Sunday, October 18, 2020

Willow Beach, AZ: Arizona Hot Springs and Emerald Cove

 Did you know:  There are hot springs in Arizona!  There is bright emerald green water in Arizona!  And after two months away, Charming Adventures is back in Arizona!  All of these things are true!

Willow Beach is about 2 miles south of the Hoover Dam, just across the Nevada border.  It's a popular marina, campground and launching spot for kayaking day trippers, primarily brought here in droves by outdoor tour companies from Las Vegas.

With 235 miles of shoreline, smooth glassy water of the Colorado River, and few (if any) motor-powered boats, it has the best possible kayaking conditions ... meaning, very little effort required.

Emerald Cove can be reached by a 2-mile paddle north from Willow Beach, through the Black Canyon, a 22-mile long gorge.  

The small size of Emerald Cove itself was surprising; it's really just a crack in the shoreline.  

We weren't actually even sure it was the right place, except for the many kayakers huddled around the entrance, waiting for the magic hour of around 1:30 PM to strike to maximum color effect.

When the sunlight hits the water just right, the water turns a unbelievable emerald green, a reflection of the sun against the cavern's yellow-brown walls combining with the blue of the sky!

Important fact, in the day of digital enhancements:
none of these photos were color enhanced in any way!
That's really what it looks like!

Because it's small in there ... really small! ... only about 3 or 4 kayaks at a time can fit inside.  Everyone patiently lines up outside and takes turns inside, where you really only need to spend just a few minutes anyway.

Across from Emerald Cove is the river gauger's station, and the rickety cable car he takes to get out to it ... would you ride in that, hundreds of feet above the water?  

It was suspended up above the river in the center, no doubt to keep crazy fun-loving people from taking a joy ride. I'm not sure how it is summoned back to the side when needed by authorized personnel.

It's not just the cove with the beautiful colors.  All along the paddling route, a leprechaun's shiny green dream come true!

Leaving wet and shiny behind, we transitioned to dry and dusty with a 6-mile round-trip hike to Arizona Hot Springs, requiring patience, leg strength, and LOTS of water, no matter what time of year.  

It gets hot here, in fact, that they close the trail from May 15 to Sept 30 each year, to save stupid hikers from themselves, and diminish their need for multiple heat-related rescues.  You start out in flat desert ....

... gradually transition to rocky mountainous paths ...

... on to the sandy wash canyons, some as narrow as 6 feet across ...

... getting canyony-er all the time ...

and finally arriving at Arizona Hot Springs!  The black triangle to the right of Philip's foot in the photo below is the source of the springs, emerging from the rock at a balmy 124 degrees.

Rounding the corner you encounter the first pool, cooled somewhat via the effects of gravity to a mere 108 degrees.  

You can't skip it, having to go through it (in my case, very fast, hollering all the way, because I'm a heat-wimp) to get to the other two pools. 

The second pool, created via a sandbag barrier, is a bearable 104 degrees.  The water was crystal clear.  Philip was wearing a swimsuit, but not everyone else was .... just sayin'.

The view from pool #2 looks back onto pool #1, where the few other visitors were happily comparing notes on other hot springs they've visited throughout the country.  We got to eavesdrop because everything is very echo-ey in the canyon.

The final pool was a refreshing 100 degrees, just right!

Pool #3 has the most open views overall, and beautiful patters of white (salt?) and dark (wet algae?).

Below pool #3, the water cascades downward to the Colorado river.  There is a very long, very rickety, very poorly stabilized 20+-foot ladder leading to certain death below.  Many visitors opt to visit Arizona Hot Springs via arrival by boat, but they then have to brave this ladder to get up to it. Ummm, no!

The Willow Beach full-hookup campground was surprisingly spacious and beautiful. Global warming notwithstanding, with flash flooding a real possibility in this area, it's positioned at the top of a hill up from the marina.

With this area under the jurisdiction of the federal government as the Lake Mead Recreation Area, possession of an inter-agency senior pass entitles you to a 50% discount on camping.  Score!

As all good things must come to an end, so has this two-month trail through Idaho and Utah.  We'll be home for a good while now, working through a remodel of our Scottsdale sticks-n-bricks home, and also anticipating the birth of a grandson!

We're bummed to not be on the road during Halloween, because we really would have enjoyed decorating Elsie like this.  Ha!

And of course we're gonna miss a whole lotta this ....


As all good things must come to an end, so too must this trail through Idaho and Utah! 

 'Till next time, our cherished readers ....!

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

St. George, UT: Snow Canyon State Park

 St. George, Utah, is a beautiful city in the far southwest corner of the state, set within a valley with soaring red rocks surrounding it.  One of its outstanding state parks is located just 10 miles north of the city.

This park was established for the sole purpose of protecting the federally-listed desert tortoise, who apparently now have 7,400 acres of safety at their disposal here.

Snow Canyon State Park is not named for weather possibilities; indeed, it stays quite warm in this part of the state.  Rather, the "Snow" refers to Lorenzo and Erastus Snow, early Mormon leaders in the area, while the "Canyon" references the gorgeous valley tucked between soaring rock ridges.

A popular day-use park, Snow Canyon has gorgeous off-road trails, including the miles-long smooth paved Whiptail Trail.

