Best Weather Day(s) April 21 through 23 at Zion NP, Utah. Blue skies, glorious scenery, 80-degree days and 50-degree nights. The copious winter rains had made Zion NP a living, green springtime wonderland.
Best Opportunity to Test Michael’s “Jacket of the Year” (Worst Weather Day) Tie * April 18 Canyonlands NP, Islands in the Sky, Utah - 50 mph winds combined with a treeless high altitude to cause an inhospitable dust storm. After a 15 minute fruitless attempt to pitch the tent, we drove back to our trusty Moab motel. * April 24. Zion NP – After three picture perfect days we were not ready for a tumultuous Saturday night. From midnight until six a.m. the rain did not stop. And they were big, hard hitting rain pellets, the stage right before hail. Our campsite was at the bottom of a slope, next to the rushing Virgin River. By the morning, our tent’s interior had turned into a lake. Everything was soaked. Thank heavens a warm Las Vegas, Nev. hotel was nearby.
Thank God We’re Not Here Next Month Award (Actually, That’s Not True) The gorgeous National Parks of southern Utah, Arches, Zion, Canyonlands and Natural Bridges as well as the town of Moab, seemed to be preparing for a late spring rush. The May temperatures are perfect. No cold April nights and no scorching June days and probably no campsites or motels to be had.
Nonetheless, we would love to be there in May. Who cares about the crowds and other inconveniences when the weather and scenery are ideal?
Most Talked About Natural Phenomenon “Spring is just around the corner, trust us.” Heard in every high desert city from Flagstaff, Ariz. (in mid-March) to Torrey, Utah (mid-April) as we walked through snow and shivered our way through campground nights. Spring finally came when we hit the low altitudes of Zion NP, Utah and Las Vegas, Nev. Or did we just find spring ourselves?
Most Beautiful View Almost unfair to decide when you have spent the month in Colorado Plateau country. Our choice is Sunset Point at Capitol Reef, NP, Utah, naturally, at sunset. Colors, sharp angles, mountains, red sandstone and the stunning rock formations below make this a remarkable sight among many remarkable sights.
Most Beautiful Park Site Surroundings Mesa Verde, Colo. It is like being on top of the world.
Most Beautiful Bird The Park Ranger at Big Bend NP in Texas told us that the best bird is the one in your binoculars. He’s right, but the Golden Eagle we saw at Zion NP was so majestic and so handsome. Since the Eagle helps with educational projects throughout the southwest, we got to stand just feet from this regal bird. He was a part of the fun Earth Day celebrations at Zion NP.
Liveliest City Center (Towns) Durango, Colo. is so much fun! This old west town is hidden in the southwestern corner of Colorado. The restaurants, shops and bars, all located along the town’s main street, are always crowded and full of life. It was hard for us to leave. We love Colorado.
The crazy mountain bike center of Moab, Utah comes in a distant second, not because of the raucous, mainly tourist crowd, but because of Utah’s arcane restaurant laws.
Dullest City Center (Towns) Blanding, Utah. No restaurants open after 9 p.m. Why does everyone need to be home so soon? Can’t they bear to miss Desperate Housewives?
Friendliest People Durango, Colo. Everywhere we went, people talked to us. The locals were all happy and gregarious. Why not, they have found paradise.
NTN Trivia Downfall We got our butts kicked in trivia at the Spectators Sporting Grill in Albuquerque, N.Mex. To add injury to insult, the cigarette smoke was so thick that Michael ended up getting sick.
The “Fancy Meeting You Here” Award We showed up, yet again, at out friend Dave’s Los Angeles, Calif. doorstep five days ahead of schedule. Thanks, Dave, for you hospitality, your good nature and for the many heart-to-heart phone calls.
Longest Day April 30. 300 miles, from the Mojave N PRES to our friend Dave’s doorstep in central Los Angeles.
Snowiest Park Return Bryce Canyon NP, Utah. We made a short return to Bryce’s orange hoodoos and found them covered in snow, their character so changed from our last visit. Just as beautiful but much more mysterious, their essence even more unattainable.
Biggest Disappointment We couldn’t hike the Zion NP Virgin River Narrows for Gab’s birthday. We should have expected the River to be at dangerously high levels, the southwest received a lot of winter precipitation. The Narrows hike will not be an option until late July.
Most Unpleasant Surprise The Natural Bridges NM aftermath. No campsites, a bumpy ride down an unsuitable-for-Nissan-Altima unpaved road, rural night driving past lurking mule deer and a night in Blanding, Utah, officially America’s worst town.
