Category Archives: Road Trip 2016

Getting Locked into or out of a cabin in Capitol Reef

Dearest blog readers (you know who you are),

Last summer Louie and I took a 3 week road trip. Then I got home and tried to blog about it, but as you know, life got in the way. And then I started blogging about other stuff, and doing other stuff, and leaving things behind. And here, I’m looking at a 4 day home vacation, and I thought to myself, can I still recap this trip from last August? I have notes, pictures, itinerary, some memories…so I’m going to try.

And so it begins…to Aspen

Bear Necessities

Leaving Aspen…Good Riddance

Moving Along

No Such Thing as a Dead Horse

Feeling at home in Arches National Park

Entering the Fiery Furnace

So we left off in Moab, Utah, where Louie and I had visited both Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. This whole trip plan came about because I got this crazy (yes, actually maybe a little crazy) idea of seeing all 5 parks in Utah. Maybe that wasn’t actually crazy, but then adding in a few more things and making the whole trip only 3 weeks, and camping…it turned out to be pretty crazy, especially because it started with a bear attack on our car.

It seems so long ago. Last August. Pre-election nightmare. But here we are. Leaving Moab, Utah, heading the 2 to 2 1/2 hour drive to Capitol Reef National Park. Capitol Reef was one of those places that I researched a bit but really couldn’t figure it out. It had history, natural beauty, and we would come to find out, pie.

We drove through very desolate land on our way to the park. This part of Utah (like many parts of Utah) is really desolate.

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We got to Capitol Reef Park in the early afternoon. There was a welcome sign and some vault toilets at a small parking area. And nothing else. This would be a smaller, less visited park than many, and though at first we were a little confused and not sure what to do, we grew to love it.

Louie and I have a default traveling method (which I doubt is unique) where we simply try to dive into what is in front of us. So we started taking pictures, looking around, and of course doing all the pull-offs. The first pull off was a cabin that a Mormon family who lived in the area lived. It was a small cabin for a family of like, 15-20, and honestly, I don’t know how people did it back then.

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The scenery was interesting. It wasn’t beautiful in a conventional sense, but it was different than anything really had been, and it was awe-inspiring.

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You can faintly see some petroglyphs in this picture. The area was a mixture of Mormon pioneer and Native American history.

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And strange but amazing natural features. What a weird place to live, and a weird National park, but of course it has to be a National park (for now, right? until the current administration destroys it…)

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A one room schoolhouse.

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We finally got to the heart of the park where there was a visitor’s center. And then drove down another road, the “Scenic Drive” which charged admission (our pass got us through of course).

I was worried about the storm though. And what I’d forgotten until this moment is that I was really, truly afraid of it. I was going through these really strong emotions about storms, after the storm at Dead Horse that looked like it could have washed us away, the crazy wind and rain at Arches that could have done the same and actually made us move our tent…I was stressed about the idea of getting washed away for real, either in our car, tent, or while hiking. So we didn’t go down a trail or anything and I kept a good eye on it all.

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We passed by a place called the Gifford House and noticed it advertised pie. We went in and indeed they were selling small homemade pies. We bought a strawberry rhubarb one to have later.

I’d made a reservation at a tiny cabin for the night—it was $45 and just outside the Park in the town of Torrey, Utah. We also needed to do laundry and that was advertised as on sight.

The town of Torrey was cute and tiny and seemed only for visitors to the Park. We found our location and checked in. A little girl was working the shop when we showed up—it was a family business for sure. The place was a little bit weird but very cute. The original reason I’d made the reservation was that the Park campground was walk-in only, no reservations, and I wanted a guaranteed sleeping place. It turned out the campground had room, but I’m glad we decided to be inside for a night—the cabin was tiny and the bathrooms were across a parking lot, but it had a bed, electricity, lights, and a television which was insane! We ended up having to go across the street to another motel/store area to do laundry, but we did our laundry, used the internet, watched tv (the Olympics!) and generally relaxed. Oh, and SHOWERED. It had been awhile and the showers were great.

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After awhile, we decided to have dinner in Torrey and went to a place called Diablo Café that I’d read about both on Trip Advisor and in the guidebook.

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We did of course get the rattlesnake cakes. The restaurant was enjoyable and very good for the middle of practically nowhere! The chef seemed to be a creative type with a good sense of humor and the presentation of everything was over-the-top. I had tuna as well.

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After dinner we went back and ate the pie outside of our cabin by a picnic table, which was maybe a little weird because the family who owned the cabins was doing work, the kids were running around, and one of the men was trying to get them to help and also kinda yelling at them…while we sat there eating pie and trying to watch the sunset.

