National barks: Visiting national parks with your dog
The Orange County Register (MCT) - It sounds more like something from "The Amazing Race" than a vacation. We'll visit southern Utah's five national parks, plus a national monument.
Are we biting off more than we can chew?
Besides covering nearly 2,000 miles of road, our adventure will include a lot of hiking, whitewater rafting and four-wheel driving.
"Do we have to see all five of the parks?" my wife, Daysi, asks. "When, exactly, are we going to be able to relax?"
To complicate matters, we have a new passenger in tow for this trip, LADI, our almost-2-year-old slightly spoiled and highly active English springer spaniel. Her name stands for Los Angeles Doggie of Irvine. (She was named for the local baseball team; we call her by her acronym, LADI _ pronounced Lady. Simple enough, right?)
The National Parks are owned by the people, but when it comes to dogs, they are notoriously unfriendly. This is going to require a bit of ingenuity.
ZION ON THE HORIZON
Zion National Park is only a 6 ½-hour drive from our home in Orange County, Calif., and it's also one of the most convenient national parks to explore. The town of Springdale sits right outside the park, and a shuttle system ferries visitors into and out of the park. A separate shuttle inside the park goes to several trailheads and overlooks along the 6-mile-long Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, which in high season is closed to most car traffic.
In Springdale, we see at least a half-dozen bed-and-breakfasts. Inside the park, there is the stately Zion Lodge, where we would have preferred to stay if we weren't traveling with our dog.
But with LADI, our choices came down to a chain motel or camping in the park at the Watchman Campground.
We dug out our tent.
After setting up camp, we take the Pa'rus Trail, the only trail where dogs are allowed inside Zion. It winds down to the Virgin River, where we let LADI splash around in the shallow water. That night we grill kebabs and sit around a campfire.
The next morning we drop LADI off for day care at the Doggy Dude Ranch in Springdale, so we could explore the park freely.
Instead of trying to tackle one of Zion's famously long and difficult hikes, such as the switchbacks and ridges of the 5-mile Angels Landing Trail, we opt for three shorter hikes.
The Lower and Middle Emerald Pools (2 miles round trip), then the Weeping Rock (1 mile) and finally, the Riverside Walk (2 miles) trails. We eat packed sandwiches for lunch while watching rock climbers scale a cliff at the Temple of Sinawava. Riding on the shuttle in between hikes gives us time to rest, while gawking out the window at the natural wonders and listening to the tour information pour out of the bus loudspeaker.
We pick up LADI by mid-afternoon and hit the road, driving east.
THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE
Highway 12, part of the Scenic Byway, feels like being on another planet. It's a land of massive rocks and desert canyons. For most of the drive there isn't another vehicle in sight.
The town of Boulder, in a wide green valley, takes pride in its remote location. It claims to be the last U.S. city to receive its mail by pack mule. Postcards say "Greetings from the Middle of Nowhere." There is a mini-mart, three restaurants and the comfortable Boulder Mountain Lodge, which will be our home for the next three nights.
Cows and horses graze in front of the lodge, and there is a bird sanctuary in the rear. Most importantly for us, there is also an award-winning restaurant on the property, the Hell's Backbone Grill, which draws foodies from the far corners of the state.
We can't dine in the restaurant with our dog and we can't risk leaving her in the lodge, but we brought our own wine from California and are gung-ho for takeout brought back to the room. A meal of free-range, grass-fed New York strip steak, roasted poblano crema, lemony mashed potatoes and early-spring vegetables is a perfect ending to a rather incredible day. LADI, though, has to be content with her kibble.
HOODOO YOU LOVE
Boulder sits on the northeast rim of the sprawling Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Unlike the national parks, it allows dogs on several of the trails.
From the Escalante River trailhead, hikers can go about 15 miles upstream or downstream. We flip a coin and hike downstream for about an hour, mostly in open sun that I imagine would be unbearable in the summer, before retracing our steps. LADI is overjoyed that this part of the trail includes several river crossings, and she gets to take a quick swim each time Daysi and I take off our shoes to wade across.
Back on the highway we're a little bummed that we're having to backtrack, but from the Escalante River trailhead it's only a little more than an hour drive to Bryce Canyon. We arrive at the park a little after noon and are surprised to see patches of snow on the ground in May.
Bryce is known for its hoodoos – natural columns of rocks that ...
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