Tag Archives: hiking

And Yet Another Car Insurance Claim

If you are new to the blog, this is a post recap of a 3 week road trip my boyfriend Louie and I took last summer. I know it’s been awhile since then, but I wanted to share it with you and for myself. I’m deep into planning for this year’s vacation, and already brainstorming next year (Glacier and Yellowstone are top of the list) so I figured I’d finally get this done. Or closer. So much to tell you!

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

Entering the Fiery Furnace

A Night Off the Ground

The Only Good Forest is a Petrified Forest

What the Heck is a Hoodoo?

We had a reservation at Watchman Campground in Zion for two nights. It was a “walk-in” site, which mean we’d park a little ways away from the campsite. I thought this would be cool, for less traffic sounds, though, it would mean, more carrying things.

Since we were coming in from the East, we came in through the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway and would have to (get to) go through the Tunnel there.

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Somehow the landscape had already completely changed from where we were earlier in the day. Unbelievable. Anyway, after you enter the park, you go through a 1 mile tunnel, and then the view just opens up into this incredible scenery, with terrifying switchback turns and places to pull over and breathtakingly try to capture it all on photo, which of course we did.

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Anyway, we got to the “camp” area of the park, and smugly drove past all the “campground full” signs to check in for our TWO NIGHT reservation. Unbelievable, right? We wouldn’t have to put the tent back up the next night! IMG_6091

Now here I just can’t remember, did we set up camp first and then go in search of sightseeing opportunities, or the other way around? I can’t recall, but I’m guessing so as that is very much my style.

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I took all the tent photos on my phone to instagram them. And most of the other photos were on a point and shoot Canon I have. It’s probably not as good as the phone camera, ha, but it’s got a strap and is definitely better to whip out on the trail.

The campsite was just a bit set back, and quite near other “walk-in” campsites, but ours was in the back, near some trees and a mountain. A deer was hanging out nearby as we set up camp. We had our own bear box so we loaded that up with things that bears like. (Remember, the bear box is SAFE from bears.)

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And then we caught a shuttle near the visitor’s center. I was getting pretty hot, so we rode a bit, and then decided to get out and walk on an easy trail back to the camp, the Pa’rus Trail.

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As you can see, Zion is pretty beautiful. It’s far lusher than the other places, and I guess some might call it God’s Country, hence all the religious names. That picture really has it all, doesn’t it?

We decided to go out for dinner. Something we had learned about Zion is that there is a brewpub right nearby! We just had to walk out of the campground, over a short bridge over the river, and boom! There was a small shopping area with the Zion Brewing Company.

It was nice to sit and have a sandwich and a beer and relax. We were happy to not cook, and then we were happy to go back to the campsite and relax.

The next morning we woke up early to catch the shuttle to get out to hike to Observation Point. Leslie had said she thought this was the best hike in Zion, even though most people talked about Angel’s Landing. (I was terrified of Angel’s Landing, as there is a part with chains to hold onto so you don’t fall to your death, so we were postponing it).  We got going quite early, as was our habit, and in retrospect, we were extra glad. The hike started out with a huge climb, but the views were really worth it the whole time. (Did I say that at the time? Probably not. Probably I complained a lot.)

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The higher we climbed, the better the views were! There were some scary parts for me, but I stayed on the inside and kept moving and it was manageable. (I have a terrible fear of heights.)

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And then we finally got to the top, where we rested and had our lunch. WHAT a view! We were higher than Angel’s Landing (that’s right) and could see such a long way.

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Then the clouds started rolling in, and we thought, we’d better get back down.

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So we headed down, and the storm didn’t hit until we were very near the end. And when it hit, it hit hard. We waited for the shuttle in the pouring rain, got on the shuttle in the pouring rain, got back to camp and ran for the car, where we sat.

We were glad we’d staked the tent down well, because this was a doozy of a storm. When the hail started up, I thought the windshield was going to break. It was pouring rain, huge hail, and so windy. Thunder and lightning galore! We sat in the car, listening to the sound of the hail making dents in the car (for 15 minutes! I’m not even kidding!), and then finally the storm had passed through. We got out and surveyed the damage. At first we thought it wasn’t so bad, but then we realized, yes, the car was completely covered in hail dings.  But, the “window” the bear had taken out was still there, our tent was still standing, luckily, and seemed secure enough to withstand more.

