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Travelblog Gone with the Wine

Travelblog and lifestyleblog. Life under the Californian sun - Gone with the Wine. Trips, food and wine from all over the world. Solo and family adventures.

Filtering by Tag: road trip

One Rattlesnake Burger, Please! - Fort Zion, Utah

Paula Gaston

We are a quite adventurous family when it comes to both traveling and food. While getting older, I have noticed that I can’t be talked into so many silly things anymore as when I was younger, but I’m usually happy to try new foods and especially local delicacies. This time we happened to be in a place which I would categorise straight into that silliness category, and we tried something that is definitely not offered in every average burger joint.

This time we were in Utah in a tiny town called Hurricane which was close to Zion National Park. After driving over there, we quickly realised that the whole town was mostly closed. Utah is a very religious state, and most businesses are closed on Sundays. And it just happened to be an Easter Sunday too, so we ran into the problem of finding a dinner place. After some quick research, our options were: a fast food place, a bad Mexican restaurant or a restaurant a little further away with great reviews. We decided to drive over to the last one, it was called Fort Zion.

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When driving to the parking lot of Fort Zion, we figured we had arrived in a real tourist attraction. But since it was off season, there were only a couple of people other than us. Fort Zion is not only a restaurant, but they also have a big souvenir shop, a western town for photo ops, and a petting zoo. The fee for the petting zoo and the western town was only $1 but we skipped it this time. Their restaurant is especially known for homemade ice cream.

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The actual menu came to us as a surprise. Among the regular hamburgers and such, they also had some Buffalo Burgers, Elk Burgers, Wild Boar Burgers and Venison Burgers. But what on earth is in a Jackalope Burger? A Jackalope is a mythical creature in the U.S. with the body of rabbit and horns of an antelope. Maybe we should have tried that. And yes, then there also was the Rattlesnake Burger that my husband decided to try this time.

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The restaurant itself is decorated as a saloon, and there were many fun details. One of them was a giant playing card with your table number on it which was then placed on your table so that the waiters could bring you the order. Also, when ordering the food we were asked to spin a wheel of fortune. The luckiest ones would get an ice cream cone for free. We did not get the ice cream cones, but we were just happy to get some food before heading back to the hotel.

So my husband went ahead an ordered a Rattlesnake Burger, which I tried as well from his plate. The meat was white, dry and close to the taste of chicken. I would recommend to order it as medium rare rather than well done, since the meat is very dense and dry. I had tasted some snake before, but not sure if it was a rattler. When I studied in hotel and restaurant school, we made all kinds of exotic foods, and we also prepared something out of snake also. Well, now we have tried that too, but I think we both agreed that the regular burger was more to our taste.

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Fort Zion was a fun place to visit and for sure is a popular stopping place when visiting Zion National Park. The food was a little bit disappointing in the sense that they only offered burgers and we didn’t know the menu before getting there. The burgers tasted ok, but there was nothing we could order for our toddler for example. I’m not quite sure why this place had such great reviews online. Maybe they got extra points from the activities they had, or that the ice cream must have been super delicious! But one thing for sure was magnificent… and that was the view!

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After visiting Zion, we headed over to Kanab to see some hoodoos and mushroom rocks, and from there to Page and Antelope Canyon. But more about those cool places little later!

 

An Accident in Zion National Park, Utah

Paula Gaston

We continued our trip after the Easter in St. George in Utah. While there, we visited beautiful Snow Canyon to scatter our Great Gramma’s ashes in the mountains, as she had always wished. We also had an Easter brunch with our extended family before heading to our next destination. We rarely get to see so much family at once, so it was nice to spend a little bit of time with them before hitting the road again.

The next night we stayed in a small town in Utah called Hurricane. It was very close to Zion National Park, and it was easy to head out to the park from there the next morning. Zion is definitely one of those places where you want to be early to find a parking spot and to do some hiking before it gets too hot. Otherwise you will be shuttled in from a nearby town called Springdale. This was our second time at Zion, so we had already seen some of the trails. Both times we had to skip the most demanding hikes though, since we were there with kids. Hopefully we get to do the Narrows and Angels Landing hikes someday in the future.

