of winding, climbing now-hardened vines hovering over and spilling onto to those charming leaded windows.

Even plain doors are noteworthy in the Cotswolds.  With a simple lion’s head door knocker and metal (hand-forged?) letter slot, this Court Cottage door exudes elegance in simplicity.

Now this door deserves a double-take.  If it weren’t on a church, this sweet closure could almost be the opening for a Hobbit house, with that rounded top and romantic carvings.  And look twice at the details like a forged iron hinge at the bottom and teeny cut-outs at eye level.

I guess everyone has a favorite, even among a line-up of remarkable doors where each one seems more special than the last.  And here’s mine.   Perhaps I should call it what it really is — a gate rather than a door.  But it’s a doorway to something.  This lovely carved wooden structure — door? gate? — begged to be pushed open just so I could get a glimpse of what’s on the other side. And it was all I could do to hold back and just take pictures.

Be still my heart.  The Cotswolds have doors to envy!

For more of Norm’s Thursday’s Doors, click here.  And push open a whole new world of worthy entrances.

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