Snow Canyon is also popular with road bikers, who huff and puff their way up the steeply inclined canyon, then whiz their way back down.  St. George is a huge biking city, with 60+ miles of paved trails winding their way around and through the city limits alone.

The park also offers 38 miles of hiking trails, and lots of petrified sand dunes and Navajo sandstone rock ridges for exploring.

 Hollywood movies such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Electric Horseman, and Jeremiah Johnson were all filmed here.  The scenery here is extremely varied, but all awe-inspiring. 

So awe-inspiring, in fact, that it is the backdrop for many photo shoots, weddings, and group events, including this Model T club.

With the canyon having been formed partially from volcanic activity, evidence is all around in the form of black cinder rocks.

The Lava Flow Trail leads you to underground caves created by this volcanic activity as recently as only 27,000 years ago, super-young in volcano terms.

To be clear, these are not the kind of caves you bring a large group and have a picnic.  

They ARE the kind of caves you bring a flashlight to.  Summary:  narrow, jagged, dark and scary. 

 Also, with earthquakes common in Utah, at risk of collapsing and crushing the life out of you (at least that's how it felt).  Those sharp rocks ripped open the back of Philip's shorts and he spent the rest of the hike in a breezy skirt.  

Back on terra firma, a variety of other trails await.

Crazy rock formations like these reminded us of stacks of cinnamon pancakes ....

... while in other places, we felt like we were climbing on a giant brain.

The Pioneer Names Trail leads you past axle-grease inscriptions of early settlers up high on the rocks.

We've now seen a LOT of pioneer inscriptions in our travels, but these folks win the "best font" award.

Jenny's Canyon Trail is a very short jaunt leading to a dead-end slot canyon.

With Snow Canyon located so close to St. George proper, you can mix your wild adventures with city adventures.  We celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary at Cliffside Restaurant, overlooking the buildings nestled below.

We rarely visit restaurants on our trips, preferring to cook and grill at the RV.  But this one was worth it, with great food, excellent company ....

... and spectacular nighttime views of the Temple and beyond.

St. George has a number of historical attractions related to its predominantly Mormon heritage, including tours of Brigham Young' Winter Home, St. George Tabernacle, the Jacob Hamblin home, and more, all out there in the distance ... but not available for touring at the moment, because of stupid Covid.

Snow Canyon SP is technically located inside the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, but dogs aren't allowed on most trails in the park, so we took a drive on a 25-mile bumpy dirt road to a different part of the Reserve for some Fido-friendly adventures. 

The Yant Flats Trail led to the "Candy Cliffs."

The Candy Cliffs are a set of spectacular and varied rock formations.  

They should have been named the "Eye Candy" Cliffs!  So pretty!

The "trail" was really a non-trail and extremely difficult to follow.  Though we hated the trail itself, the payoff of scenery was still worth it.  

Even with GPS, we got lost a million times, and the rocks were very slick and steep.  With the sun beating down on us, we gave up on finding our way to the end of the trail, but still enjoyed scrambling over the colorful formations.

A visit to St. George would not be complete without a visit to the stunning outdoor ampitheater called Tuacahn.

Set amongst the red rocks just outside Snow Canyon, Tuacahn hosts a summer-long series of "Broadway in the Desert" productions during non-Covid times.

They had been completely shut down since this year, but being an outdoor venue, and requiring masks of everyone, allowed them to re-open for a series of concerts shortly before we arrived.

The breathtaking setting oftentimes successfully steals your attention from what is happening on-stage!

Through luck and advance planning (two things RV'ers need in spades), we had snagged front-row seats ....

... with up-close and personal views of the ABBA Tribute Band!  So .... MUCCCCCCH .... Fun!

Chiquitita ... Fernando ... Dancing Queen ... Gimme Gimme Gimme ... Take a Chance On Me ... they did it all for two solid hours!

The show can be summarized thus:  "Great Performances in Terrible Wigs."  But the crowd was ever-so-appreciate of the opportunity for a live performance after the Covid drought.  We'll never take concerts for granted again when this is all over!

Tuacahn also has a great year-round, Saturday-morning craft market on their stunning grounds, and behind-the-scenes tours offered on non-performance days.

Back to Snow Canyon State Park.  The small campground is obviously in a stunning setting.

But all that beauty is obviously there just to distract you from the worst-designed campsites in human history.  They are extremely narrow, and sandwiched in between permanent shade structures.

Meaning, even with your slide **only halfway out** (!!!!) you'll be mere inches from your neighbor.  We made an agreement with our new best friends that if they needed to borrow a cup of sugar, just knock on our window and we'd pass it right on through.

You're thinking:  "Tessa, why not just cheat to the outside of your site?"  Oh no.  This is not possible either!  Here, our bedroom slide with the width of a fly's eyelash to spare.

And, the door could only open halfway before hitting the roof. Oyyyy!

All in all, the most narrow, most annoying, most poorly designed sites we've ever experienced.  

The face of aggravation! 

That being said, we'd probably stay there again, enduring the campsite annoyance, for the up-close nature and spectacular sunsets of Snow Canyon, right out our window.


Elsie exited Snow Canyon on the way to her final stop of the trip, at Willow Beach AZ, on the Colorado River.  We've got one more hot springs exploration, and one more kayaking adventure to go, before putting a bow on this trip and wrapping it up!