Most Pleasant Surprise and Best Sporting Experience The New Mexico State Spirit Competition, Albuquerque. 10,000 screaming fans in Albuquerque famous arena, The Pit. Hundreds of cheerleaders and dance squads from New Mexico’s largest towns fought hard for their trophies. Everyone was here, rich, poor, White, Black, Navajo and Hispanic. It was like the Pennsylvania High School Wrestling Championship except more animosity between competitors and much more fun. Who doesn’t love cheesy techno music?
Best American Kabuki Lucy the Lobo, the University of New Mexico’s intrepid female wolf ably cheers alongside her high flying squad mates. The woman who plays Lucy is from Anchorage, Alaska, the only UNM Lobo cheerleader not from the Land of Enchantment.
Most Scenic Drive (National Parks) Capitol Reef NP.
Most Scenic Drive (Highways) U.S. 550 from Durango, Colo. to Silverton, Colo. a/k/a the Million Dollar Highway. 11,000-foot mountain passes, incredibly high snow banks, sledders, awesome views and old western mining towns. Incredible stuff.
Most Scenic Drive (Miscellaneous) “Utah’s First All American Road” SR12 through Dixie Forest up into mountains, snow and conifers, along rim of multicolored canyons, serious elevation changes. Wildflowers a plenty.
Best Day Hike 8.5 miles in the Canyon, Natural Bridges NP, Utah. Walking under three imposing Natural Bridges is amazing in itself. The route, through steep canyon walls, past ancient petroglyphs and over difficult creek crossings, made the hike unforgettable.
Best Long Hike 11 miles through Canyonlands NP, Needles district. Elephant Hill on the Joint Trail Loop through Chester Park. Scrambling up and down slick rock, squeezing in between rock fissures, walking across broad meadows – this hike had it all. Its variety kept us occupied and interested and left us very, very tired.
Highest Price for Gas $2.45 on April 21 at the Texaco, Torrey, Utah. You have to bite the bullet when there are no other gas stations for the next 100 miles.
Lowest Price for Gas $2.15 on April 3 at Tiwa Mart, Albuquerque, N.Mex. This gas price low was 34 cents higher than last month's low($1.81) and 48 cents higher than February’s ($1.67).
Most Out of the Way Site Chaco Culture NHP, N.Mex. 21 miles down an unpaved road from U.S. Route 550.
Strangest Museum Display(s) Bradbury Science Museum, Los Alamos, N.Mex. This is a hard choice. Was it the one trumpeting nuclear radiation as beneficial (Three Mile Island is in our backyard, not yours), the interactive kid’s display that allowed you to detonate a nuclear bomb or the timeline history of nuclear bombs that ends before the stunning cold war buildups of the 1980’s.
Best Cheap Bar Food The Del Charro Saloon, Santa Fe, N.Mex. Shockingly low prices, dare we say the only affordable dining option in the entire town. Who would have thought the food would actually be good? We tried the whole menu and especially enjoyed the $4 burger, the $2 hand cut potato chips, the heaping pile of $4 nachos and the $2 soup.
Best Coffee The 100% necessary and aptly titled Rocket Fuel at The Bean Scene in, of all places, St. George, Utah.
Worst Campground Natural Bridges NM, Utah
Best Campground Chaco Culture NM, New Mexico
Largest Measuring Device On April 29 we retraced our October route and passed the world’s largest thermometer in Baker, Calif. This time Gab made sure to get a good photograph.
Biggest Stretch On April 25, we placed a long shot bet on Liverpool winning the Champions League. Somehow they squeaked by Chelsea in the semifinals and face AC Milan on Wednesday, May 25. Come on Reds!
Albuquerque, NM • Mountainair, NM • Chilili, NM • Santa Fe, NM • Pecos, NM • Las Vegas, NM • Watrous, NM • Los Alamos, NM • Aztec, NM • Durango, CO • Silverton, CO • Mancos, CO • Cortez, CO • Four Corners, CO, NM, AZ and UT • Kayenta, AZ • Mexican Hat, UT • Blanding, UT • Moab, UT • Green River, UT • Torrey, UT • Escalante, UT • Tropic, UT • Rubys Inn, UT • Springdale, UT • St. George, UT • Las Vegas, NV • Primm, NV • Cima, CA • Kelso, CA • Baker, CA • Barstow, CA • West Covina, CA • Los Angeles, CA