Kodachrome: “Where All the World’s a Sunny Day”

Traveling south along the scenic Hwy 12, my next stop is Kodachrome Basin State Park. It’s another one of those places that I feel every blogging RVer has visited but me. I don’t typically go out of my way to visit state parks, but with a name like “Kodachrome,” how could I resist those “nice bright colors?”

Can’t not sing the song as I enter the park., “Kodachrome…you give us those nice bright colors..”

Kodachrome’s Grand Parade

Note the little Tracker on the right side, giving some size perspective to the massive Chimney Rock, the largest of the spires at 170 ft.

Were it not standing in the shadow of Bryce Canyon National Park only 30 miles away, this little park would likely be one of the greatest naturally occurring phenomenon in our nation, as these geological formations are believed to exist nowhere else on earth. But instead, it’s just another stop of many geological wonders along this beautiful highway that is “the gift that keeps on giving.”

Shakespeare Arch is a part of the Shakespeare Sentinel Loop Trail.

The loop passes by the largest natural arch in the park, then loops around the Sentinel, one of the taller spires.

The trail is rated easy to the arch, and moderate to strenuous for the remainder of the loop.

The trail is not so strenuous, but rather quite exposed. And I can’t stop thinking about the word friend Maureen used to describe the trails, “Crumbly.”

There is a more challenging route back called the “Slickrock Cutoff” which climbs up and over the loop trail. It’s rated as more strenuous, but I take it in hopes it is less “crumbly.”

Ahhh, it feels good to have slick-rock underfoot again, after walking the crumbly Sentinel path!

Looking back down on the Sentinel from the Slick-rock cutoff.

This hike affords glorious views of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Kodachrome Basin State Park is called a basin due to rainwater and snow melt that flow down the slopes into washes and streams, ending up in the Paria River, which ultimately flows into the Colorado River. But the park is better known for its bizarre formations more so than the basin. There are a lot of descriptions the imagination could attach to the 67 monolithic spires standing erect in the park, but we will just keep it scientific since this is a PG-rated blog. 😉

It’s like dozens of chimney tops across the sandscape.

Spires are everywhere, this one in the “Scenic Lookout” down from the campground.

This spire is in the center of the Basin Campground.

Technically known as “sedimentary pipes” or “sand pipes,” these formations were believed to be formed when a layer of water-saturated sediment was forced up to the surface. Theories differ as to where the slurry came from, and what forced it to the surface. One theory points to volcanic activity complete with Yellowstone-style geysers, while another contributes the pipes to underground springs. Pressure from sedimentary layers above forced the wet slurry upwards to the surface forming a pipe of sorts for the water to escape. These pathways hardened like cement, while the softer layers around the pipes eroded, leaving behind these giant pipes ranging in height from 6 ft to 170 ft.

The Winnie looks like it is hiding out in the alcove, but angled parking is required for the view!

Another thing to love about the Basin Campground!! aaaahhh, quiet nights!

Nice laundry just outside the campground, appropriately named the “Red Dirt Laundry.”

In 1948, a National Geographic Society expedition passed through the park. Due to the variety of contrasting colors in the formations, they nicknamed the area then known as Chimney Rock to “Kodachrome Flat” after Kodak’s color film invented in 1935. After obtaining approval from Kodak, the name stuck.

A hike around the Panorama Trail on the parks west side is a “must do.”

The loop can either be done as a 3 mile, a 4.5 mile (with out and back spur to Panoramic Point added) or a 6 mile loop. This is the “Hat Shop” stop along the loop.

It’s easy to see how quickly and easily erosion can occur in some spots in this park. Just a few minutes of rubbing one’s fingers, and the sandscape changes.

This is “Ballerina Spire,” one of the more famous landmarks along the Panorama Trail. It looks more like a Can-Can dancer to me, as a lot more erosion needs to take place to reach ballerina-size. 😉

A view of the back side of Ballerina Spire makes me think you’d better see it sooner than later…

This one makes me think of a quacking penguin.

Views from Panorama Point are magnificent.

Sun lights up the giant monolith.

Looking down on the Ballerina Spire, as well as the tall spire deep in the Basin Campground.

I really enjoyed my time at Kodachrome Basin State Park more than anticipated, extending my stay one night longer than planned. There are many miles of scenic trails in the park, all accessible right from the campground or day use areas. The small 34-site campground offers a variety of sites from intimate alcoves to long, level pull-thrus. But by far, the most redeeming aspect of this state park is, of all things, its showers! Kodachrome Basin State Park receives its water from an abundant natural spring, and they have built spa-like showers as a way to enjoy it! Big overhead “rain shower” showerheads, strong water pressure, and ample hot water make the park showers a full time RVers dream come true. And since Kodachrome’s water source is spring-fed, long showers are “guilt-free.”

Eleven miles one way down Cottonwood Canyon Rd is Grosvenor Arch, definitely worth the bumpy, washboard drive!

This is just a phenomenally beautiful spot that I enjoy all to myself.

The Nat GEO expedition also traveled to Grosvenor Arch and named it for the National Geographic Society founder, Dr. Gilbert Grosvenor.

