Saturday, October 31, 2015

Black Dragon Canyon - West of Green River, Utah

Description: Black Dragon Canyon is virtually unknown compared to other features in Southern Utah.  But that doesn't make it less interesting.  This canyon has steep sandstone walls painted with desert varnish.  A short hike up the canyon leads you to ancient rock art. There are at least two caves located in the canyon.  The canyon's close proximity to I-70 makes it an easy side trip.  

Location: Black Dragon Canyon is less than 15 miles west of Green River, Utah, and only about an mile from I-70. It is located on the eastern face of the San Rafael Swell which is often referred to as the San Rafael Reef.

Cost: Free

Operating Seasons and Hours: There aren't any official hours, but exploring will be much easier in the daylight.

Helpful Websites: and

Date of Visit: Sunday, July 1, 2012

Black Dragon Canyon is a place my husband and I discovered while returning from a weekend rafting trip to Moab, Utah in 2012.  However, if we'd known about the canyon during our Southern Utah Road Trip in 2010 I'm pretty certain we would have planned a visit.

In fact, I'm positive I would have completely changed our route home in 2010 if I'd known about the amazing destinations within the San Rafael Swell.  Instead of travelling north through Colorado to get to Vernal we would have gone west to explore the unique and yet almost unknown features of the swell.  On this alternate route we would have left Crystal Geyser in Green River, Utah and driven 15 miles west to Black Dragon Canyon.

Monday, October 26, 2015

How to Plan a Road Trip: Part 1 - Finding Places to Visit

The other day my sister called me up and asked, "How do you decide where to go on a road trip?"  She recently moved from Colorado to North Carolina.  She wants to visit the many interesting places that are now withing driving distance of her home, but she's having trouble knowing where to start.

I knew how she felt because my family recently moved to Alabama.  In fact, in a really odd coincidence our families moved the exact same week.  I told my sister some of the things that I've done to decide on places to visit.  She suggested I turn those ideas into a blog post.  So here we go.

I'm going to take you through my process for planning a road trip.  I'm going to use a road trip I'm currently planning.  Due to my husband's training schedule I have no idea when we will go on this trip, but I'm in the early stages of planning it anyway.  I figure it will be easy to make a pre-planned trip fit his vacation schedule rather than try to plan something at the last minute.

Step One: Decide on a general area that you want to visit. 
Maybe you have a relative in another state that you want to visit. Or maybe there is a really cool landmark that you've always wanted to see. Or perhaps you are like my sister and me and have recently moved to a new state.  In my sister's case she's thinking of taking a trip to Washington DC or the Appalachian Mountains. For me, my focus has been on exploring Alabama. My family is only going to live here for two years at the most so I want to make sure I get to see as much of this state as possible.

Step Two: Obtain a Map and Travel Guide for that area
Travel Guides and maps are available for free from each state's tourism department.  You can pick them up at information stations and rest stops in each state, or you can order them online.  To make it easy for you, I've put together a list with a link to each state's website where you can order maps and travel guides. There are apps and things online that you can use, but I prefer to have something tangible to work with while I'm planning my trips.

Step Three: Gather other supplies
In addition to your map and travel guide you will want to have a notebook and a pen to write down all the places you want to visit.  A highlighter or marker is also useful for underlining things that you want to remember.

Step Four: Read the travel guide
It usually takes about two to six weeks for your maps and travel guides to arrive.  When they arrive plan to take a couple hours to look through the travel guide and highlight things that catch your eye. Even if you are some what familiar with the area you might be surprised at what is listed. My family enjoys visiting natural features like waterfalls and caves so those always seem to be what I highlight.  I also like visiting historic landmarks.  
Keep track of all the places that interest you in your notebook. Sometimes it helps to write down why you want to go there. Make sure you leave room to write in the price later.

Step Five:  Find out the price of each place that interests you
Travel guides will give you lots of information about different places, but they don't tell you the price of admission.  So you'll have to do additional research online to find out how much each place costs.  Usually it's not hard to find the price just by Googling the name of the place you want to visit. Write the price next to the place name in your notebook.

If you're like me, and will have a limited budget for your road trip, then knowing the price can really help you prioritize where you will spend your time.
This is what my notebook looked like while I was planning last year's Texas Coastline Road Trip
It can also be beneficial to google things like "Free things to do in _____. or Fun things to do in ______"  Your search results might come up with something that either wasn't listed in the travel guide or that you overlooked.

Step Six: Highlight your map
This step is especially useful if you will be visiting an area that you are not familiar with.  I've only lived in Alabama for 6 months so I don't recognize most city names.  Highlighting the cities where the things I want to visit are located helps me see the big picture for what areas we should visit on our trip.
When I highlighted my map I discovered that a lot of the places I want to visit are located in the Northeast area of Alabama.  We will probably spend several days in this part of Alabama during our road trip.

