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Old 25th December 2013, 08:53   #1
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Default Photologue - To the Red Planet on Earth (Utah & Arizona)

First of all – few sample pictures from the trip.


One of the very first views of the trip.
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Huge, colorful rocks.
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Fossils.
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Amazing layers of earth.
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Here, we stand guard.
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Arches that are lengthier than a football field.
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Petrified wood pieces.
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Snowy white trees.
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Old 25th December 2013, 09:03   #2
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Default re: Photologue - To the Red Planet on Earth (Utah & Arizona)

Whenever I look at the Utah/Arizona region in a US map on Google maps, the orange/red color makes me think that this must be a part of the red planet that fell off to earth.

So, how about a trip there?

In the beginning of October 2013, zoomed in on the map, tried to find interesting places around that area. After a week of research, identified some national parks that could make a trip.

Here goes the list:
1. Zion National Park, Utah
2. Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Utah
3. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
4. Lower Calf Creek Falls, Utah
5. Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
6. Dinosaur National Monument, Utah
7. Arches National Park, Utah
8. Monument Valley Tribal Park, Arizona
9. Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
10. Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Plotted the plan on Google map as below:

Photologue - To the Red Planet on Earth (Utah & Arizona)-a_planned_route.jpg



Next task – finding the logistics and days.

Back to Google maps and it says – 2,825 miles in total and 46 hours of driving time. This is just for the round trip – not considering the distances that one has to cover inside each of the national parks.

With the Thanksgiving week holidays of November in vicinity along with some earned leaves, this sounded like a good vacation.

So, booked a rental car from 21st Nov 2013 morning 9:00am to 2nd Dec 2013 9:00am. Got a good deal from the agency that is right across my apartment complex.

After car, it is the Hotel that comes next. Booked for all days in advance to get some small discounts wherever possible. So, have places to stay from 21st night to 28th night. Plan is to travel back home on 28th for a 13hr drive.

With a plan in place, November rolled in. Started looking at the weather predictions hoping that early snowstorms will not force cancellation of trip. By 18th Nov, started seeing the arrival of clouds. Weather channel confirmed it – “Boreas” winter storm which is the second of 2013-14 season is on the way.

Crossed the fingers and kept watching the prediction everyday. So, the planning went on as below based on the maps from weather.com.

Note: All map images below are with North side on top.

It is the north-east of Cedar City area – Bryce Canyon - where we would be on 22nd. This sounds fine as it would be the first snow of season and there are no severe storm warnings. Also detailed predictions say that there will be 1-2 inches of snow with afternoon snow showers. Expecting light rain/showers in the morning.

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On 23rd, traveling to Dinosaur Quarry which is south-west of Rock Springs in the map. Though the starting location may have some snow, the destination and majority of route are clear of snow and rain.

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On 24th, the plan is to travel down to Arches National park, which is west of Grand Junction in map. That place is also clear from snow/rain on that day.

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On 25th, I plan to stay put at Arches. Lucky, no snow/rain prediction there on that day.

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By 26th, it’s all clear in the area. There is not even a small cloud till 30th Nov in that area and on my return path.

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Hence – trip is on. No cancellations.

Last edited by NaTuRe : 25th December 2013 at 09:52.
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Old 25th December 2013, 09:12   #3
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Default re: Photologue - To the Red Planet on Earth (Utah & Arizona)

Day 1: Sunnyvale, California -> Hurricane, Utah

Color of tree in front of our rented apartment in Sunnyvale, California. Starting the trip with two kids and us - the parents.

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On the way – snowstorm Boreas is building up on the sky.
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More clouds
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Clouds are getting thicker
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Another view
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Flock of brids - started dancing right in front of us on the freeway. Great view.
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Another shot.
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Clouds became so thick and it is allowing only little sunlight to pass through.
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Reached Hotel in the night. Quick check at the weather forecast and learned that the snowstorm system has achieved more strength and snowstorm warnings are in place for Bryce canyon – our destination for tomorrow. So, quick change of plan to finish Zyon Canyon visit early in the morning. On to bed.
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Old 25th December 2013, 09:20   #4
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Default re: Photologue - To the Red Planet on Earth (Utah & Arizona)

Day 2: Zyon Canyon, Utah -> Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Utah -> Bryce Canyon, Utah.

