West Coast Road Trip Day 4 - Zion National Park

With a full day at Zion ahead of us to explore was exciting, because this was the first real hike that we were going to take on our trip. Driving from Hurricane, Utah with views you cannot witness anywhere on earth. The first two shots here were from the car, but an these views are wildly awesome!

With the rain starting to pour down on this day, it didn’t dampen our spirits, because that reminded us of the time we hiked at the Great Smoky Mountains. Similar weather of fog and rain with lush greens and big mountains to look up and admire.

We parked our car close by, gathering only the necessities for the hike. Camera gear in hand, ponchos, whistles, water, protein bars, and determination we got some cover from the rain and entered the very busy visitor center. Stamped our passport books, making this now official. We then asked a park ranger at the information booth which trails to try out. I really wanted to do The Narrows Trail to get those epic shots and experience it first hand, but with the amount of rain, the trail was closed off this day from being flooded. We then decided to do the Angels Landing Trail. The starting point was at the number 6 shuttle stop called The Grotto. We hopped on the bus and made our way up the mountain with a packed bus. 

Once arriving, you can find the markers right across the street, and over the small bridge accessing the Angel Landing Trail

Once arriving, you can find the markers right across the street, and over the small bridge accessing the Angel Landing Trail

Prior to heading up on the Angels landing Trail in Zion National Park, the weather was perfect for hiking this steep trail with the average temperature around 65-70F. Along with the high humidity, sweating was a slight problem. Too much sweating and going up in elevation is no good. You can go through water much more quickly. Also, the higher elevation makes your lungs work harder. all in all we were able to manage this by dressing accordingly. Before heading up the mountain I took this shot. (shown below). I enjoyed the sounds of the river, the birds chirping, a mist floating in the air, and watching the fog slowly pass the mountains above.

Procrastinating on the beach, we finally headed on the trail. I noticed this poor cactus flower sitting on the ground. It must have been freshly picked by someone, and left there, so I picked it up. I couldn't find a picture of the flower I found, but here (right) is the same cactus flower. I tried my best to keep it alive, and protected it in my pocket for days that followed.

This shot (above) was taken on the top of the mountain. With it being a little sketchy and narrow on some parts I was a little scared, but luckily my nerves calmed down. After making it to the top, there was a lot of chipmunks! I couldn't believe it! 😍 They were so cute but they were begging for food. Their cuteness did not win the battle with me. Please do not feed the animals, because it ruins their ability to hunt and makes them more aggressive towards humans. Before reading this sign and making the decision to not go the extra step, or fall I stayed here and took some more photos.

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Since 2004, six people have died from falling off this cliff and with the sleek conditions, we were not taking the chance.

Since 2004, six people have died from falling off this cliff and with the sleek conditions, we were not taking the chance.

Charlotte, my partner-in-crime.

Charlotte, my partner-in-crime.

Going down the mountain was fairly easy and nerves completely gone, we didn’t have enough time to spend. Las Vegas being the next stop on this trip, and having to check-in later that day, we had to get going. After we left the park, the weather moved out and the blue skies appeared. 

We decided after a long morning and exercise, we got something to eat at this awesome southwestern restaurant. Even with ponchos we needed some time to get situated with clean dry clothes. Trying to warm up, the food we ordered was So good! Never ending tortilla chips with guacamole and salsa, burgers with sautéed mushrooms with a side of sweet potato fries were off the chain. (sorry no photo) We then made our way with the three hour drive to the Las Vegas. The drive wasn’t so memorable because the land flattened out, but we saw a tumble weed pass by on the highway. That was so exciting! Not something seen here on the east coast so that was cool!

To conclude, we instantly fell in love with Zion National Park ❤️  The mountains are so epic, and hiking here was an experience I will never forget. The emerald color of the North Fork Virgin River graciously passing by as the fog above slid passed the mountain tops were a sight to see. Some might not love the conditions of stormy weather, but as a photographer, it was perfect. Next up, Las Vegas. Stay tuned.

West Coast Road Trip Day 3 Part II - Zion National Park Adventure

Right before leaving Bryce National Park, I saw this huge raven walking around, and jumping up and down this pedestal at the Ponderosa Point overlook. While other people were taking photos of him, I noticed that he seemed relaxed around people, and was strutting his stuff as if he were a movie star.

I got out of the car and began taking photos of him with the canon super telephoto lens. He was probably the best model I have ever worked with in my career! This raven had manners and did not make a fuss - which was a surprise because they are loud. Ravens are my favorite birds and one of the smartest animals on planet Earth so this was a pleasure and a cool memory to share here.

