Like most everyone else, we missed traveling.
Of course we heard everyone say "it's too dangerous" and "don't do it". But with a "dark winter" facing us, we decided that this might be our last chance to get out there before being locked down for a longer period of time. We assessed the risks, planned carefully again considering we are both 60+. We chose safe destinations and took advantage of some great travel deals to terrific and nearly-empty locations. We are back home, safe and sound with no ill effects.
The Professor researched CDC and AARP guidance on flying and traveling safely. The Professor and his traveling companion have both been tested negative for COVID-19.
On our itinerary this time was a trip to Hoover Dam, Zion National Park, Escalante National Monument, Bryce National Park, and a short stop in Las Vegas.
Day 1: We started with a half-full flight from Dallas DFW airport to Las Vegas on a Tuesday morning. We mask-up, wear gloves, wipe down our personal space on the plane. It was about a 2 hour flight which we feel safe in doing. Upon arrival in Las Vegas, we immediately got into our rental car and headed out to Hoover Dam on a sunny day. The visitor center was closed and there were no tours, but parking close to the dam could not be emptier and easier. We were able to stroll around and get great views. We hopped in the car and took the 2.5 hour drive through Nevada, Arizona, and into Utah. We got a terrific deal at the luxurious Marriott Springhill Suites in Springdale, UT, where we could walk directly into Zion National Park. In fact, the hotel was empty enough where we got an upgrade to a stunning canyon-view suite. Not bad at all! Dining options were limited in Springdale, but we had a nice dinner at the Zion Canyon Brew Pub.
A nice thing about visiting Zion in the winter is that the weather is still good. It started out cold in the morning but warmed up to the high 50's and low 60's. The crowds are practically gone (this is true even in a non-COVID January) and we were free to use our car to drive into Zion instead of being shackled to the shuttle that operates during high season because the park is overwhelmed with cars. We did not stay at the lodge inside the park because dining options were even more limited than Springdale, but since our hotel was so close to the park, it didn't matter.
Day 2: We were up early to drive into Zion National Park (ZNP) for sunrise at the rim. Again, it was easy to park just about anywhere and we wondered where all the human beings were. We also did the scenic drive along the Virgin River, stopping almost everywhere to take tons of photos and check out the wildlife. We had an early and friendly lunch at the Stagecoach in Laverkin and from there we had the opportunity to drive through some of the less-explored, but no less beautiful parts of ZNP. It was a long day and without much desire to look around for another dining spot, we enjoyed another dinner at the Zion Canyon Brew Pub.
Day 3: After hotel coffee and yogurt/fruit we purchased on our day of arrival in Springdale, we had breakfast in our room. We decided to head out as far as we could go to the town of Escalante by way of Route 89 and 12, then we planned to double back through Bryce Canyon National Park (BCNP) on the way back. It was a glorious and easy drive through Zion, past Bryce and into the Escalante National Monument. The cliffs and ridges are stunning, yet desolate. If we wanted to, we could have stopped in the middle of the road, with no traffic for miles and miles to take photos. In fact, the ability to stop, look at the scenery and take photos unencumbered or pressured by other travelers was wonderful. We came back through BCNP in the afternoon after lunch, where the light is best to take photos. BCNP is best seen by car, and we were so happy to be practically the only ones on the road. We arrived back in Zion early enough to check out the visitor center (again empty) for souvenirs. We had a lovely and elegant dinner at the Switchback Grille.
Day 4: We left at about 9:30 a.m. to return to Las Vegas. On the way we stopped in St. George, UT for a quick drive by the Mormon Temple and Brigham Young's summer residence. We arrived back in Las Vegas and stayed in a brand-new (and mostly empty) Marriott near the airport, avoiding those big strip hotels on purpose. Las Vegas was interesting. Normally, it takes hours to drive from one end of the strip to the other. It was so empty we did it in less than 20 minutes. The only time we got out of the car was in downtown Vegas. Let me put it this way - they are having their struggles there. That evening however, we had a wonderful time at the Las Vegas Neon Museum. They did a great job in social distancing all of us and we had a terrific tour. It was the first time I have been to Las Vegas without spending any time at all at the tables or pulling a one-armed bandit.
Day 5: We turned in the rental car, masked up, and flew home to DFW.
For our best photos of the trip, look here https://photos.app.goo.gl/GoDaGmkuzFh8yGgK9 and here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/AYQeuiHdbeWLgQP36