Started as early as we could – 9:30am.

First glimpse of red mountains. It is very cloudy.
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On to Zyon Canyon National Park
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Scenic drive - Huge rocks standing tall
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Many trails for trekking to the rocky mountains. Empty vehicles tells us that there are people on the trails.
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Even the road is reddish color.
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Drops of rain. Early indication of the weather ahead.
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Old 26th December 2013, 14:20   #5
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Default re: Photologue - To the Red Planet on Earth (Utah & Arizona)

Thread moved out from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 26th December 2013, 14:29   #6
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Default Re: Photologue - To the Red Planet on Earth (Utah & Arizona)

Splendid indeed! Please post more pictures. How were the roads inside the park (am assuming you'd visited it)?
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Old 27th December 2013, 01:40   #7
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Default Re: Photologue - To the Red Planet on Earth (Utah & Arizona)

Quote:
Originally Posted by nitinbose View Post
How were the roads inside the park (am assuming you'd visited it)?

Roads are in excellent condition. Only problem may be parking space. And, check the park web set to see whether private vehicles are allowed to drive in to the park as they have periods where only shuttle buses are allowed.
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Old 27th December 2013, 11:13   #8
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Default Re: Photologue - To the Red Planet on Earth (Utah & Arizona)

Out from the scenic drive. On the way to Bryce Canyon on Highway 9 - Interesting rock formations on display
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Light rain is adding to the brightness of color
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A soothing waterfall
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Chequered Mesa
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Old 27th December 2013, 11:37   #9
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Default Re: Photologue - To the Red Planet on Earth (Utah & Arizona)

Came out from Zyon Canyon national park by 12:15pm and on the way to Pink Sand Dunes state park. Rain has turned to snow.
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While on higher elevations, snow has become thick.
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After a while, road is clear of snow and rain.

Finally, 12 miles away from next destination
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Could see snow on road side and on road
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Heavy snow showers started hitting the car windshield
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Reached the destination – but, heavy wind and icy rain forced everyone to stay inside the car. Came out with an umbrella to take couple of snaps.
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Quickly turned around. Since we had to go back 15 miles on the same route, we knew that this bad weather is only for next 5 miles. That thought helped us to head back with confidence.


Since the winter storm warning is in place for Bryce Canyon National park, decided to quickly pass through it, instead of planned trekking.

But as we approach, things are getting worse.
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It’s 2:00pm in the afternoon and almost day over for us.

Another car came from behind and he wanted to overtake. Happily allowed him in front. But after overtaking us, he/she started slowing down, and we became mad. At one point, I had to apply breaks. Then I realized why that car is going slow. While applying break, car skidded a bit. That was a warning to be more careful.

Followed the other car at a distance slowly from then on.
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Snow became heavy and it is difficult to see even the car in front of us.
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We had to stop as the truck in front of us decided to quit half-way on an uphill area. The car in front of us also stopped. The passenger from teh car got down and told us that they are deciding to turn back as they are on a road trip and they do not know this area and how much snow is ahead on the way.

Saw one car in opposite direction that got stuck on the road side ditch. Luckily no damages to the car and driver is healthy. Quickly, cops arrived and they tried to push the car on to road. But in vain.

Consulted with the cops and they suggested that we are almost at the highest elevation of the road and things would be better ahead. As per GPS, we had 10 more miles to go for the Hotel address.

So, the option is to drive to the other side of highway through the thick snow accumulation in the center portion of highway to overtake the truck.

Waited for couple of folks from behind to try the maneuver before attempting the same. Saw the tires rotating freely without much grip on the road. Vehicles were swinging to both sides uncontrolled. Scary scene. But, even an old car with no treads on the tire could manage – after a good amount of struggle.

