Arches National Park

13 & 14 August 2018

Pic 2018-0813 19 Arches NP Windows Trail (59) edit

Arches National Park entrance is just outside Moab. Arches is best know for its, well, arches. The naturally occuring sandstone formations are impressive but there is much more to the park. Similar to Monument Valley, walking through Arches is like walking through an old western movie. If pressed for time, you could see the highlights in a long day. It took us a day and a half although we would have liked two full days. Arches National Park rivals Zion as our favorite of the “Mighty 5” Utah national parks.

Entrance Sign, Park Avenue, Pine Tree Arch, Delicate Arch, Delicate Arch Trail,    Landscape Arch, Double Arch, Balanced Rock (Clockwise)

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Canyonland National Park

13 August 2018

Pic 2018-0813 01 Canyonlands NP Sign (1) edit

Canyonlands National Park is located about 30 minutes from Moab in East-Central Utah. It is promoted as one of the “Mighty 5” national parks in Utah which also inlcude Arches, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, and Zion National Parks. We previously visited Bryce Canyon and Zion, both fantastic, so now we have Arches and Canyonlands in our sights.

Canyonlands is huge. The park is subdivided into four districts. We spent our time in the most popular and accessible, Island in the Sky. The hardcore visitor could spend a week here. We are more ‘see the highlights in a day’ types, and we did.

The whole family really enjoyed the park. It cannot rival the shear magnitude of the Grand Canyon but its many burnt orange mesas, buttes and canyons provide a stunning landscape.

Grand View Lookout (top left), Buck Canyon (top right), Green River Lookout (middle), Holeman Spring (middle left), Mesa Arch (bottom left), and Shafer Canyon (bottom right)

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Salt Lake City, Twin Falls to Moab

12 August 2018

Pic 2018-0812 01 Utah Stateline (3) edit

After altering our plans several times due to forest fires, it was time to leave Idaho and sinc with our orignal plans in Moab, Utah. The drive was not especially noteworthy except for our stop in Salt Lake City and scenic drive through Manti-La Sal National Forest in Central Utah.

We had spent several days in Salt Lake City about 5 years ago on the Big Trip so this time by we made brief stops at the Utah State Capitol Building, our fourth capitol building in the past week, and Temple Square, ground zero of the Mormon religion.

Salt Lake City is Utah’s capital and largest city. It lacks excitement and is often overlooked; however SLC is a thriving metropolis with clean streets, low crime, and a mountain backdrop. World class ski resorts in Park City are a short drive east. SLC is a great place to raise a family and a nice place to visit. I’m glad we could stop again, albeit for only a few hours.

Utah State Capitol Building (left) and Salt Lake Temple (right)

We arrived in Moab late, the perfect location to explore nearby Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.

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Twin Falls, Underrated Gem

10 & 11 August 2018

Pic 2018-0811 01 TF Canyon Rim Trail (4) edit

Twin Falls far exceeded our expectations, it is truely an underrated gem in America’s West. I had never heard of Twin Falls before researching our 2013 trip across America. Even then Twin Falls barely registered on my radar. It became a planned stop between Salt Lake City, Utah and Jackson, Wyoming that we ultimately skipped to make up lost time. Five years later we finally made it here and I’m glad we did.

The main attraction in the town of Twin Falls is ironically not the Twin Falls waterfalls, it’s the Snake River Canyon. People from other parts of the country probably most associate Snake River with the popular section running through Grand Tetons National Park. It is over 1,000 miles long and stretches from Western Wyoming to the Columbia River in Kennewick, Washington while defining much of the border between Idaho and Oregon. The canyon area is fantastic. The sights and attractions are easily accessible and not overly crowded.

Snake River Canyon (left) and Perrine Coulee Waterfall (right)

The focus point of the Twin Falls area is Perrine Bridge. The bridge is on Idaho Route 93. Heading south it is the town’s gateway and provides your first glimpse of the canyon. Built in 1976 to replace the original 1927 structure, Perrine Bridge is the eighth highest in the U.S. Besides being an important transportation link and scenic canyon crossing, thrill seekers base jump off the bridge providing entertainment for spectators. The area is full of activity. From the Visitor’s Center we walked east and west of the bridge along the Canyon Rim Trail. From the trail we could see the Evil Knievel Snake River Canyon Jump Site. The ramp still exists from his 1974 attempt.

Perrine Bridge from Centennial Trail (left) and Canyon Sunset from Bridge (right)

A short drive east of town is Shoshone Falls Park. Shoshone Falls are impressive and the surrounding park is a great place for a picnic lunch. Adjacent is Dierkes Lake Park. The lake is a local favorite kayaking and swimming. We enjoyed hiking the trail around the lake, half of which is between the lake and Snake River Canyon giving you great views of both.

Shoshone Falls (top and left), Snake River Canyon from Lake Trail (middle right), and Dierkes Lake (bottom right)

Travel just a little further east and you will find Twin Falls, the namesake waterfalls, near the Twin Falls hydro-electric plant. It was worth the quick stop. We couldn’t help but notice Twin Falls were not twin waterfalls, instead a single steady stream of water from a dam. It turns out there were two “twin” falls before they built the dam and diverted the water.