Early the next morning, Louie got up and went to the bathroom. I suppose we had noticed that the door handle was a little funny but hadn’t given it too much thought. Until then he couldn’t get back into the cabin! It was maybe 6:30 or so, and there was a small window and we were trying to decide what to do–Louie wanted to crawl in the window and worry about it a little later, but I thought we should wake somebody up to help since they’d said to let them know of any problems—I guess we were making a bit of noise, because the man from the night before stuck his head out the window of the house and asked if we needed help. We did, so he was out a few minutes later. He jiggled the door and tried a few things, but he realized the handle was just totally messed up, so eventually Louie crawled in the window with a screwdriver and the two of them took the handle off entirely. We were leaving that morning anyway so the guy said just leave it for now and they’d deal with it later. So the door didn’t totally shut, but that was okay. Since we were pretty much up at this point, we decided to just pack up and leave.

We had plans to go hiking, but first we got breakfast at a nearby restaurant called the Capitol Reef Inn and Grill. It was very cute and also advertised places to stay for $45—that seemed to be the rate in town!.

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After a filling breakfast, it was hiking time. I had two short hikes planned for the day. The first was called the Chimney Rock Trail and was about 3.6 miles and then I wanted to hike at least part of the Grand Wash Trail.

We were among the first to get to the Chimney Rock Trailhead, though oddly it seemed several cars arrived at once.  The hike started with a nice big climb and had some great views, but took awhile to get out of sight of the road.

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This is the “chimney rock” that the trail is named after.IMG_5885IMG_5894IMG_5898

There were a few places along the trail that we could have taken a much longer hike, but that wasn’t in the cards for us. The hike was very nice and after we got apart from the other hikers we didn’t see anybody else until we were nearly back. We saw some petrified wood along the trail as well, which was pretty neat.IMG_5911

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After that hike we drove back towards the Visitor’s Center and down the Scenic Drive to the Grand Wash. The sun was rising and the day was heating up, but we wanted to keep going, as usual! We planned to hike in a couple of miles and then back. This trail was a point to point, but we didn’t have a shuttle or a second car, so we just wanted to get an idea of it. The whole trail was in a “wash” which is basically where water goes when it floods, but otherwise is pretty flat.

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After awhile, we weren’t sure how far we’d gone. We’d planned to go to the “narrows” and then turn around, but we didn’t realize at first that we had definitely already gone that far. The sun was getting pretty hot and I probably wasn’t drinking enough water so it was hard. I think we estimated we hiked 4 miles RT and then…we went to go eat lunch, and get coffee, pie (mixed berry) and ice cream.

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The Gifford House is in what seems like an oasis! I don’t believe I mentioned that the reason there is pie is that there is a fruit orchard, which was (I think) started by the Mormon pioneers and now kept up by the park service. The campground we didn’t stay at is called the Fruita campground and evidently you can pick and eat the fruit from the trees around, if you like.

Overall, Capitol Reef was really unique and fascinating. Our next stop would be Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, after a short but continually scenic drive—basically on Highway 12, which is an amazing drive! Along the way we got coffee at an adorable place in Boulder. The thing about Utah is also: we passed by so many trailheads. We were now in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument—amazing stuff, really. I know I keep saying that, but it’s true.

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Next Stop: Escalante Petrified Forest State Park (then Bryce and Zion)

Nights Camping: 8

Miles Hiked (estimate): 54

Entering the Fiery Furnace

You probably thought I’d forgotten about my trip (or hoped, just kidding, or why would you be reading at all?) but the truth is that work is CRAZY right now—scheduling, meeting new students, practicing, rehearsing, running around like a chicken with my head cut off. I’m on day 14 of over 40 straight days of work, and at least today ended up just being two students…and of course the inevitable practicing, which never stops, but is especially important right now.

So, where were we?

Previous posts:

And so it begins…to Aspen

Bear Necessities

Leaving Aspen…Good Riddance

Moving Along

No Such Thing as a Dead Horse

Feeling at home in Arches National Park

We left off in Arches National Park on the morning of Friday, August 5. Whoa, that’s a long time ago! But, this was the morning we had tickets for the Fiery Furnace Tour. The Fiery Furnace is an area of the park that you are only allowed in by permit, either on a ranger-led tour, or on your own. We didn’t want to get lost so we opted for the ranger-guided tour. It cost $16 each and like everything in the National Parks, had to be reserved in advance. They warn you that the hike is strenuous and challenging, with small spaces and drop offs, so I was both overconfident and a bit nervous.

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The tour was great. The guide was really knowledgeable and interesting, and he led us for several hours, with a good balance between hiking and learning about the geology, biology, and ecology of the area. Zoology also, perhaps?

