Colorado and Utah by Car – Day 11 (Bryce Canyon NP)

When we went down for breakfast at about 6:30am, we were greeted by a crowd of Chinese tourists finishing their breakfast. They had their luggage with them.  They were about to board their bus and be on their way to their next destination. They all looked sleepy. They must have arrived at the hotel after us. In fact, the lady in Luo’s Cafe had been preparing the dinner tables for about 30 tourists the previous night as we left.  It might have been for these folks.  I was wondering if it was the same noisy crowd we had encountered at Horseshoe Bend the previous day.  And we did encounter another noisy crowd at Bryce Canyon that evening, shattering the quiet of the evening with their constant chattering and rushing hither and tither to take all kinds of pictures.

We left Kanab for Bryce Canyon National Park by 8am.  It was a relatively early start for us. We had a somewhat long drive of an hour and a half before we reached our destination.  According to the thermometer in the car the temperature outside was around 20 degrees Fahrenheit, below freezing.  It was cold!  The drive was uneventful.  On our way we passed Dixie National Forest and Red Canyon.  We drove through this tunnel of red rock.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen we reached Bryce, after the obligatory picture at the entrance,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwe went to the Visitor Center and talked to the ranger to set up a plan of action.  After watching the documentary about Bryce, we took the shuttle bus to Bryce Point for our first view of the hoodoos.  (It turns out that we did not need to have used the shuttle.  There was ample parking available at the different viewpoints.)  It was still cold outside, but in spite of that there were a lot of enthusiastic fellow tourists with us on the bus.  It did become comfortably warmer later in the day.

Until you come to the rim of the Canyon you have no idea about the natural wonderland that lies below you.  We walked on the trail along the rim of the canyon, stopping at viewpoints along the way, soaking in the dramatic scenery below us. It was like another alien land. Here are some of the many pictures I took.  The primary feature of this park are the hoodoos that dominate the canyon floor.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe passed Inspiration Point and then stopped at Sunset Point for some lunch.  After lunch, we walked further along the rim to Sunrise Point, and then took the Queen’s Garden Trail down into the canyon valley to walk among the hoodoos. The way down was quite steep, and we could see people going the other way having a hard time with their efforts coming up.  This looked even harder than our climb in Zion National Park, but, fortunately, it was only about 600 feet.  At the bottom of the canyon we walked among the hoodoos and the evergreens.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe minerals were a light color when seen closeup.  There were lots of signs of heavy water flow and erosion.  Birds and chipmunks abounded.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe saw people riding horses on the horse trail.

There were a lot of people walking on the trails.  It was great to see the families with the little kids.

We had gotten on to the “Wall Street” section of the Navajo trail at the bottom of the canyon to make our way up to the top.  As we walked this trail, we entered a slot canyon. Ahead of us were a series of switchbacks that took you straight up the canyon wall.  It was a challenging and fun climb.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were tired at the end of the climb, and this, and the noisy Chinese tourists, were signs for us that it was time to quit the hiking. We had walked over 6 miles, some of it under challenging conditions, by then.

We took the bus back the Visitor Center, and hopped into our car for a drive to the viewpoints at the far end of the park.  Yovimpa and Rainbow Points, at the end of the road, were the highest parts in the park (over 9000 feet), and the coldest. I was not able to get a good picture here, but at the next stop, at Agua Canyon, we saw these colorful formations,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAincluding a rock that looked like it was balancing.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a picture at Natural Bridge viewpoint.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen it was on to our hotel in Cannonville, UT, a few miles away from the park.  We were quite tired and left the park relatively early.

Cannonville turns out to be an interesting place in the middle of the countryside.  To get here, you first pass the little village of Tropic, with its old fashioned General Store, restaurants, gas station, and motels, and with quite a few tourists, perhaps mostly European.

Then you arrive at Cannonville, and this motel is the only big building in town that you see as you turn the corner on Route 12.  There are gas pumps in front of the building, and you walk into a small country market where the lady who is handling the counter checks you into the hotel.  It is all owned by the same people.  The rooms in this motel are huge and comfortable and have modern facilities, although they have older furnishings.  The place is very nice, and it seems to have gained some popularity even though it is in an isolated space.  There were a couple of bicycles parked at the front of the building when we checked it.  This was a good find!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had dinner last night in Tropic in a small western themed restaurant called Rustlers that was attached to the General Store.  The food was good.  Everything was fresh. The waitress had an East European accent, which was strange to encounter in a place like this.