 
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ZION NATIONAL PARK AND THE PARKING NIGHTMARE

Zion is the third most visited national park in the U.S. I do think, that I left my heart in Bryce Canyon, but I can see why so many people like Zion. It has a varied landscape and offers so many different kinds of trails and views. One can visit Zion multiple times and still feel like you haven’t seen everything. But there is one thing I really hate in these super popular national parks: the shuttle service. Even though I fully understand why it is necessary, it is a true drag when you are there with kids. It just makes access to the trails so much slower, and is not convenient if you need something from your car.

In Zion National Park you might end up using the shuttle twice instead of the usual one time. The parking lot by the Visitor Center fills up early in the morning, and if you arrive too late, you might have to park in Springdale, and take a shuttle to the park. Then you have to take another shuttle to Zion Valley where most of the trails are. For example, the Narrows and Emerald Pools trails start from there, and they have a nice little museum. This time the Emerald Pools Trail was closed due to some storm damage, but we had already hiked to the pools on our previous visit.

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WATCHMAN TRAIL AND FALLING ON THE ROCKS

Since we had already visited Zion Valley on our previous visit, we decided to do one of the trails by the Visitor Center where we had parked our car. There were two trails; the Pa’rus Trail which was an easy hike, and the moderate Watchman Trail. We chose the Watchman Trail which was a twisty trail up to the mountain vista point. This trail was about 3 miles roundtrip and suitable for kids. At least our 6 year old did well on this path. When we reached the top we had some snacks, rested a little bit and let our toddler walk around after sitting in a carrier backpack for so long. And, of course took a lot of pictures!

I have to say, that even though we did have fun on this hike, there are many trails in Zion that in my opinion have better views than the Watchman Trail. The path has a lot of rocks and in a few places gets quite narrow, so you will have to wait for the people who are coming across. You should also watch your step. On our way back down from the mountain, I stepped on a big rock without noticing a little tiny one on it. My foot slipped and I fell pretty badly on top of the rocks. Somehow I twisted my thumb and it was quite painful. Ever since I have had to be careful when using it and the healing has been slow. Luckily at the bottom of the trail there was a river and I was able to soak my swollen thumb in the cold water. I think that helped a lot. Later they gave me an ice pack at the Visitor Center.

Watchman Trail in Zion National Park

Watchman Trail in Zion National Park

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In the spring time you might see these in the trees. It is the home of a Southwestern Tent Caterpillar.

In the spring time you might see these in the trees. It is the home of a Southwestern Tent Caterpillar.

The rest of the trip I used this brace in order to keep my thumb still and let it heal.

The rest of the trip I used this brace in order to keep my thumb still and let it heal.

TRAILS FROM OUR LAST TRIP - EMERLAD POOLS, CHECKERBOARD MESA AND MANY POOLS

On our last visit to Zion we drove through the park. I would recommend everyone to do that since you can see so many cool places and rock formations from the road. There are also some really nice, smaller hikes that begin from the main road. Using a guide book, we found a spot with many pools filled with water that looked very interesting. I later read, that the place is called… Many Pools. Also, don’t forget to stop at the Checkerboard Mesa!

Many Pools was a nice little hike but this trail is not marked, so make sure to ask from the Visitor Center how to get there.

Many Pools was a nice little hike but this trail is not marked, so make sure to ask from the Visitor Center how to get there.

Checkerboard Mesa is an interesting rock formation shaped by erosion and nature. The wind has carved checkerboard like shapes on the rock wall, just like what we saw at Snow Canyon as well. You can see Checkerboard Mesa by stopping at a parking lot on the road, or by hiking closer to it.

Checkerboard Mesa

Checkerboard Mesa

Emerald Pools must be one of the most popular hikes in Zion. There are two beautiful pools shaped by nature at the mountain, and clear fresh water is stored in them after the rain. The hike is mostly steep up hill in order to get to the pools, but when coming down it is easier. We visited them both; Upper and Lower Emerald Pools.

Emerald Pools

Emerald Pools

After my accident, we decided to call it quits for the day and move on to our next destination on the road from Zion National Park. We drove to the town of Kanab where we stayed the night before heading to the Arizona side. In spite of my tripping and falling, we still had a great time in Zion and we hope to return there some day again soon!