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The day had started overcast and cool, but by the time the tour was done (and I totally recommend it, by the way) it was hot! The Fiery Furnace area was pretty shaded actually, since the formations are so close together, but we finished the hike around noon and it was definitely hot.

We headed back to the Devil’s Garden campground to find our new spot. As amazing as site 18 had been, our new site, site 3 was less good. It was fine, in that it was still in a gorgeous location, and it was near the bathrooms, but it looked like we were in half of a pull through RV driveway and there wasn’t anywhere great to the put the tent. There were also loads of ants everywhere! We moved the picnic table and had lunch, and plotted out a place for the tent, but it was really hot and we decided just to set it up later.

It was time for more hiking. We wanted to see parts of the park we hadn’t gotten to the day before so we headed for the Windows area. There are several arches there with a short trail around them. We were drinking a lot of water, and the parking lot was super crowded. People really like posing under the arches, but they don’t really like following what the park called “primitive trails” so we took that one back. It wasn’t in any way difficult, but it wasn’t paved and you had to watch for cairns, and it was nice to avoid people, as usual Winking smile

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Next we decided we should hike to Delicate Arch. This was a more strenuous hike, but we thought we had enough energy. It was really hot, over 90 I think, but we loaded up our packs with water and hid the trail. This trail was pretty crazy. There was a part where we just hiked basically straight up a huge slickrock.

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It wasn’t too steep, but was a bit overwhelming looking too far in the distance, up or down, so I just tried to focus on my steps. It was difficult in the sun, and steep enough that it was exhausting. We had a few places with shade where we stopped to rest but mostly kept going. The end had a little bit with a drop off but I hugged the wall and we made it to the top. The arch was pretty impressive.

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Though we were larger than it.

Side note: not everybody who takes your picture is a great photographer. Sometimes the selfie stick is best…this might have been one of those times, because, we were not in fact larger than the arch.

Anyway, the arch WAS still a little ways away, but I’d had enough hiking across slickrock and I felt I’d accomplished my goal. Louie went over to get a better look and I hydrated. I was pretty convinced he was going to fall off (my constant fear)but after a little while he made it back. The hike back down was far easier.

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If you look closely you can see Louie in this picture.

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And this one.

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Hiking back down the slick rock.

Anyway, after that hike we were totally beat and headed back to the campground to relax and have dinner.

We initially set up our tent up here:

We set it up, made dinner and were starting to enjoy the campfire and relax when the winds started to pick up…and practically blew the tent away. We had staked it the best we could but it was a bit rocky and it just wasn’t enough. Luckily we were there to catch the tent and we moved the whole thing down the hill a bit and set it up in the driveway (you learn WHY the previous night’s campers did things a certain after the fact) and even tethered it to the picnic table, just in case…and then the storms came and we eventually just went to bed on the early side, hoping to not wash away in a flash flood.

The next day we woke up and again, packed up. We went to hike the Devil’s Garden trail, at least part of it. I didn’t want to spend too much time since we had to drive a couple of hours still and do some errands in Moab before we left, so we saw a few arches and some deer, IMG_5825

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This was called Landscape Arch. One thing to know is that the arches are constantly changing, and do fall sometimes, and this particular one had had a huge chunk fall off in 1991—you used to be able to hike underneath it but the park service decided that was too dangerous. Our guide the day before warned us, before you rest somewhere, look up and make sure it seems like nothing is going to fall on you!

After that hike, we hit up the town of Moab again, got groceries (weren’t sure if the next place would have a nice grocery store) and an early lunch at a place called the Love Muffin Café.

Next stop: Capitol Reef National Park

Nights Camping: 8

Miles Hiked (estimate): 47

Feeling at home in Arches National Park

Next up: Arches National Park!

Previous posts:

And so it begins…to Aspen

Bear Necessities

Leaving Aspen…Good Riddance

Moving Along

No Such Thing as a Dead Horse

Day 9 of our trip, according to the itinerary. We finished up looking at Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse State Park and hit the road back towards Moab. It’s about 30 minutes to Moab, which is right near Arches National Park. We decided to make a quick coffee/gelato stop in Moab first before heading back into the wilderness. We also wanted to check email and things like that. In this day and age, it’s hard to go 3 weeks without responding to people, so at least every couple of days we needed to check in! And honestly, after a few straight days of only talking to each other, it’s nice to look at other stuff Smile We had an “incident” later where we’d asked a restaurant if they had wi-fi and the woman said, somewhat self-righteously, “no, we don’t, you’ll just have to talk to each other.” Haha, right? Except get over yourself, we’d been doing nothing but talking to each other for 3 days, and you work in a deserted tourist area where maybe people need to check in for work or just to let their friends and family know they are still alive. But I digress.