Pic 2018-0811 04 TF Twin Falls (10) edit

Downtown Twin Falls, the historic district, is a quaint western town with wide streets and low rise structures. The town has potential but it suffers like so many American towns from greenfield development – more about this in my next tirade, Twin Falls, A Tale of Two Cities.

.We had little over a day here but easily could have stayed longer. We tend not to linger in one place for too long. If we had it to do over again, I would have planned two full days so we could have spent more time on the Canyon Rim Trails, swam at Dierkes Lake, and rented kayaks at Centennial Park.

Only 250 miles from Jackson Wyoming, the gateway to the Grand Tetons, and 275 miles from West Yellowstone, in my opinion Twin Falls should be on everyone’s Great American travel wish list.

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Twin Falls, A Tale of Two Cities

10 & 11 August 2018

Pic 2018-0811 07 TF Old Town (9) edit

Twin Falls is a tale of two cities, what it could have been and what it has become. Snake River Canyon exceeded our expectations as I wrote in my previous post; however I would be remiss if I did not address the commercial development that does not show up in my pictures nor any you will find on their tourism and marketing websites. In my opinion the planning and zoning for the “bridgeview” areas on either side of Perrine Bridge is an example of extreme negligence, ignorance, greed, and/or downright stupidity. Sadly it is an example of mismanagement by local governments that has plagued the United States.

In my previous post, you get a glimpse of amazing natural beauty in the area. Not only is it a gift of nature and a national treasure, it could be a gold mine for this small town. Protecting, publicizing and developing first class parks, hiking trails, and facilites should have been their primary goal. Putting Snake River Canyon on the map could set Twin Falls up for years of prosperity. When people decide to spend their hard earned dollars on their annual one week vacation, where do they want to go? When new employers look for a town to invest, where do they think they can find, attract and retain talent?

Pic 2018-0811 01 TF Canyon Rim Trail (53) edit

Perrine Bridge as Advertised

Pic 2018-0811 01 TF Canyon Rim Trail (70) edit

Perrine Bridge in Reality

Pic 2018-0811 01 TF Canyon Rim Trail (47)

Canyon Rim Trail’s Less Attractive View 

Twin Falls Development

Satellite View

Yes, development of hotels, restaurants, and shops are needed to support and attract tourists and new businesses, and most importantly to create a sustainable tax base for continued growth and promotion of the town. This is were Twin Falls leadership failed miserably, as do so many small towns in America. After standing on the Canyon Rim Trail with all its majestic beauty, simply turn around and stare at the bleak Best Buy parking lot. Yes, Best Buy and other big box retailers have a million dollar view of the canyon and bridge. It’s not reserved for parks, playgrounds, scenery and thrill based attractions, hotels and resorts, cafes, gift shops, or even million dollar homes. Some of the best views in town are from big box retailer parking lots! This is what is wrong with America. Short-sighted politicians patting themselves on the back for providing their town with a plethora of minimum wage jobs instead of meaningful long-term growth and stability. People constantly running for election have no long-term vision or fortitude to do what’s right, they only do enough to get themselves re-elected.

Twin Falls has a charming downtown area now referred to as the historic district. It’s referred to as ‘historic’ because it is no longer the focal point. The area between the Canyon Rim and downtown is filled with retailers, which is to be expected. But when given the chance to make it easier and cheaper for new retailers to set up shop in areas within or close to town, they chose to allow them to build on the most valuable land in town. For what? Cowards let big box retail and developers take prime land they will not get back in the foreseeable future instead of protecting and developing their natural resources.

Pic 2018-0811 07 TF Old Town (10) edit

Pic 2018-0811 07 TF Old Town (3) edit

The Blue Mountains area outside Sydney, Australia is a great example of what could have been.

Twin Falls is a great place to visit and I encourage you to do so. It makes me angry and sad that its potential has been so severely limited. Worse yet, I’m not sure they even understand it.

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Craters of the Moon

10 August 2018

Pic 2018-0810 02 Craters of the Moon (114) edit

Craters of the Moon National Monument is located in central Idaho. We stopped on our way from Ketchum to Twin Falls. Craters is a unique landscape of lava rock fields named for their similarity to the moon’s craters. Astronauts used the site to train for the lunar landing missions but later found the real moon’s surface to be much different. The craziest thing we saw was ice in a lava tube when it was 102 deg F (39 deg C) outside!

Craters of the Moon

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Central Idaho

9 August 2018

Pic 2018-0809 05 Stanley to Sun City (13) edit

Central Idaho has several well reviewed scenic routes. We spent the day taking Ponderosa Pine Scenic Route from outside Boise to the small rafting town of Stanley and then Sawtooth Scenic Route down to Ketchum. Ketchum is home to the well known ski resort Sun Valley. We enjoyed the ski town rustic vibe in the summer. It’s a nice alternative to the better known ski resorts of Colorado and Utah.

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