SLOWLY FLOAT IN THE ARIZONA DESERT

Los Angeles Times - - ROAD TRIPS PLACES TO GO - By Sara Less­ley

The route: From the Glen Canyon Dam, just out­side Page, Ariz., hug­ging the Arizona/Utah bor­der around the Ver­mil­ion Cliffs Na­tional Mon­u­ment on U.S. 89 to U.S. 89A into Kanab, Utah. Miles: About 120 miles from Page to Kanab. Best time: Spring or fall; the road hits 7,925 feet in el­e­va­tion at Ja­cob Lake, so snow may be an is­sue. Lower down, the sum­mers can be hot. Why: Dis­cover a scenic — and his­toric — route in this “Arizona Strip” coun­try from the mas­sive Glen Canyon Dam (good vis­i­tor

cen­ter for the wa­ter-use cu­ri­ous) and into Mar­ble Canyon and its “bal­anced boul­ders” (also stop­ping at Navajo Bridge to walk across the old span and look for con­dors), then around the spec­tac­u­lar Ver­mil­ion Cliffs and up into the piney-green Kaibab Na­tional For­est.

High­lights: A bit south of the in­dus­trial-size dam, pull into the packed park­ing lot for Horse­shoe Bend off U.S. 89. The vis­tas are fault­less. Watch your foot­ing; there are no rail­ings. Up un­paved House Rock Val­ley Road, just off U.S. 89A, we gazed at a dozen en­dan­gered Cal­i­for­nia con­dors swoop­ing and soar­ing in cir­cles above a rein­tro­duc­tion site on the Ver­mil­ion Cliffs. Mem­o­rable stay: The quirky Quail Park Lodge (www.quail­park lodge.com) in Kanab is bright and retro. Free bikes stand ready for a slow spin down the main street. Don’t miss the dozens of plaques com­mem­o­rat­ing the western movies and TV shows that were filmed here for decades. Mem­o­rable meal: A five-minute walk from the lodge puts you at Peek­a­boo Canyon Wood Fire Kitchen (peek­a­book­itchen

.com), with quinoa-stuffed av­o­cado for starters, fol­lowed by kale salad topped with honey-glazed wal­nuts, dates and red onions. Tourist treat or trap: Leave the car be­hind for old-fash­ioned travel on the river. Our slow float on Colorado River Dis­cov­ery’s

(www.raft­thecanyon.com) mo­tor­ized pon­toon boat took us past pho­to­genic Horse­shoe Bend and the tiny tourists on the rim 1,000 feet above. From Glen Canyon Dam to Lees Ferry, there are breath­tak­ing views of the Navajo sand­stone cliffs that icon­o­clas­tic en­vi­ron­men­tal writer Ed­ward Abbey de­scribed (be­fore the dam he de­spised was built) as “ta­per­ing spires, bal­anced rocks on pil­lars, mush­room rocks, rocks shaped liked ham­burg­ers, rocks like piles of melted pies.” Yup, ex­actly. Plan to spend: Most of a sight­see­ing day for the 120 miles of the some­times windy, al­ways scenic U.S. 89A. To aug­ment the don’tmiss drive, overnight at ei­ther end: Page (float trip or slot canyons tour) or Kanab (hik­ing, bik­ing and Hol­ly­wood).

The route: San Lu­cas to Gil­roy, Calif., on Cal­i­for­nia 25. Miles: About 75, one way. Best time: Spring, when the hills are green, though the area’s oat and al­falfa fields add green­ery to the route year round.

Why: Cal­i­for­nia 25 of­fers a scenic, leisurely and nearly traf­fic-free al­ter­na­tive to busy U.S. 101 be­tween San Luis Obispo County and the Bay Area. High­lights: The high­way runs through sev­eral nar­row val­leys carved into the moun­tains by the San An­dreas Fault’s tantrums. In some years, you can see where the fault has twisted the high­way’s as­phalt in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions — un­less Cal­trans has made the nec­es­sary re­pairs. Af­ter a wet win­ter, the hill­sides brack­et­ing the pleas­antly wind­ing high­way turn Cray­ola green, punc­tu­ated in places by yel­low and orange Cal­i­for­nia but­ter­cups and sticky mon­key flow­ers. This is cow­boy coun­try — for vis­i­tors, a rare glimpse of what Cal­i­for­nia looked like a cen­tury ago. Some of the barns along the high­way are at least that old, com­plete with black­smith-forged hinges and door latches. Also, check out the Vic­to­rian ar­chi­tec­ture in down­town Hol­lis­ter. Mem­o­rable meal: The 19th Hole Booze & Food (19th­ho­le­tres

pinos.com) in Tres Pinos isn’t so much about the food as the set­ting (but do try the oak-fired bar­be­cue dishes). Dol­lar bills pa­per the ceil­ing of the 120-year-old tav­ern, an­tique ri­fles and cat­tle brands trim the walls, and the front porch is ideal for swill­ing beer on a lazy af­ter­noon (but don’t drink and then drive, we has­ten to add). Tourist trap or treat: The high­way skirts Pinnacles Na­tional Park (www.nps.gov/pinn), Cal­i­for­nia’s new­est na­tional park, a real treat. It’s not of­ten that you can visit the mul­ti­col­ored re­mains of a vol­cano cleft in twain by the San An­dreas Fault. (The other half has since mi­grated south­ward, inch by inch, to­ward Lan­caster.) Cal­i­for­nia 25 of­fers the only ve­hic­u­lar ac­cess to the park’s vis­i­tor cen­ter and camp­ground. There are great pic­nic spots in the shade of the ubiq­ui­tous oak trees and miles of trails for all skill lev­els to work off that pic­nic lunch. Plan to spend: The one-way trip takes a lit­tle less than two hours driv­ing straight through, but this isn’t that kind of drive. Al­low at least three hours ex­tra for Pinnacles and a few stops for photos or food along the way.

James Hager Getty Images / Robert Hard­ing World Im­agery

A PUR­PLE- AND ORANGE-TINGED SUN­SET caps the craggy beauty of the Coy­ote Buttes wilder­ness area at Ver­mil­ion Cliffs Na­tional Mon­u­ment in Arizona.

Lou Spir­ito Los Angeles Times

Daniel A. An­der­son

PINNACLES NA­TIONAL PARK can be ac­cessed from ei­ther east (Cal­i­for­nia 25 to Cal­i­for­nia 146) or west, above, also by 146 — but you can’t drive straight through.

Lou Spir­ito Los Angeles Times

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