I think it is going to rain steadily today as we make our way up to Capital Reef National Park.  Perhaps one should take it easy.


Colorado and Utah by Car – Day 10 (Zion NP)

The visit to Zion National Park today was one of the great experiences that I hope to never forget.   It was an amazing day!

We have a general tendency to avoid the obviously touristy places and their crowds, but Zion was the place that showed me that it is possible to have a great experience even when the place is packed with tourists.  In this case, the park has set itself up to serve the tourists in a very effective way, dealing with the bottlenecks of crowds arriving in large numbers at peak times, and also having most of these tourists passing through a couple of points of entry and through a single visitor center.  There is a shuttle bus service which ensures that you do not have to rush through the park in your car causing unnecessary pollution and also frustration in finding places to park during the day.  Furthermore, the type of people who come to these places tend to be outdoorsy types, respectful of the space that they are in, and respectful of other people who are visiting.   They all also seemed to be well prepared for their outdoor activities with what they were wearing and what they were carrying. Once people get dispersed to the various spaces in the park and take to the longer and more challenging trails the crowds dissipate, and except for the popular trails, all is good.  The system seems to work in spite of the volumes of traffic.

The day started out with very cold temperatures.  We had packed warmly for the outing.  We need not have been concerned about the weather.  Once we got to the park and got moving everything turned out well.

We headed north out of town on US 89. We reached Zion taking Utah Highway9 from US 89.  At the entrance to the park the color of the road surface actually changed to a shade of brown. I do not remember seeing such a surface anywhere else.  The speed limit dropped as the road began to wind through the hills.  We began to see the mountains on the east side of the park.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe reached the 1.1 mile Mt. Carmel tunnel that takes you across the mountain to the western side of the park.  The tunnel was completed in 1930 and provided a way through the mountains in this section of the mountains for the first time.  The tunnel is quite narrow.  They were running one-way traffic when we arrived, probably because a bus and an RV were trying to get through.  They would take up both lanes.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the picture below you can see one of the holes that was blasted in the side of the  mountain to provide a view point from the tunnel.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs soon as the road crosses the tunnel, it switchbacks it way to the bottom of the canyon in a very dramatic way.  You can pull over to the side of the road in many places and you can get views like this.  These colorful mountains tower over the narrow canyon.  It is awe inspiring.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe went to the Visitor Center to get ourselves oriented and figure out where we were going.  We decided to take the shuttle bus to its last stop, The temple of Sinawava, to take the Riverside Walk.  You get a lot of information on the bus during this 40 minute ride, and you can enjoy fabulous views from the bottom of the canyon, including this picture of the mountains called the Patriarchs, including the three peaks, Jacob, Abraham, and Issac.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou also pass the a peak that is probably called Angels Landing.  It is the terminal point for the Angels Landing trail, a climb of 1488 feet over really challenging terrain that is not for the weak of heart.  A one point you will be climbing and walking on open rock high over this open space, completely exposed, with only a metal chain railing to grab on to.  Other younger people in the family have done this trail in the past.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAZion’s canyon was formed by the Virgin river that flows along its bottom.  Over millions of years the river has cut its way down through many layers of rock.  The place can become dangerous when the river floods.  The river was calm during our visit.  The riverside walk was very crowded, but there was always the opportunity to go off the trail and find a calm space beside the river itself.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the end point of the trail, one can proceed further into the canyon by walking in the river itself.  You can go for miles, and many young people had come prepared to do this.  It sounded like fun, but not something we could indulge in today.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had something to eat as we sat by the river side.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter this hike we took the bus to the stop for the hike to Weeping rock.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe hike to Weeping Rock was short but it was quite challenging in parts.  At the end of the hike you find yourself in a rock alcove with dripping springs.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next hike started at the same place.  We climbed up the mountain you see in the picture below on the East Rim Trail to Echo Slot Canyon.  We had to climb up to the trees that you see in the picture below.  Basically, one is going up the face of the mountain that you are looking at using extended switchbacks.  You have a view of the valley below as you are climbing.  This proved to be a very challenging effort but quite rewarding. We took it slow and easy, with plenty of stops.  Lots of young people passed us on the way up, but speed was not the goal here.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a view of the valley as we started the climb.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a picture of Weeping rock, the place we had gone to earlier, as we climbed the East Rim Trail.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a view of the valley when we finally reached the top of this section of the trail.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe trail then continued on the other side, behind the open face of the mountain, in an opening between two cliffs.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou could see the slot canyon below you in places.  They looked difficult to navigate, but it apparently can be done.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter passing through the gap in the mountains, you arrive at an open space on the other side.  We declared success at this point and turned to head back to the trail head. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy GPS device was having all kinds of issues during this climb, either because of the terrain, or because of a bad software download.  So I do not know how much ground we covered.  The hike took a couple of hours. We probably walked only about three miles in all, but we might have climbed about a thousand feet.