Double checked with the cops and they told “your tires are far better than that guys”. So, slowly moved around the truck and crawled ahead on to the right side of road with couple of minor skids.
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Luckily, a snow plow truck came in from behind and I happily gave way to him. Now the roads are bit better.
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Reached Hotel by 3:15pm. Took almost 1 hour to cross 10 miles. Looked at the road leading to Bryce Canyon and decided not to try as it seemed worse than what we passed through.
Photologue - To the Red Planet on Earth (Utah & Arizona)-dsc_1069.jpg

Checked weather forecast and it is not getting any better for Bryce and the area around that. The plan was to travel through Calf Creek Falls and Capitol Reef National Park to reach near Dinosaur Quarry tomorrow.

The calf creek and Capitol Reef are out of reach due to snow. Even the Dinosaur Quarry has snow predictions in the night. So, searched for alternate options.
There are two routes to the Dinosaur quary from our Hotel. But, both the routes have snow predictions in the night and next day. Hence, if we stay there, reaching next destination on the day after would be in trouble.

The storm would subside in two days and things may be better one day later.

Decided to cancel the Hotel booking at Vernal (place near Dinosaur quarry), thinking that we would stay one more day at current place.


More snow getting accumulated in the night.
Photologue - To the Red Planet on Earth (Utah & Arizona)-dsc_1070.jpg
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Old 27th December 2013, 12:29   #10
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Day 3: Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah-> Dinosaur Quarry, Utah -> Price, Utah

Scene in the morning.
Photologue - To the Red Planet on Earth (Utah & Arizona)-dsc_1071.jpg

Checked weather again. Found that the snow is not there if we head north just 5 miles from Hotel and is clear all the way to Dinosaur Quarry. So, quickly booked a Hotel at Price, Utah which is on the way to Dinosaur Quarry, hoping to reach back there before snow storm intensifies.

It is a four hour drive to Dinosaur Quarry.

Cleaned the snow from car. But, snow started again.
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Headed north on highway 89. Still snowing – but visibility is improving.
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Becoming better
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And better
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Now, seeing snow only on the hills/mountains.
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Nice and clear roads ahead.
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Passing through small sleepy towns in between
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Reached I70 freeway - one of the major roads that runs across the US. It reaches till east coast of USA.
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Snow and icy conditions back again on a high speed freeway.
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Our GPS says that the exit is the one ahead and here we go - out of freeway.
Photologue - To the Red Planet on Earth (Utah & Arizona)-dsc_1094.jpg
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Old 27th December 2013, 13:10   #11
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On to a two lane highway with very less traffic. Light rain and straight roads.
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Straight roads are easy to drive, when there are turns and curvy road with snow, it is scary.
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We are at Price, Utah. From here on, we will have to travel back through this road in the night. With the night snow prediction looming.

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Reached Vernal and could see lots of Dinosaurs on the way.
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Today’s destination.
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Dinosaur head - fossil
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More fossils
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One can touch and feel the dinosaur fossil bones.
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T-Rex
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Original fossil of T-Rex head
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The building where they have kept all the fossils collected from nearby area for display.
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Many fossils are still buried under these rocks.
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Started the drive back around 5:00pm. With thick clouds, it was almost dark. When we reached the mountain region, it was snowing heavily. But, since I knew that this was the first snow on the road, could drive there with confidence. Passed the snow area without any incidents and reached Hotel by 8:30pm.

Quick check at the weather prediction tells that there will me morning rain on next day and from afternoon, it is all clear till the destination – Arches National Park.

The snowstorm has strengthened and moved eastwards. It is out of our trip path as per the weather channel.
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Old 27th December 2013, 13:35   #12
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Default Re: Photologue - To the Red Planet on Earth (Utah & Arizona)

Great Photos NaTure!!! I am feeling the chill just by looking at the photos. Brrrr.. I must say the rock formations look really great. You are lucky to have seen the fossils and even touch them. In some way, I can say that the terrain looked somewhat similar to our Deccan Plateau. Only difference could be that in Deccan Plateau the erosion of rocks is much less severe.
Anyway, it was refreshing to look at your travelogue photos and get to see the amazing natural formations. Thanks!!!
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Old 27th December 2013, 22:31   #13
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Day 4: Price, Utah -> Arches National Park, Utah.

