snowflakes

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late summer hiking…

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I haven’t forgotten the existence of my blog, but just I feel that the rush and hush of everyday life consumes one mentally.  I am the kind of person who likes to write and read, when things are kinda peaceful and calm and when there is plenty of time to relax and think; but that blissful state is very rare to find, unless a conscious attempt is made to find time to write.   Back to what I have been upto this year, I did another trip to Utah to finish up the hikes I missed last year in Canyonlands and Arches National parks.   Have been day hiking in the local VA/ DC area trails every opportunity I get.

Recent one was the White Oak Canyon/Cedar run trail in Shenandoah National Park.  There are several options to do this hike, but I did it from the White Oak Canyon parking lot near the Weakly Hollow Road on a wet day.  Its amazing to start the hike on a rainy wet morning, surrounded by dark green leaves and woods pretty quiet with drops of water dripping from the leaves.  The hike to the White Oak upper falls is about 2.5 miles with several switchbacks and lots of rocky patches.  Once you reach the upper falls, you can either go around the footbridge and continue one to the Cedar run trail which would make a loop hike or could turn back the same way.   The elevation gain is about 1000ft for a 3 mile hike going up, but the cool thing is you will be hiking along the waterfalls and there are several pools along the way to dip your feet on a summer day.

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Arches National Park – Day 3

Destination for Day 3 is Arches NP, located so close to Moab, this place is fun!. To be this close to this wonderful place within few miles away from the town, makes me want to go back there at all times of the day, to see what it looks like during the morning, mid day and evening!. But we had only 1 day, and tried to make most of it.

Three Gossips

Three Gossips

Our day started with a privately guided hiking trip for the Fiery Furnace trail. Though the total distance is only about 3 miles, the ups, downs, climbs, rock scrambling made it all strenuous and it felt like 7 miles under the hot summer sun!

Fiery Furnace

Fiery Furnace

After the 5 hours, we were back in the park by afternoon to check out the rest of the park.

Garden of Eden

From the Entrance

Our first spot was the Park Avenue viewpoint, where I snapped few photos, skipped the hike, though it was only a mile.

Park Avenue

Park Avenue

Followed by the stop at Balanced Rock, and we headed to the Windows section of the park.  The North, South and the Turret/ Double Arch are some of the finest natural structures I have seen in my life. The trail around the Windows section are is only about a mile walk between the North/ South and the Turret arches. Sun was still bright above my head, and I couldn’t take any dramatic pictures.

Balanced Rock

Balanced Rock

North Window - Windows Section

North Window – Windows Section

After that, we headed to the Devils garden trailhead, which I totally skipped due to the painful blisters. My next stop which I decided to do was the Delicate Arch vista point, which is about a 1/2 mile hike; it provided a different perspective of the arch. The ranger at the visitor center suggested to do the Delicate Arch hike for the sunset.

Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch

The trailhead starts from the Wolfe Ranch parking lot which was packed around 1700 though the sunset was not expected to happen until 1930 or 2000.

Scenary from Wolfe Ranch Parking Lot

Scenery from Wolfe Ranch Parking Lot

Totally skipped the Delicate Arch hike as I wasn’t sure whether I can do the slick rock portion with the condition of my feet.

To close the post, a picture of the Surprise Arch in the Fiery Furnace section…

Surprise Arch in Fiery Furnace

Surprise Arch in Fiery Furnace

On the way back, we picked up a few Red Dirt T shirts in Moab. The Red color on the T-shirt was made from the red iron oxide extracted from the rock formations which is used to dye the t-shirt. Isn’t that cool…

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Canyonlands National Park – Day 2

Took a while for me to get this out, I will try my best to keep this interesting. The drive between Zion and Canyonlands is about 5 hours, which is a lot after a long day;  hence the decision to stay in a middle point between the two parks made sense.   We started the next day early and got onto Highway 70.  It an plain long long road, just have to keep driving straight.  Have a cup of coffee, relax and you would wonder how much calmness you can get just on the open road; I haven’t driven in many places, but one thing you cant miss as a fist time visitor in the area is the numerous road signs to pull over if you feel sleepy and there are pretty clear information on rest stops and distances. On either sides, there is nothing but just open land, and baby canyons, which may not look all red/orange right now, but has a tint of purple if you look closely. After several thousand geological years, these might be some of the future canyons. One can see the works of the winds, storms and rain on the mounds of sand.

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A famous landscape along the I-70 which was a kind of slanting 45 deg angle, and the road runs through these rocks.  Later, I found that this is called the San Rafeal Swell area. It has about 8-10 vista points around this area, but we didn’t stop at any 😦 this time.

Once you get near to entering into Canyonlands, the park is situated about 25 miles inside from the main Highway 191, you wouldn’t have any clue of it from it, until you turn into Highway 131.  There is a Shell gas station at the intersection, might help to fill up gas as there is no facilities inside the park. I had to trust the GPS and kept driving in hoping I would get the entrance and see a visitor center.   This park is ‘b i g’, that it is divided into different districts, and the most commonly visited are the Island in the Sky and the Needles districts.  Though these 2 districts of the park appear adjacent on the map, there are no roads inside the park connecting the 2 districts. You would have to get to Moab, and drive around to get to the Needles district entrance. This trip we spent only in the Island in the Sky district.

After picking up a map and filling our hydration pouches (as there is no water/food in the other points in the park), we turned back to get a sandwich from the ONLY cafe in Dead Horse point state park as recommended by the ranger. Then we were headed to Upheaval dome.  The ranger suggested to start from the Upheaval dome and work our way to the Mesa arch as that portion of the canyons provide some good views during the afternoon light.