We finished up our gelato at a delightful shop that DID have wi-fi and then drove up to Arches. We needed to stop by the visitor’s center to pick up tickets for a ranger led tour we were doing the following day, and whoa, the center was packed! It was a definite change from Canyonlands and Colorado National Monument. We knew Arches was more popular (I guess the beauty is more obvious and you can see more within 10 feet of your car?) but it was still a bit of culture shock.

We had a reservation at Devil’s Garden campground, which was at the very back of the park, about a 20 mile drive, so our plan was to slowly head there while stopping and seeing what interested us. We had the whole day in the park the following day so we knew we’d get to do most of things we wanted.

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Since blogging about this trip has, more than ever, become entirely ridiculous and overwhelming YET I know that I will want this all down in writing to look back at in the future…I’m going to do a lot of photo sharing!

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Many of the rock formations are named. This was called the Three Gossips.

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We took a short walk to get closer to Balanced Rock. The mountains in the background are spectacular. Another thing that really struck us both was how different Arches looked than Canyonlands and Dead Horse even though they are relatively close to each other. What a crazy planet we live on!

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The advent of digital cameras makes this sort of ridiculousness easier. Louie, holding up Balanced Rock.IMG_5739

Seriously, what is this madness??

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Various arches. After checking into the campground we set up the tent and then went on a hike that left from the end of the campground. Oh, we’d hoped to buy firewood to have a fire since we hadn’t been able to for a few days, but they were out! The camp hosts were really great though and told us we could stop by their site and have a few pieces, so we did that. We also found out the campground had had lots of flash flooding the night before, just like at Dead Horse and we were warned to be aware of where we set up our tent. Apparently this was “monsoon season” and flash floods were somewhat common, though the night before had been much more than usual, and some campsites were washed away. We made sure to stake our tent carefully.

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Every arch had a name, but I am bad with names. I think this was Broken Arch though. We also might have seen Tapestry Arch. The hike was a little hard to figure out at first, because it was lots of cairn following, but we managed! We almost got lost at more than one point, but did I mention that it was a lovely cool day in the desert so we probably wouldn’t have died. Just kidding, we only weren’t sure which turn to take and were never too far off from being correct.IMG_5756

This is the view of our campground. Devil’s Garden Campground is one of the most beautiful National Park Campgrounds that I’ve ever seen. Our site (Site 018) was gorgeous too, even though we had trouble finding a flat spot to set up the tent.

Anyway, we finished the hike and then went to relax at our campsite and make dinner.

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We had a lovely fire and relaxed. At one point a small fox (we found out it was a kit fox) came through our campsite, just like one had at Dead Horse! This time we were sort of ready, and Louie took a short video. It was dark though, and you can’t see much. We made a lot of jokes about how the fox didn’t say anything.

We decided to try to wake up to watch the sunrise. We had an amazing view from the tent, and figured this was the time!

Even though I hadn’t slept great because the tent was more slanted than we’d realized and I kept sliding off the pad (oops) I was happy to be awake to get this picture! We also saw several deer who walked non-chalantly through the campsite. It was a beautiful site, but unfortunately we had to move to a different one for the next night (same campground) so after watching the sunrise and breakfast, it was time to pack up. As usual…

Next up: Fiery Furnace, Delicate Arch and more storms!

Nights camping: 7

Miles hiked (estimate): 37

No Such Thing as a Dead Horse

 

Or is it, the only good horse is a dead horse? I get all those sayings mixed up.

And so it begins…to Aspen

Bear Necessities

Leaving Aspen…Good Riddance

Moving Along

(Previous blog posts about my August 2016 road trip)

Louie and I headed to Moab next. We had three nights booked in the area, unfortunately all at different campsites. The first night was at Dead Horse State Park. (I’d wanted 3 nights at the Devil’s Garden Campground in Arches National Park, but I booked too late. I got two nights there but different campsites…)

We drove via 70 west and then route 128, per a wonderful ranger’s recommendation. Google tells you to take a slightly different route, but we were told this was the scenic route, and that was true! It was a gorgeous drive with lots of stopping for pictures.

Right off the bat, the difference between Utah and Wyoming seemed to be that while there were no restaurants/services for miles in Utah, there were lots of other cars. Maybe because in Utah we were actually within 1-2 hours of various national parks, but Wyoming just seemed so much more desolate once you got off any interstate, except right near the Tetons and Yellowstone. But I digress.

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Our road traveled alongside the Colorado River. The theme of this part of the trip was definitely, stuff the Colorado River has helped make.

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We watched scenes like this for an hour. More, really, when you consider that for the next 7-10 days we’d be in this sort of country.

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Louie has tons of pictures of me on his camera, but he’s not as prompt at uploading them to his computer as I am. Therefore, in approximately a year you can see them!