We were exhausted after this hike, but it was quite exhilarating to have done it.  The rest of our stay in the park was just icing on the cake.

The next walk was on the Lower Emerald Pool Trail.  It was somewhat unremarkable.  The trail was crowded.

We took the shuttle bus back to the museum to watch the movie about the park, and then walked back to the Visitor Center on the Pa’rus trail that ran along the canyon floor close to the river.  These pictures are from the walk.  We walked amidst the mountains.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are plenty of camping sites at Zion National Park, and it looked like all of them were occupied.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe last stop was at the gift store to get a replacement light jacket for the one that I had left behind at the security check at Dulles Airport on the way in.

Then it was time to head back to Kanab for the night.  It took a long time to get out of the park because we were stuck in a long line of cars, slowed down because of a couple of drivers who did not seem to have the good sense to pull over when they got a chance to let the others through.

We walked over to Luo’s Cafe, close to the hotel that we were staying at, for our first dinner of Chinese food during this trip.  It all went down quickly because we were very hungry.  Back at the hotel, we took our baths and crashed out.  I, of course, spent some time processing some pictures for this blog.

We are heading north to Bryce National Park today.  It is going to be colder today than yesterday!

Colorado and Utah by Car – Day 9 (To the North Rim of The Grand Canyon)

As I mentioned before, the hotel we were staying at in Page, AZ, seemed to be brand new.  Additionally, they had a good hot breakfast. The breakfast location downstairs was crowded even early in the morning with a lot of tourists who seemed to be getting ready for outdoor activities. Lots of people from other countries! We even saw some people from India who were up early.  Page was the first place during our trip when we started seeing a lot of Indians.

We got an early start leaving for the location of Horseshoe Bend on the Colorado river, just a few minutes outside of town. Unfortunately the parking lot was already starting to get full that early.  Buses seemed to be disgorging droves of Chinese tourists, and of course there were people of all other nationalities, all climbing the hill from the parking lot to get to the spot to see the horseshoe bend.  It was a crazy scene.  People were stopping all over the place to take pictures of their families.  Folks were marching along with selfie sticks in their hand.  One guy even had a GoPro video camera attached to his head as he walked.  I took my pictures and we fled the scene!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was only then that Teresa realized that we had left our leftover pizza from last night that was going to be our lunch today back in the fridge in the hotel. Rather than waste food, we took a quick detour back to the hotel to retrieve the leftovers before we finally began our trip to the northern rim of the Grand Canyon.

We headed south on US 89. As some point the road dropped from the high plain that we were on to a big valley below through a cut in the rock.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the bottom of the hill, we turned off US 89 on to US 89A heading north through the valley.  You an see the gap in the hillside that we had driven through earlier.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were surrounded by colorful cliffs as we drove into the valley in a direction that seemed to have no way out of the valley.  Here are the Vermillion Cliffs that we were driving towards.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe road started to loop around at the end of the valley, and we crossed the Colorado river at Marble Canyon. The bridge to the left is called Navajo Bridge.  It was built in the 1920s.  The one on the right is the more modern replacement built in 1995 for handling today’s traffic.  It was deliberately built in the style of the original bridge.  The Navajo bridge is considered the 9th highest bridge in the US.  You can walk on the bridge today, and The US Department of the Interior maintains an Interpretive Center beside the bridge, which is where I took this picture from.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe road now turns south and runs beside Vermillion Cliffs.  You pass the small town of Lees Ferry.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the southern end of the Vermillion Cliffs you pass by a place where Cliff dwellers used to live.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe road then turns right and heads west through the valley towards the distant plateau and the Kaibab National Forest.  The whole time the speed limit on the road remains at 65 miles per hour, but the moment it enters National parkland and starts winding its way up and into the the mountains on the other side of the valley, it becomes slow once again.  The vegetation begins to change as you climb and you start to see evergreens all around you.  We are out of the plains!

