When we last left our intrepid travelers, they had tired feet and sensory overload from Las Vegas. We needed a change of scene.
When we arrived in Vegas, we weren't too sure what the next leg of the trip would be. It was supposed to be Flagstaff, Arizona but a family medical emergency there caused the journey to be canceled. We contemplated returning home, but the flights were so expensive we realized we could vacation for less.
So, we headed to Springdale, Utah -- home of Zion National Park.
Rick found us a hotel that looked nice online -- and it didn't disappoint. If you are headed to Zion, I heartily recommend Flanigan's, which is also a day spa and less than a mile from the park entrance.
Charming greens were on each door and the rooms were nice.
The view was even nicer!
First thing we did was head to Zion and took a lovely two-mile walk along the river. It started with a (pretty chilly) picnic!
If you are ever going to feel small in the world, it will be in a place like this, where majestic rock walls surround you and it's only if you bend your face to the sky that you see that tiny patch of blue.
It seemed as though every corner on this paved trail brought a new vista, a new tree or foliage we hadn't seen before.
There were precious few people in Zion anytime during our visit. We managed to run into a family visiting from Australia and exchanged photo shooting duties.
Of course we stopped at the beautiful lodge. It was decorated for Christmas and we bought decorations to exchange for our trees.
On our first night, we headed downtown for Mexican food -- and to see the Christmas parade.
Pretty much everyone in Springdale participates and those who don't cheer them on from the sidewalk. These are the only passable photos, since they didn't stop much. I liked the Zion shield on the ambulance below.
The next day we decided to go to Bryce Canyon, about three hours away. The road cut through Zion and was a ribbon of switchbacks as we climbed higher and higher.
The price of admission to the canyon was steep and we'd already bought our park pass for Zion, but right next to the park was a spot called Fairyland Canyon.
It had all the look of Bryce, perhaps in slightly smaller scale -- if you can call stretching out for miles around you "small."
These red pinnacles are called hoodoos and they were first documented in 1868.
In 1872, geologist G.K. Gilbert traveled to the canyon and wrote of the hoodoos: "We caught a glimpse of a perfect wilderness of red pinnacles."
But for centuries before and to this day, American Indians (Southern Paiutes) have lived in this area.
We ate our picnic lunch and then Rick took a hike while I hung with my book in the car. It was too high up for this vertigo girl!
These next two are photos he shot while on his hike. The view was astounding.
Although I was a little worried that he might fall off the mountain!Actually, that's my fear for me, just projected!
That was fine by me -- it was a gorgeous view -- sometimes looking threatening with snow, sometimes sunny and just lovely.
The next day, Rick headed off to hike on Angel's Landing. It is called a challenging hike in the guide book. I chose to mellow out at the Day Spa at Flanigans. A great massage, mellow music -- it worked for me.
It seemed that all too soon we were headed back to catch our plane home from Las Vegas. And instead of sugarplums dancing in our heads, we saw red rocks...
And a magical time!
What happens if your trip plans change unexpectedly? You have to punt! We found out that we'd not be headed to Arizona at 11:30 the night before we left, so there was no time to come up with another plan.
1. The Internet is your friend. You already know this, but it bears repeating. We looked at the map to see what was in striking distance, then googled like crazy people. Our hotel was a great find, but then, so was the holiday.
2. The airline is not your friend. The fact that your plans changed means nothing to them in turns of rebooking you on an earlier flight home at the same price or even with a slight service fee.
3. Rental cars -- When we were planning on Arizona, dropping off the car from Vegas in Phoenix, the cost for the time we would use it was over $400. For about $100 -- with a Vegas drop-off -- we had the car for the same amount of time. Between the hotel, car and a night in Vegas before our early flight, we spent the same or less than we had planned.
4. Off season rocks! You can't always plan your travel for off season, but if you can give it a try, especially if it is early enough that the weather won't factor in to affect your plans. The hotel was about half of in-season rates.
5. Packing -- We didn't get burned by packing for the weather report of where we expected to be -- but we could have. I was very glad to have brought my fleece vest and gloves. Just remember to bring flexible shoes -- or at least, comfy ones!
6. BYOB -- Bring Your Own Book. Las Vegas is a big city but in the area where we were I couldn't find one general bookstore. (Though if you wanted to spend $30,000 for a rare book, there's a nice little shop in the Palazzo.) I nearly finished my travel book on the plane and brought only one, assuming we'd be headed off to family that a) had great books and b) we wouldn't be reading anyway. I ended up with a not-great paperback from Walgreens (a bad Walgreens -- only a limited book selection, mostly trash). I was glad I had it. I couldn't find a shop in Springdale, either!
7. Enjoy the Adventure. It's very easy to look at a major change in plans as a bad thing. We found this one to be the best part of the trip. Discovery is always fun and once we wrapped our brains around the fact that we were working outside the box, it became fun. Rick and I are very different -- I'm not a hiker and he's not into shopping or the spa. We found a spot where we could both enjoy the time.