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We decided to eat lunch in Moab, since we hadn’t been in a town for some time. Well at least since the day before…in any case, what I was really craving was fresh vegetables, so we found a place called Peace Tree Juice Café and I got a tuna wrap with lots of lettuce and cucumbers, and then we split a delicious espresso milkshake. It was HOT in Moab, and eating ice cream or gelato became a daily habit…Louie realized after a few days that eating ice cream was making him have a mid-afternoon crash, but I still maintain it was worth it.

We got some supplies in town and then headed to Dead Horse State Park. Moab is a town of about 8000 located near Arches National Park. Dead Horse and Canyonlands National Park (Islands in the Sky District) are about 30 minutes away and receive way less visitors. We set up our tent at the park in a lovely site (KA03) with a gorgeous view—the picnic table had a cover as well and some cabinets to store things in—not bearproof, but critter proof.

This sign was in the bathroom (single stall with lights and fans and they flushed!) We’d already had a raven or magpie eat part of a sandwich so we knew.

Then we headed to Canyonlands, which took 10-15 minutes tops. We’d hoped to do a hike but the sky looked really ominous, like it was going to storm. We could see that it was storming in the distance, and I for some reason started getting really concerned about flash floods. Really it all boils down to the bear. Once something like that happens, you start worrying about all the other things that you wouldn’t normally worry about!

We drove around and did some short hikes though. Canyonlands is quite desolate, but amazing and beautiful.

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There are a lot of roads that you can take if you have the proper vehicle-high clearance, 4wd-and a permit. The area was used by gas and oil companies for some time before it because a national park, and the roads are from that time. I guess the park service decided to let people use them because some parts of the park are impossible to get to otherwise, unless you want to hike for days and days. The park is divided into several districts, and only two are accessible by regular car: this one called Islands in the Sky and another we didn’t make it to which was about 2-3 hours away called the Needles District. Next time we’ll try to get there as we hear the hiking is phenomenal, but Islands in the Sky was pretty fantastic. IMG_5577IMG_5578IMG_5585

You can definitely see the rain!

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This looked even crazier in person—all those canyons. And it looks small here, but of course it’s really massive.

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Mesa Arch

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We just kept taking pictures! It was gorgeous with the clouds, the rain, and the beginning of sunset. And was gorgeous without those things too.

We walked partway to Grand Upheaval Dome, hiked around Mesa Arch, and took lots of pictures. It was raining lightly off and on and there was lightning and thunder in the distance, but it didn’t seem to do much while we were there. Finally we headed back to camp to make dinner.

When we returned to camp we realized there had been flooding. Luckily our tent was fine, but some water had gotten in the edges and we had a bit of dampness. I realized a huge river of water had washed through the side of our campsite and I just started freaking out that we needed to pack up and move…I pictured us getting washed away over the edge of the canyons during the night and I was just really terrified. Louie went to try to find a camp host to talk to to see if the flooding was normal or very unusual or what we should do but there wasn’t anybody working at the campsite, which worried me more. Finally he helped me to calm down and we decided to stay (because other options weren’t great and we were set up already and the tent hadn’t washed away yet and obviously there had been quite a storm). We made dinner (Indian food and rice from Trader Joe’s) and went to bed. It did storm over night and I was scared at first but was also exhausted so I fell asleep easily enough.

We woke up pretty early and packed up the tent. While packing up a small fox walked RIGHT through our campsite. Neither of us had a camera on us and by the time Louie got back from getting one the fox was gone. I vowed to always keep my phone in my pocket from that point on…

We’d picked out a hike to do in Canyonlands called the Neck Springs Loops that was about 5 miles long. We parked at the trailhead around 8 am and were the only people there. What was really cool was that it seemed we were the first people to hike on the trail that morning. The other great thing was that all the rain had brought cooler temperatures!

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Parts of the trail had definitely seen heavy rain overnight, but we’d chosen a trail that didn’t have a whole bunch of slickrock, according to the description.

I love getting off the beaten path at National Parks and taking hikes, the longer the better as you typically see less people. In this case, we ended up not seeing another person on the whole trail—we did hear people at one point who were likely a mile or more behind us, and we saw LOTS of evidence of various animals, definitely bighorn sheep hoofprints, and some small pawprints of various sizes.

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The views continued to be fantastic. It felt like you could see forever.

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There was a point towards the end that involved a frightening amount of slickrock. We realized we had to basically climb upward, and I had a little trouble…I was struggling to bring my leg up and the thought that pushed me through was “do you walk to backtrack over 4 miles?” I am so glad we did the hike though, because later many of the things we did in Arches were easier in comparison! We had a little trouble at one point following the cairns—we lost them!-but we got back on track. (Cairns are little stacks of rocks to show you which way to go.)