 

Good Byes to Great Gramma at Snow Canyon, Utah

Paula Gaston

It’s finally time to update some travel news from our road trip to Utah and Arizona. Our schedule on trips is usually pretty busy, and I don’t want to use my time by being at my laptop. This time I at least managed to post some travel photos along the road from Nevada. The main reason for our trip was to meet some relatives in St. George, Utah, and take our Great Gramma’s ashes to the mountains as she wished. We met some of the family for dinner on Friday night, and then headed to Snow Canyon State Park the next day.

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I had never heard of Snow Canyon before this, but it was amazingly beautiful, like most parks of Utah. All the sandstone looked so red in the sun. After getting our group together we headed out to find a peaceful place between the rocks. Some spring flowers were blooming, and there were also some greener areas with trees here and there. One couldn’t get a more beautiful resting place than this, and I hope our kids got a nice memory of the day.

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While the day was starting to get hotter we still decided to hike a little more, and see some other areas at the park. We found Petrified Sand Dunes Trail and followed it since it sounded interesting. A long time ago, the winds blew some sand to this area which later condensed into rocks. It is called Navajo Sandstone, referring to the Navajo Indians who used to live on these lands. If you look at the stone hills further away, they actually do look like sand dunes. From closer, one could see how the wind and erosion has carved all kinds of lines and marks on them. They reminded me a lot of Checkerboard Mesa in Zion National Park.

Snow Canyon in Utah

Snow Canyon in Utah

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The trail was pretty easy and all the kids walking with us had fun jumping on the rocks. It wasn’t too difficult to climb up or down the dunes even for kids, though more difficult with a toddler in a carrier backpack. When we got up on one of the dunes, the red sand stone was spread out as far as we could see. We also found an area with small round rocks formed by erosion. Nature is so amazing and we are lucky to be able to enjoy it this way!

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Even though the day was a little bit emotional, we enjoyed visiting Snow Canyon State Park. We were happy that we were able to be there with the rest of the family. We don’t get to see them that often. And we were happy that we got so many beautiful memories from this day that will always remind us of Great Gramma!

 

8 Photos from Our Road Trip to Utah and Arizona

Paula Gaston

Our first travel day from California via Nevada and Arizona to Utah went well. We drove about 486 kilometres (302 miles), and spent a night in a city we already knew in Mojave, California. We even stayed in a same hotel as we did on our last trip. It is in a convenient spot midway on our drive. Due to heavy rains in California this winter, the famous golden hills were all green and lush, and the reservoirs were full of water.

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Also the Joshua Trees seemed to have loved the rain since they were all blooming. And they don’t bloom every year! These unique trees only grow in this one area.

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We continued from Mojave toward Nevada and Las Vegas on I-15 which goes through the desert. The views are not the greatest there but surprisingly every once in a while there is something cool to see.

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Along the road is a place called Zzyzx. The name has a funny history. It was founded in 1944, and it was meant to be the last place name in the English language.

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We were actually so curious that we decided to explore Zzyzx a little. We took the Zzyzx Road a little ways until we saw a parking lot and one has to continue on foot. This area belongs to the Mojave National Preserve and there is a Desert Studies Center. Years ago this place used to have a spa. We turned around at the parking lot and returned to take some photos of the old lake bed which was now covered by salt. That was about the most exciting thing they had in Zzyzx.

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Right before Las Vegas there is an art installation called Seven Magic Mountains. This piece by the Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone was opened in 2016, and it was supposed to be up for only two years. Though, it started to attract more and more people, and so the plan was extended to the year 2021.

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Finally we crossed the Arizona State border and ten minutes later also the Utah border. From there we only had a ten minute drive to the city of St. George. That was a quick visit to Arizona.

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And FINALLY THERE! More about our adventures in Utah and Arizona soon so stay tuned!

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Utah and Arizona - We are Coming Back!

Paula Gaston

In April we are heading out to Utah and Arizona again. My dream was actually to visit Mexico during Spring Break, but we had to push that plan forward. In November we had to say good bye to great gramma while we visited some family in Utah, and now we are going back scatter her ashes. On that trip in November, we visited Dead Valley, Las Vegas and several other places in Utah. This time we have one week for our road trip, so we thought we could drive around in Southern Utah and Arizona. Our travel plan is mostly ready, but we also have some free days there, so our plan is flexible.