Afterwards, we jumped back in the car, headed down the mountain, and drove out of the park to go to Zion national park. It was only a two and a half hour drive over there and luckily, it was calm and not very hot that day. In addition, there was some lush green scenery on the roads ahead in some residential areas. With fifty-five minutes left on the drive, I was beginning to feel a little tired with the sun taking it out of me, and the elevation probably was a contributor as well. So I out threw some heavy metal on to wake me up. Charlotte didn’t mind so I rocked out to All That Remains with my devil horns up high.





With the excitement of us like coffee dancing in bubbling hot water, we made it to the east entrance, and making it a tradition of taking a picture of the sign, it was a must!

A few hundred feet later at the east entrance, a flood of cars created a parking lot for about 30 minutes. Little did we know, there was a very scary, but cool tunnel ahead that you have to drive really slow around and through the mountains. Speed limits were about ten to fifteen miles per hour, so that explained the traffic jam. The GoPro video camera died right before heading into the tunnel, so that was a bummer. First, let me tell you about this tunnel – it is a two-lane road cut right into the mountains with no lights, or reflectors on the road for safety. You have to have sharp eyes, and try your hardest to not get blinded by the headlights on the opposite direction passing in front of you. I felt that some people had their high beams on, and that did not help the situation. Alas, we made it through and sighs of relief later; I was able to grab a couple shots here on the first overlook. 

Moving on, we decided to go to the visitor center to grab an insight what to do, but it was too late (as usual) and we noticed some shuttle buses that run throughout the park. We then hopped on the bus, and the bus driver was really nice, and gave us a lot of information about the park with how often the shuttles ran at the park.  Since the sun was going down, we did not have much time to explore so we took some photos of the area.


After it got dark around 9:30 P.M. we decided that another day was a must, and to start looking for a hotel around the area. After the forty-five minute shuttle ride down to the visitor center parking lot, quite a few campers were around, and the smell of campfires in the air, the bugs came out to play. Charlotte, being a person who cannot stand bugs, ran to the car. I took my time soaking in the whole experience. Why the rush?

Hopping back in the car, searching like madmen, there was one vacancy left! Hoping that the weak cell phone signal cooperated, we were able to book something, and ended up finding a cheap hotel for the night at the Days Inn in Hurricane ,Utah. Once we arrived, the concierge told us that we were really lucky, because a man was booking a room at the same time we were, and we snagged it first! Phew! Our eyes lit up, because we would have been shit out of luck! He was very nice about it while setting us up with our room. With key-in-hand, and walking toward the room, this Days Inn had a real southwestern vibe. Used to modern accommodations, this was definitely a cool change. The room was clean and everything we needed with two full size beds, a fridge (hallelujah) and a very clean bathroom. A+ in my book.

View from the Days Inn. Hurricane, Utah

View from the Days Inn. Hurricane, Utah

Going through our food supply, we needed to replenish a few things, and we hit up a grocery not too far down the road. Pretty basic, and business as usually, I did notice they had a lot of fresh fruit and dried chilies! I was ecstatic for those, because you can’t really find those chilies here in the northeast so I bought two bags of ancho, and Chile de Arbol. The ancho’s are moderate, while de arbol is on the same level as cayenne chilies. Also picked up bananas, pepper jack cheese for sandwiches, fruit, water, and not sure where we found all this energy but we were there just browsing for about an hour. Typical shopper syndrome.

This concludes the third day on this two-week road trip. Day four will be up soon! Stay on the lookout for a complete day at Zion National Park.

West Coast Road Trip Day 3 (Red Rock State Park, Bryce NP, and Zion)

I surprisingly had a great night’s sleep from the long journey the day before. Never able to sleep through the night, I felt refreshed, and excited to get out of this Motel 6 with many miles to trek on day three to three destinations.

With Red Rock Canyon State Park, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Parks ahead, we were prepared for the mind blowing views, and challenges ahead. Within 10 minutes of the road, I saw Fremont Indian State Park on the way so I figured a stop was needed to check it out.

Pretty cool landscape, but we decided that we didn’t want to pay to park and see the museum with lots of miles to conquer ahead. Feeling frugal, we opted out and decided to keep going. After an hour or so we saw a shop that made their own jerky, and was also a gift shop. Not keen on gift shops, but sometimes you might be able to find something unique. Having the urge for some protein, I think it was a must. On the verge of being “hangry” they had a crap ton of jerky from elk, turkey, beef, boat, venison, and more, I could not decide. After 10 minutes of contemplation, I went with the beef option this time around. 

In order to get to Bryce National Park, you’ll have to pass Red rock canyon which I did not mind at all. Stopping here for an hour or so was neat to see this awesomely cool landscape. These formations are one of a kind and only in this part of the world. It’s crazy after millions of years these formed such beauty.