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The end of the trail followed along the road to get back to the parking lot, which wasn’t quite as fun, but the views continued to be amazing.

In any case, like everywhere we’d been (with the possible exception of Aspen) we would have liked to stay longer at Canyonlands, but we needed to move on. We decided to stop at Dead Horse State Park one more time to check out Dead Horse Point.

We were blown away by the views! It was just on the other side of Canyonlands National Park and was amazing in its own way. (We also had a lovely picnic on our way to the point—hummus and pita chips and apples. Vegetarian’s delight!)

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There were several miles of hiking trails around but we had to get to Arches! That’s where I’ll leave you for today…part way through a very wonderful day of gorgeous scenery and excellent hiking.

Nights camping: 6

Miles hiked (estimate): 34

Moving Along

Let’s continue along the road.

(Previous blog posts)

And so it begins…to Aspen

Bear Necessities

Leaving Aspen…Good Riddance

Camping can be a lot of work. It’s all the little things that start to add up. Sure, putting up the tent isn’t really hard, nor is taking it down, but it’s just harder than say, not doing that. Then you add in all the bedding set up, especially the therma-rest mattresses, and making dinner, setting up camp chairs, and then doing all this out of a Corolla where one of the doors is basically taped shut…it can be a pain. Once you are sitting around by a crackling fire, enjoying the outdoors, drinking a delicious Colorado craft beer…it’s definitely worth it. Or when you are sitting there and a small fox walks through your camp…worth it. But other times, gosh, it seems like a lot of work, and for what?

My last post reminded me of all my doubts and uncertainty during that segment of our trip. But anyway, lest you think I am ungrateful, I am not. I am fully grateful for being able to take 3 weeks off with Louie and travel! Sure it’d probably be nicer to be staying in hotels mostly, but since that’s just not in the budget, camping it is. And some of these campgrounds are better than being indoors anyway! (You need to realize, if you are reading this and saying, how can they afford to travel, that gas is really inexpensive now, camping is $18-30 a night, food costs the same as not traveling since we mostly cook, and our National Parks pass is still good from last year when we bought it for $80. So each day of the trip is costing $50-70 for the two of us, as a rough estimate.)

Okay, all that being said. Not sad, as I originally wrote. We woke up and packed up the tent, the bedding, all of that, and got on our way. We drove through Estes Park on the way out of Rocky Mountain National Park and took a quick walk around the lake there. We took the Peak to Peak highway through Nederland as we had done the previous year though this time we continued through Black Hawk and Central City. It was a gorgeous drive! Then we headed west on I-70.

We ate a late lunch in Frisco at a mexican restaurant. I wanted to visit Breckenridge where I’d spent a few summers (at a music festival) but I didn’t want to just pop in for an hour, so we skipped it. I will return. Frisco is nice in its own way, and we had a decent meal. Then we picked up some beer for later at a liquor store. In Colorado you can’t buy regular percent beer at the grocery store, you have to go to a liquor store for that. Looking back, we should have stocked up more but we didn’t realize that all the beer in Utah was going to be watered down. Religious freedom!

The drive across Colorado is a beautiful one. After we passed Glenwood Canyon we were on a new part of the road for us. I’d found a few mentions of Colorado National Monument in my research and decided we should pop through. I made a reservation at Saddlehorn Campground(site 36). We got to the Monument around 5 pm, and started on the east/Grand Junction side (you can enter through Grand Junction or Fruita). The Rim Rock drive goes all the way through the monument and the campground is at the west side.

Right off the bat we took a short hike called the Devil’s Kitchen. The weather looked potentially raining for a bit but it passed. We LOVED the monument right away because it was deserted and so different than anything we had seen!

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After the short hike (1.5 miles round trip) we continued along the Rim Rock Drive. This was a windy road at the top of the canyons, and I was a little terrified at times. We did lots of stopping and looking and taking pictures, and it was great. I think we’d finally left our bad moods behind (well, briefly at least) and were just enjoying being tourists.

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It was about 20 miles along the windy road to get to the campground and we kept stopping. The sun was setting and it was simply beautiful!

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As amazing as the sunset was (pictures naturally don’t do it justice) we wanted to get to the campground before dark, and we just managed it. Our campsite was beautiful and we realized we could set up our tent quite a way from the road and enjoy the solitude and night views! The campground is high up and overlooks the town of fruita and the monument. It was absolutely gorgeous and probably my favorite of all our campgrounds…at least one of them.

And we were delighted that we didn’t need to worry about bears! There were no bear boxes, no signs about bears, and the trash cans weren’t bear proof! We always keep a clean camp, but a bear proof camp is much more challenging.