In a short while you reach an intersection at Jacob Lake, and you turn left to head south on Arizona Highway 67 into the Grand Canyon National Park.  On the way one passes through a section of Kaibab that seems to have suffered a lot of fire damage.  You pass high altitude meadows lined by evergreens with a lot of open space beside the road.  It takes about an hour to get to the entrance of the park.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs we were driving toward the Visitor Center, we saw something happen on the winding roads that was unexpected. We were headed downhill when we thought we saw a car cross the road below us.  Both of us thought there must be another road at the bottom of the hill.  It turned out that the car had actually run off the road and down the slope on the side of the road into some trees.  I caught a quick glimpse of the vehicle as we went by.  The front seemed to be smashed in.  The vehicle in front of us had managed to find a narrow space to pull over to help, but I could see no place to pull over myself.  There seemed to be no cellphone coverage at that point.  We proceeded toward to the Visitor Center with haste to report the incident.  We were a little shaken up ourselves.  We found out later in the day that the people in the car were OK.  That was a relief.

I had managed to find a parking spot close to the visitor center. There were a lot of people visiting.  I was surprised because the north rim is considered less accessible and popular than the south rim.  (Incidentally, it is over 200 miles by road to get from one to the other, even though the absolute distance between the two spots is much less.  You have to get around the canyon!)

We found a place to consume our cold pizza near the parking lot and proceeded to the Bright Angel Point trail. This very short trail is deceptively challenging.  There are some steep slopes, but the more difficult aspect is dealing with the fear of heights.  You are walking on a narrow ledge over a very deep canyon. They have handrails in the sections where there are drop offs on both sides, but otherwise you are exposed and you have to watch out for the mind games that may prevent you from making progress.  At the end of the walk you end up standing in an open space overlooking the canyon on three sides. It is stunning!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt is actually scary to see scenes like this while you are walking this trail.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou get an idea of scale when you see the people on the ledge at the upper right side of the picture below.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA few of the mountains in front of us are named after Hindu gods.  All the way in the background is the southern rim of the canyon.  The Visitor Center for the South Rim is closer to the right side of the picture.  The Colorado river flows in the canyon closer to the south rim.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are not many trails to walk on the ridge on which the Visitor Center is located.  We ended up doing a short loop going out on the Trancept Trail and returning on the Bridle path.  On the way we passed some deer (I think they are mule deer) close to the trail.  They were not afraid of us.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe aspen trees look very beautiful this time of year.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are other very challenging trails on the northern rim if one wanders away from the visitors center, including the north Kaibab Trail that you can use to get to the bottom of the canyon and perhaps cross over to the other side.  But we were done with hiking for the day! We drove out and took a side road to Imperial point, the highest point in the Grand Canyon (8803 feet).  The wind was howling as we got out of the car and the temperatures were beginning to fall precipitously.  We did not spend too much time outside.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd then it was time to head towards Kanab, UT, our stop for the night.

The sun was setting as we approached Fredonia, the town on US 89A at the northern border of Arizona.  We entered Kanab immediately as we crossed the border and found out hotel at the southern edge of town.  Once again, it looked like a brand new facility.  We are spending two nights here.

Having left Navajo country some time early during the day, we had crossed back into our original time zone, which meant that it was later in the day that I expected.

We went around looking for a place to eat and realized too late that most places were closed, most likely because it was Sunday evening.  The town looked small, but the broad roads and its wide blocks with smaller one story buildings also gave it a sense of emptiness on this Sunday evening.  We did find a Subway eventually and got some food to bring back to the hotel.

