Return to the Red Rocks. Three weeks later: Close out.

(at home, UK)

late December 2022.

So, when I last left you, I promised to do a ‘proper close out’ in ‘a couple of days time’. And here we are. A bit later than promised, but here, nevertheless.

Three weeks ago I was looking at snow on the rim of the Grand Canyon. It now seems so long ago – and yet I’ve barely found time to look through the photos, much less finish the blog. Now that Christmas is over (with all the implied activity of writing letters, Christmas cards, present buying and wrapping, all squeezed into the 2 weeks we had after returning, alongside being back at work), it’s time I finally finished off this blog.

The luggage did eventually find its way to us, late Sunday evening, after a journey around the Peak District, to Sheffield, Barnsley and finally back over Woodhead pass. It was interesting to follow its route from the airport, aided by the AirTags. Using these, technically, at no point was out luggage actually ‘lost’, it just took a while to be re-united with us.

The snow on the ground lasted all week. I enjoyed going out for lunchtime walks, making the most of the daylight to help reset my internal body clock and get past the jet lag, as well as getting a feeling that I was slightly extending the holiday.

And as for reflecting on all of the things we saw…firstly there were the animals. Mule deer in Zion (no photo) and later at Grand Canyon, mountain lion footprints at Red Canyon, and Elk at Grand Canyon, along with the occasional free range cow crossing the road in front of us and pack mules on the South Kaibab trail. The animals we didn’t see this year were rock squirrels and chipmunks, both of which usually hang around and pester you, especially at lunchtime.

There were many birds, including the very large, black ravens, mountain chickadees, robins, sparrows (exact types not known) and Woodhouse’s scrub, as well as (I’m reasonably certain) a northern flicker.

And then there were the plants. Of course there were plentiful juniper, pinyon pine, ponderosa pine, bristlecone pine and cottonwood trees. And there were lots of scrub, a few saguaro cactus, palms and Christmas trees.

This trip I particularly paid attention to the plants and grasses on Greys meadow in Canyonlands. I have spent hours trying to identify them, keeping in mind these were prolific so probably not rare. And mostly failed. There is no doubt it would be easier in spring when they are in flower. I’ve even emailed the park rangers, so if they get back to me, I’ll update options! These are the ones I know…sort of…

[Editor’s note: the lovely rangers at Canyonlands did indeed get back to me! They are reasonably sure of most of the identifications, although a couple are quite hard to be sure, from just one photo. So…I’ve edited and corrected myself as required below!]

And here are the ones I haven’t found out about…

But most of all, there were the trails, leading to views. Big views. It’s really hard to pick a few favourites…so here is (almost) one per trail.

All of this was only achieved by travelling. We took 4 flights, totalling 11,760 miles. We had 1 hire car, drove 1,488 miles and spent over 34 hours spent in the car! And we did a lot of hiking. Andrew’s watch reckoned several miles more than mine, so this is a conservative estimate, not least because we didn’t record walks into the various towns to get dinner and so on, just the main hikes. Even so, we covered 45.3 miles, climbed 10,131 feet and did 228,781 steps in 17 days, an average of nearly 13,500 steps per day, despite the flights and the 34 hours spent in the car. And after all of that, I’d really like to go back. Again…!

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