View from Hotel window in the morning – It snowed lightly in the night
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May be quarter inch of snow?
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Roads to the sky
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And roads to down below
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Again
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And again
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Every turn gives a new pattern of earth
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Reached back on I70 freeway and as we moved to higher elevations, fog started appearing.
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Thick fog has reduced visibility.
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We are back on highway 191 and slowly the fog cleared. Excellent views.
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Snow plow trucks are doing a wonderful job to clear the roads. Thanks to them.
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Started seeing the change in color again. Reddish rocks are back in action
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More red
Photologue - To the Red Planet on Earth (Utah & Arizona)-dsc_1137.jpg
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Old 27th December 2013, 23:11   #14
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We were more engrossed on the changing patterns and colors around and missed the turn to the National Park.
Came back couple of miles and here it is.
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First view of the park area.
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To reach the National Park area, need to climb up through a narrow winding road. The highway could be seen down below
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Spotted a dark orange waterfall
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This rock is balancing on the edge of another
Photologue - To the Red Planet on Earth (Utah & Arizona)-dsc_1145.jpg

Another one
Photologue - To the Red Planet on Earth (Utah & Arizona)-dsc_1146.jpg


Photologue - To the Red Planet on Earth (Utah & Arizona)-dsc_1147.jpg
Photologue - To the Red Planet on Earth (Utah & Arizona)-dsc_1148.jpg
Photologue - To the Red Planet on Earth (Utah & Arizona)-dsc_1149.jpg
Photologue - To the Red Planet on Earth (Utah & Arizona)-dsc_1152.jpg

Famous Balanced Rock
Photologue - To the Red Planet on Earth (Utah & Arizona)-dsc_1153.jpg
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Old 28th December 2013, 05:47   #15
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Default Re: Photologue - To the Red Planet on Earth (Utah & Arizona)

A panoramic view
Photologue - To the Red Planet on Earth (Utah & Arizona)-dsc_1154.jpg

Window to the sky
Photologue - To the Red Planet on Earth (Utah & Arizona)-dsc_1157.jpg

Rock formations on the way
Photologue - To the Red Planet on Earth (Utah & Arizona)-dsc_1160.jpg

Another set
Photologue - To the Red Planet on Earth (Utah & Arizona)-dsc_1161.jpg

Yet another beautiful view of red rocks.
Photologue - To the Red Planet on Earth (Utah & Arizona)-dsc_1162.jpg

Snow covered mountains shining on sunlight – far view
Photologue - To the Red Planet on Earth (Utah & Arizona)-dsc_1163.jpg

Sunset is nearing and decided to go to the Delicate Arch. The view point road is closed and we have to hike around 1.5 miles uphill to reach the Arch. The suggested time on the Park map is 1.5 to 2 hours.

Enquired with one person who was coming back from the trail to know the exact time required to hike up and he said “With the kids, Hmm… it should take around 25 minutes”. With the kids in good mood to walk, we embarked on the trail with 30 minutes to go before sunset.

Halfway up the trail. Sun has already gone down.
Photologue - To the Red Planet on Earth (Utah & Arizona)-dsc_1165.jpg

Checked with the folks coming down the trail and they said we are almost there and should take only 15 more minutes. After walking for 30 minutes, it’s another 15 more. Since sunset is over, thought of walking back from there.

But, kids wanted to walk all the way till the destination. So, increased the speed and we were on top in next 15 minutes.
Photologue - To the Red Planet on Earth (Utah & Arizona)-dsc_1166.jpg

There are no one else here apart from four of us and another guy. It is fast becoming dark and could click only few snaps.

Without wasting much time, started back through the trail. Walked for 20 minutes following the trail. We were on the rocky area and there is no way to figure out where is the trail.


Could see the tail lights of cars that are leaving the parking lot at a distance. And lots of stars in the sky. Checked the handbags for flashlight. Unfortunately, flashlight is in another bag which we left in car. Thought of calling 911 for help. Then pulled out the mobile phone and with it's dim light, searched for signs of trail.

After some 10 minutes of struggle in freezing cold, located the trail again and could get back to the parking lot safely. Headed straight to a Thai restaurant to have hot soup and dinner. Then back to Hotel for a good sleep – much needed.
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