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(This is from Capitol Reef, but you can see the duct taped window, can’t you? Zoom in.)

We moved a few things away from the edges of the tent, and decided…well, too rainy to cook. Better just go back over the “town” area and eat at the brewery.

It was a little early though, so we thought we’d get a coffee first. Keep in mind, originally we’d though we’d finish our hike and then do something else, but this storm was insane. We’d heard some huge cracks of thunder in addition to the hail, and then when we stopped to ask a ranger the forecast we heard about this: A “house-sized” boulder blocking the road several miles away! The calm river we’d walked over the day before (on a bridge) was rushing with water, with maybe only a foot of clearance.  And the road we’d driven in on the day before was closed indefinitely. And the park closed as well, which didn’t mean we couldn’t walk around, but did mean they weren’t letting any new visitors in, unless you were at the campground.

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Another storm hit while we were getting coffee, and finally we decided it was time to give up on any more sightseeing and have a drink and a burger of sorts again. We kept trying to check the weather to see what ELSE would be happening, (in case we ought to actually get out of there before nighttime) but finally decided the storms seemed to be moving through. After dinner we went back to the campground, and made sure everything was still dry enough to sleep. We were lucky, for the record. There were a few campsites that got washed away in the flash floods, but we were on high enough ground.

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The next morning, we had to get up early to pack up, and we moved the car to the visitor’s center parking lot and then caught the shuttle to hike Angel’s Landing. We decided to hike it because Louie really wanted to, and there was a place I could wait while he finished the part with the chains that I wasn’t about to do.

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This was a little scary too, some switchbacks. Not too bad though.

Anyway, we got to the place to wait, and wait I did. I even chatted with a few people—I wasn’t the only one waiting while the rest of my party did the scary part, though I was one of the only ones totally okay with it! (I felt I’d done enough things to fight my fears and was totally fine letting this one get me.) One woman brilliantly had a thermos of coffee with her and I had some.

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Louie bravely continuing on. I thought this part looked scary enough but later he’d have to go through a part where both sides of a chain had steep drop offs. Crazy.

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This little guy really wanted my peanut butter pretzels, but I wasn’t going to let him. He finally left me alone but bothered some other people. Of course I’d love to feed him but you really shouldn’t feed wild animals (besides the illegality of it, it’s bad for them.)

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and finally Louie reappeared! He didn’t die!

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He’s very brave! He said the hike was awesome and that I would have been terrified. In case you are wondering why all the pictures are of him, it’s because (ahem, ahem) the pictures of me are on his memory card/camera which he hasn’t uploaded yet!

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After that we took the shuttle back to the visitor’s center and then took one more short hike, the Archeology Trail. It wasn’t very exciting, but we did seem some really cool lizards.

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And we got a nice view of the campground from above.

Sadly, we had to leave Zion for our next destination, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We stopped in the nearby town of Springdale for supplies and lunch (Mexican!) before really hitting the road.

Nights Camping: 12

Miles Hiked (estimate): 78

What The Heck is a Hoodoo

Road Trip 2016 continued!

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

Entering the Fiery Furnace

A Night Off the Ground

The Only Good Forest is a Petrified Forest

It wasn’t too far to Bryce Canyon from Escalante State Park, and as usual, it was a beautiful drive. Seriously, there’s just no way to understand how gorgeous and amazing the land out there was if you haven’t been. Go!

So as we got closer to Bryce Canyon, I realized since we were arriving around 10 am, we should park outside the park and take the shuttle in. This was easy enough. We made lunch, packed our backpacks, filled our water, and took the shuttle. We hadn’t decided what to do yet (I tell you, it is hard to preplan for an entire 3 week trip, and I just ran out) but we quickly skimmed the newsletter (called “The Hoodoo”, which, if you aren’t sure what that is, I’ll show you in a minute) and saw a hike described as “one ultimate hike!” and knew it was the one. It was listed under strenuous and was called “The Figure 8 Combination. You combine the Queens Garden, Peekaboo Loop and Navajo Loop for a 6.4 mile hike.