The next morning we didn’t have too much time, but decided to do a short hike before seeking a shower and heading to Moab, Utah. We ended up at the visitor’s center just as a ranger led hike was getting started so we tagged along.  It was really informative: we learned about the geology of the area and the stratigraphy—it seemed overwhelming at the time, but I’m so glad we went on the walk as the next two weeks were spent learning about similar things and the original ranger talk really helped us understand! Basically all the formations were created by land being pushed up and then eroding away over time.

I did have a little fall towards the end of the hike, after Louie and I had left and were heading back. Luckily it wasn’t near the edge and I only cut the palm of my hand a little bit and skinned my knee.

We found showers at a nearby RV park for $7 each (pricey, but we hadn’t showered since Aspen) and washed up—it felt fantastic! And then we headed to Moab, Utah, for our next stop. The ranger at CNM had recommended a particular scenic route so we headed that way.

I think that’s enough for now. I’ve got a bunch of things to do today but I wanted to write something! I keep feeling like I don’t sound like I enjoyed my trip…I did. I also am grateful for all we got to see and do! It wasn’t a relaxing vacation though, I keep saying that, but I keep thinking about it. I am tired, I’m back to work and I’m tired, and I’m not really sure what that means.

More soon!

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(We want to return to Colorado National Monument and do more hiking! And stay another night at Saddlehorn: it was breathtaking, and we’d love to do more. The bathrooms were very nice and clean, the campground was quiet. We had trouble finding the trash cans but otherwise it was great. Oh, and the rangers were really helpful and friendly, the best we met on the trip.)

Nights camping: 5

Hiking miles (best estimate): 26

Leaving Aspen…Good Riddance

 

I suppose I shouldn’t have a dislike of Aspen, but I do! First off, before even going, so many people said, oh, why go to Aspen? Well, we had our family reasons, but UGH after the bear attack…

And so it begins…to Aspen

Bear Necessities

Read those first!

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So we spent the day of the bear incident cleaning up. At first we’d thought we’d camp another night and then we realized that was crazy…the bear KNEW our car would have food and now it was even less secure. So we managed to crash at Louie’s dad’s place for a night, but frankly, we were cranky and tired and ready to leave.

The next morning we did, after loading up. We had breakfast at the Main Street Bakery, which would have been really nice except I suddenly wasn’t feeling well and ended up sitting outside on a bench for most of the meal. Altitude sickness? Definitely not morning sickness, which was what a woman at the “community table” suggested to me.

Louie and I were headed to Rocky Mountain National Park next. Yes, it was backtracking, but that’s how we did it. Don’t judge. We had a reservation for two nights at Moraine Campground, which was a different campground than we stayed at the previous year. We decided to leave Aspen via Independence Pass which is a pretty fantastic drive!

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Things that are truly awful: the vault toilets at the parking lot for the top of Independence Pass.

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I was starting to feel a bit better, but not great. Louie drove since I am terrified of mountain driving and he loves it. I won’t lie, some of our fun and excitement was gone. We were tired and stressed, we couldn’t use one of the doors of the car, and we were worried that another bear would attack the car. And now we were driving several hours back east to go somewhere that we didn’t even know if we wanted to go.

We’d been to Rocky Mountain National Park the year before and we’d figured why not return for another short visit. We’d really only have one full day there, but it seemed worth it in the planning stages. Naturally everything took longer than I planned (things to remember) but I think we were still happy, deep down Winking smile

We came into the park from the West side. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous. This was on the Trail Ridge Road, in case you are trying to recreate our trip. Oh, and I should mention, before getting to the park, we made a few stops along the way to try to get a new cooler, since the bear ruined ours. The day before we’d looked around Aspen for one, but everything was super expensive. We ended up buying a $4 styrofoam one to tide us over, figuring we’d easily find a cheaper one. That was a mistake. We saw a $350 cooler at Bed, Bath and Beyond…made the $75 cooler at the hardware store in Aspen look like a bargain! We finally found a reasonably priced one at a Target, but it was small. Oh well.

So we came in on the Trail Ridge Road from the West Side, like I started to tell you a minute ago. Most visitors enter the park on the East Side, so this was definitely the less crowded way to do it! The entrance gate was closed when we arrived so we didn’t get to flash our season pass. I guess probably we were supposed to show it somewhere but it was pretty unclear.

I wanted us to immediately get into tourist/photo taking mood, but it was hard. Louie was tired, I was tired, and we were just worried and stressed. We stopped and enjoyed the views (the Trail Ridge Road is the highest paved road in the US, I believe) but mostly we wanted to get to the campsite and possibly just go to sleep.