ST. GEORGE and snow CANYON STATE PARK

We will head out from San Francisco Bay Area on Thursday after school, and try to get as far as we can. The school days before holidays are usually shorter, so hopefully we get on the road by early afternoon. The next day we will drive through Nevada, passing by Las Vegas, to Arizona and then on to Utah. We are scheduled to be in St. George, Utah, Friday evening. We will be staying in the same town where we stopped at Severn Wives Inn on our last trip.

On Saturday we will be visiting Snow Canyon together with our extended family. That will be Gramma’s final resting place. I had never heard of this place before, but it looks absolutely beautiful! It actually reminds me of Zion National Park. It is said, that if Snow Canyon would be in any other state, it would be a national park. But Utah already has so many national parks that Snow Canyon just didn’t fit on that list. For that Sunday our schedule is still open, and we hope to spend some time with the family. Maybe we can also visit Zion and do some hiking together, or we can do that on Monday, since we have always wanted to return there.

Zion National Park is full of beautiful rock formations and hiking trails

Zion National Park is full of beautiful rock formations and hiking trails

ANTELOPE CANYON, HORSE SHOE BEND AND RAINBOW BRIDGE

From St. George we will head towards Kanab and make a quick stop at Pipe Springs National Monument. Pipe Springs is an area that has a rich history of American Indians and Mormon pioneers. In Kanab we will probably visit Little Hollywood Museum which is like a little western town, and where they have filmed many old television shows and movies. I am looking into booking a hotel over in the Kanab area. There are so many cool hiking places close to this town, but some are too difficult to go with kids. My ultimate dream is to visit The Wave someday. Unfortunately, we had to rule that out since we were already late for the permit lottery, and it is too challenging to hike with kids. Hopefully someday we can return to see it, since it is truly amazing!

Then we will continue to the city of Page. On the way there, there are some cool hoodoos — statue like rock formations, which we would like to see. A hike to Toadstool Hoodoos is not very long, so it should be something fun for the whole family. We will stay the night in Page and for Thursday we have booked a tour at Antelope Canyon. Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon formed by rain runoff, and is absolutely beautiful. Since the canyon is very popular, and it is located on the Navajo Indians’ land, people can’t just walk around there by themselves. One must book a tour to visit Antelope Canyon. It is also a safety concern. In case of a storm close by, the water might run through the canyon with huge force, and give you an unpleasant surprise. In fact, people have died visiting Antelope Canyon on occasions like these. Therefore, they wont let people in without a guide. Now we are just hoping that there won’t be rain while on our visit!

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Then it is time to go check out Horseshoe Bend which I have seen so many photos of in the last years. It is an amazing viewpoint to the Colorado River in a spot where the river makes a u-turn just like a horse shoe. We will also visit Lake Powel, and secretly I am dreaming about a trip to the Rainbow Bridge, which is the biggest rock arch in the world. It too, is on Indian land, so you can’t just go see it. You must have a permit or take a boat tour. We are still considering wether to do it or not.

FROM GRAND CANYON TO THE DOCTOR’S OFFICE AND HOME

We have never visited the Grand Canyon’s south rim, so we want to go there, since we are this close. We did visit the north rim in 2014. After that we will start our long drive back home. We will first drive to Southern California to take our youngest daughter for a small procedure, and then drive to our home in Northern California. We are incorporating this procedure on this trip, since there were no doctors close by, who could have done it. After the surgery we still have about six hours drive back home. Hopefully it will go without too much pain.

Last time we visited the Grand Canyon the view was smoky, due to forest fires there. It will be nice to go back and hopefully there will be sunshine, rather than smoke this time.

Last time we visited the Grand Canyon the view was smoky, due to forest fires there. It will be nice to go back and hopefully there will be sunshine, rather than smoke this time.

Since we will be driving along Route 66 for a while, I’m sure there will be something to see there as well. One interesting place to stop is a Bottle Farm where one can see over 300 trees made out of old bottles. What a bizarre but interesting place that must be!

Oh wow, that should keep us busy. We are in for a busy, fun week. This is what we have planned, but we still have to set up most of the reservations. And if you have been following my blog you probably know, that our trips will never go quite as planned. So we will see where we actually end up this time!

Have you been to any of these places? Do you have any recommendations what to see or do?