We are visiting the nearby Zion National Park today.  The temperature is below freezing right now, but there is nothing we can do about that.  It will get warmer during the day. We will head out as soon as we are ready.

The Unexpected Experiences

We had arrived in Florence, AL, the previous evening for a weekend event, and had spent the night in a hotel room beside the highway.  We woke up early (considering the local time) because of the difference in longitude between the place we were visiting and our home (which we had departed the previous morning).  We had traveled in a south westerly direction the previous day.   I raised the shades covering the window pane just to take a look outside. This is what I saw. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sky was an optimal mix of purple and orange and shades in-between, with the clouds at different locations in the sky passing through different frequencies of the color spectrum.   I quickly pulled up a pair of pants, grabbed my camera, and dashed out of the front door of the hotel to get another view that would hopefully not be blocked by something in front of me.  By the time I got to a clear location, the moment was gone.  This was what I saw.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAConsider the different elements that came together for me to have this experience.  First of all, I had to open up the shades of the window at the proper moment in time when the sun was at the position that it was in relative to that location on the planet.  Secondly, the window to the room that we were staying in had to be facing east so that I would indeed see the event. (Being on the third floor of the hotel also helped.)  Thirdly, the cloud formation had to be right for me to get a glimpse of all those colors.  I would probably have not enjoyed this experience if any one of the three elements had been out of place.

Some may be tempted to invoke divine intervention as the cause for the circumstances of this experience. But if this had indeed  been a set up, I would consider it a partial screw-up – at the moment when the sunrise was at its best, I could only view it through the branches of a tree, and by the time I got to a location where I could get a better view,  that moment was over.  But perhaps the screw-up was also purposeful, eh?!  We can go on and on…

Best to take it as it comes and try to be prepared for the unexpected experiences, both good and bad.

A Rare Bird In These Parts, I Believe

We sighted this bird last weekend in the area of Swains Lock.  It was the first time I am seeing it on the C&O canal.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome research suggests that this could be a juvenile White Ibis, one of my remaining reasons for doubt being the color of the tarsi on the bird.  If I am correct however, the Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America suggests that this a somewhat rare appearance in these parts.  I wonder if juvenile birds of this kind can get lost.

I would appreciate it if there are any birders out there who can confirm or correct my attempt to identify the bird.  From what I read, the ibis belongs to the same family of birds as the stork, and I have seen pictures of storks with similar beaks.

A Moment of Determination

I had not been on a bicycle since the accident that happened almost a year ago. The doctor had given me the “all clear” to go back to my regular activities a while back, but I had not done it even though I had decided a long time ago that there was no way other than to get back on the bicycle.  The truth was that I was also missing all the training rides that I had being doing in the years past – on various sections of the C&O Canal towpath, on the Capital Crescent Trail into Bethesda and Silver Spring;  on the Custis, the W&OD, the Mt. Vernon and the Four Mile Run trails in Virginia; and even the ride up Sugarloaf Mountain.  I knew these trails somewhat well by now, and I could even picture some of the specific experiences and  challenges that one came across along the way, whether it was the stop at Fletchers Cove to use the facilities and get a drink of water, crossing the Potomac on the Key bridge, or riding along the river on the Mt. Vernon trail past Gravelly Point and National Airport, or the challenge of one of the slopes on the Custis trail or Sugarloaf mountain.  I needed to do it.

But time passed and it did not happen until now.  You could say that there was a bit of apprehension on my part, not because of the fear of riding a bike per se, but because of a fear of falling off the bike.  It was specifically about the possibility of falling on my separated shoulder once again.  I had a mental picture of how severe the damage could be to a clavicle that was already floating around.  I did actually look for specific protection that could be worn it this regard, but the only solution out there would have made me look and feel like a gladiator with plastic armor-plating on a bicycle.  I could not picture that!  But there were other real excuses.  We were busy with a wedding and with guests who were visiting until now.  Before I knew it, we were half way through the year.

I finally made the move Wednesday morning.  I checked out my biking gear the first time in many months – the shorts, the tops and the gloves.  Things were where I expected them to be.  I checked out the bike, still covered with dirt from last  year, reinflated the tires, grabbed my helmet, and after a test ride around the cul dec sac, loaded it into the back of the car.