As they described it, “…What we saw was an arch…152 feet high, 99 feet wide, and only four feet thick at the top of the span.”

According to Time Magazine, Kodak’s earliest 35-mm Kodachrome film went for $3.50 a roll, or the equivalent of about $54 in today’s dollars. Now, the word Kodachrome is not even in my spell checker dictionary. Who could have ever dreamed back in 1973 when Paul Simon sang “Mama don’t take my Kodachrome away” that it wouldn’t be “mama” who would take the Kodachrome away, but rather what began as a cellular telephone…

They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take photographs
So mama don’t take my Kodachrome away”

~ Paul Simon

The Canyons of Escalante

I’ve heard many fellow RVers sing the praises of Escalante before….“boondocking near Escalante, hiking in Escalante, conferring with the Interagency Visitor Center in Escalante.” But I was never sure exactly where in Escalante all this recreating was taking place. Was it the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and if so, where? At over a million acres, that’s a huge monument to attempt to explore.  But once Continue reading

Just Gut Up and Drive!

This was my fourth autumn to meander down through southern Utah in the Winnie. With each trip, I would stare longingly at the map, wishing I had the nerve to drive Utah’s National Scenic By-way, Hwy 12. Considered one of our nation’s most scenic by-ways, Hwy 12 has achieved the status of being named an “All American Road,” a distinction reserved for roads having unique attributes to stand alone as tourist destinations.

This 124 mile stretch of highway begins near Torrey just outside of Capitol Reef, and Continue reading

Leave While You’re a Little in Love…

I have this behavioral quirk (okay, one of many) that I have come to recognize about myself.  Whenever I arrive at a destination, particularly one that is short on amenities or creature comforts, (in this case, contact to the outside world) I am overcome with the urge to bolt.  Whether it be a beach hut in Bali or a shipboard cabin in Seward, I spend the entire first day figuring out an escape route, and the last day crying because I have to leave.  It took me some time to recognize this pattern and learn to just settle down and give it a day or two before I blow up my original plan.  In keeping with my usual M.O., such was the case with Capitol Reef. Continue reading

I May Have a New Favorite…

No offense to Lower Spring Canyon, but I may have a new favorite hike in Capitol Reef, the Navajo Knobs trail. The author of my favorite Utah hikes reference book, Hiking from Here to Wow, describes most of canyon country as “down and in,” whereas Navajo Knobs is “up and out.” The author states the most desirable hike in the park is a tossup between Spring Canyon and Navajo Knobs, depending on whether you want “depth versus altitude.”

Navajo Knobs is a long hike at 9.5 miles round trip with a 2,500 ft elevation gain. But I Continue reading

The Golden Path to the Golden Throne

I carefully timed my visit to Capitol Reef to hit the cottonwood season. Sure, there is the perfect, crisp cool fall days. And the promise of lighter traffic once school is back in session. But the main reason I was really longing to return was to try to ride the golden wave of autumn. There is something about the brilliance of those giant cottonwood trees that just mesmerizes me. And if my timing is right, I can ride that golden wave all the way down to Zion. Continue reading

Nine Days of Democracy Detox

As I approached Capitol Reef National Park at the end of October, our country approached one of the most significant yet divisive mid-term elections in my lifetime. In the weeks leading up to Election Day, my addiction to news had reached toxic proportions. Once content with a few headlines at the end of the day, followed by a few laughs compliments of Stephen Colbert, I had now turned into an insatiable political junkie with a 3-4 hour per day habit. Continue reading

Communing with Nature in Cohab Canyon

I am happy to be hiking again! After a couple of weeks driving across the heartland to make the View Rally, tag my last two remaining states, and get back across the Mississippi River and the Continental Divide, my hands on the wheel have done more movement than my feet on the ground. It’s always a bit of a panic, as my mantra is “Move I must! If I stop, I’ll rust!” Had two weeks behind the wheel caused me to rust?   Six miles up through Cohab Canyon and across Frying Pan in the first day tells me all is not lost. Continue reading


My friend Jim recently sent me a Forbes article with the subject line saying “You’d better visit it while you can.” The article was about one of the largest organisms on earth, and it was only a few miles from me. Yet I had never heard of it before.

Pando, the Latin name for “I spread” is a 106 acre aspen grove in Fishlake National Forest. The estimated 47,000 trees in the stand all share the same DNA coming from Continue reading

Into the Mist, and On to the Mystic

Headed west from Wisconsin with my sights set on Utah, I am determined not to have to cross the Rockies again. Having traversed I-70 through the Eisenhower Tunnel and across Vail Pass twice now, I will do what I have to do to avoid it again. That means either a more northerly route through Wyoming, or dropping down all the way to Hwy 160 to cross Colorado through Pagosa Springs and Durango…not exactly the flat plains. I decide to stay north and risk the weather.

But winter is coming on fast this year. Even as I left North Dakota, locals were talking about having to turn on the furnace earlier this year than they can recall in many years. I seem to have gone from summer straight into winter, skipping autumn altogether. Continue reading