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Reached the Upheaval Dome and hiked to both the vista points to see the remnants of the crater impact, which was about 1.5 miles approximately. The heat was too much and I was lazy to go to the second vista point, but made it anyways.

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The next stop we made was Grand View point rim walk trail, which is about 2 mile hike along the rim of the canyon overlooking canyons.

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You can see a variety of colors in the canyon, some desert flora on the sides of the rocks.  It was so colorful, I wish if there was some shade and it was not a hot day, I can just sit there gazing for hours.

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It was close to 5pm, we had Mesa Arch left to cover and decided to watch sunset at the Dead Horse Point State Park on our way out instead of staying in the Grand Rim overlook.   Mesa arch is an famous point in the Canyonlands, though the nearby Arches NP have several thousand arches.  At sunrise, you can see a lot of passionate photographers gathered every morning, to capture this natural wonder.

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Sunset in Dead Horse Point was breathtaking, and by the time you drive out of the park, it was becoming pretty dark. Both of these parks have good opportunity for camping.

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We headed back to the hotel to get some rest. The plan is to spend the next day in Arches NP.

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My first trip to National Parks in Southwestern Utah – Zion Canyon

Last year when I was reading about Grand Canyon National Park, my friend shared a link with top best day hikes, and Zion Narrows was one of them. Initially the thought of hiking in water in deep canyons scared me, but the feeling of doing a river hike was so new to me and slowly it sinked in, and I started to feel little bit comfortable.  Having not traveled anywhere, the loads of information and travel blogs I read opened me to a whole new world. Alright, coming to the trip, the plan was to do what is called the Mighty 5, Utah National Parks, except we had only 5 days, which gives us only a day in each park.

Our original idea was to progress from Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, Arches and back to Vegas. But that would involve a long drive (7 hour) back to LV from Canyonlands on the last day. Hence we mixed it up a bit.

We started off with Zion on Day 1, following, Canyonlands, Arches, Capitol Reef and finishing off with Bryce Canyon.

Flew to Vegas and drove to Zion the next day. The narrows hike was our main agenda for the day, and may be a short land hike if we are back from narrows in 4 hours (that was the original plan….). We rented water boots and equipment from Zion Adventure Company, parked near the side road there, got ourselves fitted with the water boots and lining our backpack and decided set off to the park. It was a late start that morning actually, and the final thing was to pick up a lunch sandwich packed for our hike in Cafe Soleil in Springdale which was only 5 minutes walk from the Zion Adventure company.

From Cafe Soleil, it was just a few minutes walk to the entrance of the park over a wooden bridge, and got onto the Zion Park Shuttle to Temple of Sinawava Shuttle stop to begin the Narrows hike.

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Excited about the water, but to get to the water, you would need to hike approximately 1 mile walk along the somewhat red mud road (which felt soo long), to reach the starting point of hike. Finally after dipping our feet in water, the first half mile felt slow, as we wanted to stop by every spot and click pictures of the water, the tall canyons and our face. After taking quite a lot of pics within the first half mile, we decided to put off our cameras and start wading through the river. I do not have an exact distance, but we went till a forking point, where turning right at the fork would lead to Orderville Canyon and just going straight would take towards Big Springs.

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I guess it must be 2 hours in the river from the starting point to this forking point. Decided to take the Orderville canyon path, and soon as you turn right, you will notice a pocket of water flowing through rocks which you need to climb over. From that jump up onwards, you will encounter a few minutes of wading the river, and jumps over the pockets of water gushing down. I was able to do around 3 or 4 more jumps, and the last one is where we decided to turn around.

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At this point, time was almost close to 4pm, and we were 3.5 hours in the river, we realized there is probably no time to hike the Wheeping rock trail, and thought we should turn back so that we can get out of water before dark. I was just hoping there is enough time to make it back to return the rentals and grab some dinner before heading to the hotel.

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curried spinach & indian cheese (palak paneer)

Palak Paneer

Palak Paneer

you will need:
1) 1-2 bunches of spinach
2) paneer (indian cheese) – cubed to 1″ pieces and shallow fry in 2 tsp of oil and let it cool
3) red onion -1
4) 2 tbsp tomato paste
5) 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
6) 1 tsp garam masala
7) 1 tsp red chilli powder
8) 1 tsp cumin powder
9) 1 tsp coriander powder
10) salt to taste
11) 1 cup of milk or 1/2 cup of heavy cream
12) 2 tbsp butter
13) 1 tsp of cumin seeds
14) 1 tsp of finely chopped garlic and 1 tsp of finely chopped fresh ginger

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make it:
1) Wash the spinach thoroughly and bring a pot of water to boil, drop the spinach and let it boil for only 4 minutes. Drain the water, rinse the spinach with cold water and let it cool and coarsely grind to a paste by adding 1/2 cup of water
2) In a pan, add 2 tbsp of butter, add cumin seeds, add the onions, saute for 3-4 minutes, add the turmeric, cumin, coriander and chilli powders, tomato paste, chopped ginger and garlic and fry in medium flame for 2 minutes, until you a get a nice aroma of the spices
3) Add the ground spinach, and let it cook for 5 minutes
4) Add the fried paneer cubes, mix well, add salt to taste, heavy cream or milk and let it cook for 7-8 minutes
5) Sprinkle 1 tsp of garam masala, mix well, and serve with Cumin Rice or Naan

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Note: This method is a very basic to get started, the taste might not compare to the restaurant versions, but still its homemade, nutritious and easy for anyone to give a try.

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