Finally at Pennyfield Lock.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI decided to ride a distance of about 16+ miles (one way) to Fletchers Cove this day.  I had forgotten how cool it could be under the trees even on a July morning in the middle of summer as you rode against the wind.  I had forgotten the rhythmic sound of the crunching of the tires against the gravel of the trail as one rode on the dirt.  I had forgotten the easy and peaceful nature of an early morning ride.  There was a feeling of serenity, and the mind could wander once again.

I took it easy.  This is the way I usually start a ride, especially after a break from when I have been challenging myself.  But then the Adrenalin kicks  in and, before you know it, your legs are moving to a steady beat and the pace is increasing to another level.  And it is all so effortless at this point.  You are enjoying the ride.

I can still sense some fear in me, a fear of falling off the bike if I got too close to the edge of the trail, but it is no more about the shoulder.  I know I am over it, and it has happened quickly.  The other general fear of wandering across the trail and falling off into the woods or the water will disappear with time, just like it used to in the past.  It is a defense mechanism of the brain that I appreciate.

Life along the canal has not changed.  I have to stop for pictures along the way. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Multiple great blue herons and a kingfisher (can you see it?) at Mather Gorge
A fourth great blue heron joins the group at Mather Gorge

There are people around on this cool summer morning, especially later in the morning.  I re-familiarize myself with the practice of passing people who are on foot on the trail.  There are many such people.   Recent rains also seem to have done severe damage to the trail.  I take a couple of detours off the trail along the way.

A black crowned night heron watches me from the other side of the canal

The ride  back to Pennyfield Lock is when the muscles in my thighs begin to feel it.  It is a familiar feeling, but it is not a feeling that you tend to remember the details of once the ride is complete and those sore muscles have recovered.   I ride steadily, without a sense of rush, but by now I am also in the groove once again, and I have to make the conscious effort to slow down, and perhaps even stop once in a while to take a picture or two.  This is all familiar territory for me.

The tiger swallowtail butterfly on the trail
Watching me from beside the trail.  They stayed still long enough for me to get the picture and then dove into the water when I started pedaling again

The ride ended successfully.  I am going to try my best to make sure this was not just a one-time effort, a flash in the pan if you will.  I need to do more rides for my sense of balance and sanity.  Perhaps longer group rides are in the cards once again starting next year.

Return to Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania

The last time I came to Ohiopyle was in 2016, during the epic KVIITM75 bike ride from Pittsburgh to the Washington DC area.  We had arrived at Ohiopyle on the second day of the ride, just in time for a late lunch stop and a detour to visit Fallingwater, the famous Frank Lloyd Wright built home.  We had arrived in town with little time to spare, and somewhat tired from the ride from Perryopolis earlier in the day.  We had picked up lunch from a restaurant near the place where we were to catch the shuttle to Fallingwater, and had decided to ride our bikes to the Ohiopyle waterfall to consume the food.  Alas, we never found the waterfall, having misunderstood directions provided to us, and having taken a path into the woods instead of into town.

But I was determined to return to Ohiopyle some day, not necessarily to look for the waterfall, but to explore the beautiful state park nearby.  The attraction of Fallingwater was actually what eventually led us to make the trip back to Ohiopyle last week.  We entered the town on a road that actually went past a busy part of town (nowhere near the trail we had biked on), and there on our left, beside the parking lot, were the waterfalls!  We spent some time walking through town before and after lunch.  Here are some pictures.

Ohiopyle Waterfall on the Youghioheny river
Ohiopyle Waterfall
The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) bike trail bridge in the distance
Walking through town
The GAP bridge over the Youghiogheny
View of bridge from town

The B&O and the Western Maryland railroad lines used to run through Ohiopyle on the two sides of the Youghiogheny river.  The Western Maryland line has been converted to the Great Allegheny Passage.  The old B&O line is now a CSX mainline connecting the eastern seaboard to the rest of the country.  Ohiopyle is now a holiday spot with a focus on watersports and place for bike riders on the GAP to rest.  The Ohiopyle State Park is on the other side of the bridge!