By 6:00 or so we got to the Moraine Campground. I’d booked us a “walk-in” site, which seemed like a good idea at the time—the description said you would have to walk a bit from your car to the campsite, which I figured gave more privacy and quiet. What we didn’t realized was that it was up a hill, not terribly private, and that there wasn’t a very convenient bear box (metal box bears can’t open for you to store your food.)

On the one hand, we had a great story. On the other hand, we didn’t want to leave any open food or scented items in the car and we were stressed. We managed to organize things and make room in a nearby bearbox, and we set up our tent, and finally relaxed a bit. Our plan was to get up very early and do a hike out of the Bear Lake Trailhead. Bear Lake is a very popular Trailhead, so we wanted to get there by 7 am or so.

So, we got up, had a quick breakfast, and got moving. People tend to get up early in campgrounds and this one was no exception. I’d slept okay, except I could hear a nearby person snoring! The privacy was not great. We were on the top of a little rocky hill, which was cool, but hard to get to the car or the bathroom!

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There was a rainbow shortly after we arrived though, which was very pretty.

Oh, and a raven or magpie ate one of our sandwiches! I’d packed two and put them in baggies on the table…and when we weren’t looking a bird knocked one on the ground and pecked at it! So I had to pack another, but that was okay.

We got to the parking lot at the Trailhead quite early, maybe by 6:45/7 am. It was only 1/3 to 1/2 full, but by the time we were “geared up” and got our boots on the lot was full! There is a shuttle system you can use, but it didn’t seem terribly convenient from our campground so we wanted to drive if possible. And here’s where blogging a month later (almost) makes you forget things! I recall Louie drove in his pajamas to the trailhead to save time, but I don’t remember what time we got up, nor did I make a note of it. Oh well.

I’d selected the “4 lakes loop” for our day hike. It seemed like it covered a good bit of ground that we hadn’t hiked in the past and would be a gorgeous way to spend the day. We weren’t disappointed!

We “warmed up” by walking around Bear Lake first. It was very pretty and the air was nice and cool.

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We had to do a bit of climbing to get to Nymph Lake, but it was very pretty with all the lilies. This part of the hike was pretty crowded with people, but we knew that would be the case. We did all the add on portions of the hike too: Bear, Nymph, Dream, Emerald (had a lovely snack in a private area near Emerald lake and rested for 20 minutes or so—it was nice to avoid people for a bit!), then Lake Haiyaha-the hike up to that lake was absolutely gorgeous with amazing views! After Lake Haiyaha we went to Mills Lake which was my favorite and went to Jewel Lake too, which was a little anticlimatic. We had lunch sitting by Mills Lake and rested for awhile. Louie walked around to an island nearby but I wasn’t up for going off path. After a long rest there we headed back down, past Alberta Falls (we’d been there the year before) and then a long uphill from the Glacier Gorge Trailhead back to Bear Lake and our car, which was still there and not re-attacked by Bears!

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Looking down on Nymph Lake

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I believe this was Dream Lake

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And I believe this was Emerald Lake.

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Hiking towards Lake Haiyaha. Lots of lakes in view!

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Almost missed this amazing view which was just a little ways off the trail.

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Mills Lake…just gorgeous.

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Louie exploring the island—can you see him? We could hear each other talking the whole time. Alpine Lakes are seriously the best. He said there were lots of cobwebs.

Anyway, as much as I’m terrible at describing hikes (or just not in the mood Winking smile/already forgot) it was a great hike! I think it took us about 7 hours with lots of stops, and we had a great time.

We got back to the camp and just relaxed for the rest of the day. One thing we didn’t see much of was WILDLIFE. The previous year we’d seen ton, but we just didn’t see much. (of course we’d had quite a lot of evidence of wildlife, but very few sightings.)

The next morning we got up early to head out. We were heading west to Grand Junction and Colorado National Monument. In the early hours of the morning we woke up to the sound of whooping and howling—we realized it was a bunch of coyotes making a lot of racket!

Anyway, it was a nice but short visit to Rocky Mountain National Park. I think I preferred our campground the year before (Glacier Basin) but it was nice to try something new. The bathrooms were pretty dirty and the dumpsters were overflowing! We had a nice fire each night though, and Colorado is just gorgeous.

This part of the trip was emotionally difficult for me. I felt like the bear had really stolen our excitement and happiness, and we were just worried what else would go wrong. I felt tired already and that I hadn’t planned well enough (it might be true, but still, I should have been enjoying the moment!) and that I was just worried more things would go wrong. 2016 has been one thing going wrong after another…but this was a vacation! No time for complaining, time for fun! (And rolling thermarest mattresses, so much rolling of mattresses.)

Camping days: 4

Hiking miles (best estimate): 22