My next step will be to start figuring out which features we will visit on what days, and where we want to stay each night.  But that's a topic for another post.

I hope this has helped give you an idea of how to start planning a road trip.  I think you'll be surprised by how many interesting thing you can discover about an area just by doing a little bit of research.

I'm curious, how do you decide where to go on vacation?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Crystal Geyser - Green River, Utah

Description:  Southern Utah is full of unexpected features, but perhaps the most unexpected feature of all is Crystal Geyser.  This is a cold water geyser located on the banks of the Green River just a few miles south of the town of Green River.

Location:  The geyser is located along Little Valley Road less than 10 miles south of the town of Green River.   Detailed directions are included at the bottom of this post.

Cost: Free

Operating Seasons and Hours:  The area is accessible at all times.  The geyser is said to erupt about twice a day, but it is not on a very precise schedule.

Official Website:

Dates of Visits: Friday, June 29, 2012 and Saturday, July 7, 2012

My husband and I actually discovered Crystal Geyser during our Colorado Road Trip in 2012. It was one of our first stops as well as our last stop on that trip.  However, since the geyser is located near Moab, Utah I'm including it as part of the alternate route for my Southern Utah Road trip series.  If we had known about the geyser during our Southern Utah Road trip in 2010 we might have reworked our route and visited the geyser instead of driving on the Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway.

Monday, October 19, 2015

NASA Rocket Park at the Johnson Space Center - Houston, Texas

Description:  Rocket Park is a stop on the Johnson Space Center Tour in Houston, Texas, but it is also available to the public for free. The park contains a Mercury-Redstone rocket, the Little Joe II rocket, as well as some other large equipment from the 1960's space program.  The most amazing thing on display is an actual Saturn V Rocket which is housed inside a giant climate controlled building.

Location: 1601 NASA Road 1 Houston, Texas.  This is down the road from the main entrance where you take the tour of the space center.

Cost: Rocket Park, including the Saturn V rocket, is Free.  However, if you wish to see any other part of NASA, such as Historic Mission Control, then you will have to pay for a tour.

Operating Seasons and Hours: The Johnson Space Center Hours are 10:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Friday, and 10:00 am to 6:00 pm Saturday and Sunday.

Official Websites: and

Date of Visit: Wednesday, November 5, 2014

This was the second stop on the fifth day of the Texas Coastline Road Trip that my husband and I took our kids on in November of 2014. We finished up at the Nature Center in Brazos Bend State Park and headed east toward the NASA area southeast of Houston, Texas.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Fisher Towers Section of the Colorado River - north of Moab, Utah

Description: There are many ways to enjoy the scenery in Moab, Utah.  You can hike or bike on many of the trails.  There are even trails for your ATV or your Jeep. If you want a bird's eye view of the area you can charter an airplane ride, and if you are really adventurous you can even skydive.  But perhaps the most refreshing way to enjoy the scenery is to take a river rafting trip on the Colorado River.

Location:  This post features the Fisher Towers Section of the Colorado River.  This section is north of Moab, Utah. I've listed other places to raft in the Moab area at the end of this post.

Cost: Varies depending on the company that you go through and the length of your trip.  The Fisher Towers Section of the river is generally less than $75 per person for a full day trip.

Operating Seasons and Hours:  Mostly the spring and summer.

Helpful Website: Discover Moab is a great place to start when you are trying to learn about the different companies that provide river tours. I've also included a list of different rafting companies at the end of this post.  

Date of Visit: Saturday, June 30, 2012

This is part of the "alternate route" to our Southern Utah Road Trip.  During our actual road trip in 2010 all my husband and I did was drive alongside the Colorado River,  Rafting on the river was something we did two years later on a weekend trip.  I'm adding it to my Southern Utah Series because it is something you could add to your own trip to Moab.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway (Utah-128) - Moab, Utah

Description: Utah Highway 128 is a 50 mile byway that runs from Moab, Utah to I-70.  If you are travelling to or from Colorado this route is more direct than taking Highway 191 from Moab to I-70, and the scenery is much more interesting.  Much of the road runs alongside the Colorado River, and is surrounded by red rock cliffs and mesas.  The route passes points of interest such as the Dewey Bridge and the Fisher Towers.  There are also several hidden places of interest along the route.  Instead of being a shortcut - this route really could be the subject of it's very own day trip.

Location: Northeast of Moab, Utah.

Cost: Free

Operating Seasons and Hours: The route is open all year long, however some things may not be as accessible during the winter.

Helpful Websites: and

Date of Visit: Friday May 21, 2010

This was the second stop of the eighth day of the Southern Utah Road Trip that my husband and I went on for our third anniversary in May of 2010.  We'd spent the previous two nights camping in Arches National Park.  On the morning of our last day in the park we hiked to Delicate Arch.  When we finished with that hike we bid goodbye to the park, and started the next leg of our journey.


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