Stopping at the visitor center to get some souvenirs, and say hi to Smoky the bear! 

After leaving the park to head over to Bryce, the blue skies above started getting filled with clouds and then snow! The temp dropped like 30 degrees.After getting situated and filling out our stamp books, we headed out to The top of Rainbow mountain.



This day's visit had some crazy weather. Snowing to 75F within a couple hours is probably why this place has such dramatic geological properties. After taking a few photos, the drive up to Rainbow Mountain was pretty spectacular just below 10k feet. Seeing it in person and feeling the motions of vertigo setting in, makes it real. So blessed to be able to take this trip with more photos to show y'all! and more to come in part 2 so stay tuned!

Road Trip Day Two - Arches National Park

Day two of this two-week long road trip began early around 7 A.M. Dropped off the room key at the office, took a few pics of the surrounding area at ponderosa lodge, then we were on our way to Arches National Park in Utah. From google maps, the drive is around seven hours to get there.  It was a pretty drive, but being from the east coast still haven’t adjusted to the faster speed limits of 80 M.P.H. compared to a usual 55 M.P.H. on the highway in Philly is pretty scary.

In between the many miles that were ahead, we made a stop in Boulder to feed the howling wolves inside ourselves making all sorts of racket. Filled up on Starbucks, and a rare Einstein Bagels was a total surprise, because I haven’t seen one in like 15 years back home. A little nostalgia was going on and I had some stories from High School with friends from that joint. After we loaded up, there was a homeless person sitting outside the building in the parking lot. To be honest, the frequent begging back home desensitized me, but this was different. He looked like he really needed a hand, and Charlotte said to me help him out. I got out of the car, reached into the cooler and gave him a bottle of water, protein bar, and a fresh sesame bagel to hold him over. He was more than appreciative and then began to eat. The man said, “Thank you so much, I really needed this, and I appreciate that you helped a stranger.” I then said, “You’re welcome man, its nothing, and be careful out here.” I then made my way back to the car, and set off. Four hours of fast going traffic, the sun was getting to me and I was feeling a bit tired. Stopped at a (I shit you not) a Kum-and-Go. The endless raunchy jokes followed! Fueled up on gas, checked the map, and then made our way to Arches without stopping.

Riding on the last stretch of highway in Utah was purely amazing. I cannot express how cool it was to see this landscape for the first time with the snowcapped Manti-La Sal National Forest to the left.

Once passing the mountains with about 30 more miles to go, the scenery was spectacular!

Without having cellphone service for most of the day, we wanted to find out more information about Arches NP, and curious to know when the visitor center closes. There was still around fifteen, or so miles to go and we were cutting it super close. Within fifteen minutes of arrival, the visitor center closed at 5 P.M.  It wasn't the most important thing to do and see, but having the official national park Passport book, (right) I wanted to have the official stamp marked in there, but this will allow a future visit to the park with more time to explore. Also, more stories to share with family, and friends later. As we got to the gate, The park ranger informed us that the park will be closing in a couple hours, so we had to see the main attractions, but there was one road in particular that was closed.  The Devils Garden area was closed due to flooding, and with a very short time frame deciding that the Windows Section of the park was a good amount of things to see and do.

Driving up the mountain

Driving up the mountain

Walking towards the Windows section of Arches National Park, crowds started to diminish with a storm brewing above. I took the gamble of sticking it out with little rain drops falling and the cold wind followed it. This moment seen here was epic. Silently standing before the second window here, all I can think of how amazing this place is, and how many millions of times the earth had to spin for this to naturally form. Time and erosion will happen, but remember the moment you had, before it’s lost forever. 

Looking past the ancient petrified sand dunes with snow capped mountains to the east, the Manti-La Sal National Forest literally took my breath away. The sheer silent winds brewing storms miles away during the sunset made this scene here one of my favorite moments of this trip.

With the park closing at 7P.M. and only 30 minutes to go, we hopped back into the car, taking a few pics from a few overlooks, and made our way with another 3-4 hours to get to Richfield, Utah. Finally arriving to the motel, it was a little too quiet in this town. Suspicions running amuck inside our heads like a dog chasing a rabbit in circles for hours, the Motel 6 sign above us was brightly lit up, but weirdly enough below it was an inverted restaurant sign. Weird right?! After the brief dirty looks to each other, we were greeted by a super friendly Indian couple you runs the place. They made us feel comfortable, while getting squared away. The room was really clean, affordable, and relaxing to charge up our batteries before making way to Red Rock Canyon State Park, and Bryce Canyon National Park in the morning. Apparently the inverted backward letters were only visible during the night time, and not the Day time. (see below)