Remember, it’s a canyon. Coming out is always harder! But this wasn’t like the Grand Canyon, and after hiking to the Colorado River and back, everything else seems like child’s play.

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Bryce. It’s really unbelievable. All those bits poking up are the hoodoos, and it’s what is left as the parts around them have been eroded away. (I think.) We took the shuttle to Sunrise Point and then hiked through the Queen’s Garden. This part of the trail was super crowded, but for good reason. It was absolutely beautiful and amazing, and while I know I’ve said that before I’m sitting here typing, nearly a year later, and I can remember exactly how I felt, looking around. Terrified, yes, because it was a pretty steep downhill with lots of drop offs, but amazed at the crazy pointy bits and the natural wonders that were simply unlike anything else we’d seen, and yet, here they were. What an amazing world we live in!

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Hoodoos up close!

The trail, as usual, thinned out a bit the further we got, though it was always pretty well traveled. There were lots of ups and downs, and it was certainly no picnic of a hike, but around each corner there were more breathtaking wonders. I can’t recommend this hike enough.IMG_6014

There were quite a few archways! Being a St Louisian now, I do love arches.

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The trees just add another element. You don’t see so many trees in other parts of Utah. Bryce is a higher elevation-8000 to 9000 feet, so the flora and fawna are different than other parts of Utah that we had seen. It was also cooler, which was a relief.

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At one point we sat and had a nice lunch break. There were also a few points where there were vault toilets to use, which is always a little funny—you are miles into a hike, and then you wait in line for a potentially really stinky bathroom Smile

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You can see there are some switchbacks in the hike.

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The hike took us into the early afternoon. Getting out of the canyon was a little terrifying for me, as it was a lot of not looking down and just forging ahead, and the switchbacks getting out were really crowded! But we made it without too much trouble, somehow, and then got on a shuttle bus to go back to the car.

We found an ice cream shop near the car and had a treat before we headed out to our campsite. I couldn’t reserve us a site at Bryce so I got one at Kodachrome State Park, which was about 30 minutes away.  As busy as Bryce was, there was hardly anyone at Kodachrome, and we found our tent-only loop easily enough. The only thing was there were a lot of gravel roads, and there was NOBODY else there, which was a little scary at first! But we settled in, we found the showers at a nearby electric loop, realized there WERE other people there, and then a few more parties joined our campground. All the time we could hear cows mooing, particularly the next morning, which was kind of funny.

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I wish we could have relaxed more but the next morning we were up and out of there, and went back to Bryce. It would have been great to explore Kodachrome further, but our crazy schedule didn’t allow it. We hadn’t seen all of the park, so we got there early to drive to the end of it and come back. Another way to avoid crowds is to get up early, and we did that.

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We took a nice little hike called the Bristlecone Loop and saw more of the hoodoos and the canyon, and then stopped at a few more viewpoints and the visitors center, but it was getting crowded by that point, and we were eager to get to Zion, so we headed out.

On our way to Zion, we got hungry and didn’t feel like eating out of the car, so when we saw a German Bakery/Restaurant called Forscher Bakery, it seemed just the ticket. Oh, and for some reason we ordered a pizza. It was odd, but excellent. To be continued!

Nights Camping: 10

Miles Hiked (estimate): 64

Hawn State Park and the Whispering Pines Trail

Since summers can get so busy for me (weddings and other fun work events) I decided to set aside a couple of times in order to have normal fun summer activities. This past weekend I planned a short getaway to Hawn State Park near St. Genevieve, Missouri.

We left on Friday, planning to camp two nights and hike in between and on Sunday morning. We’d wanted to bring Mackenzie (my dog) but it was pretty hot and she just doesn’t do well in the heat (too furry) so we left her at a friend’s house. Louie and I have spent a lot of time thinking about how to streamline our camping experience, and this time we’d stored everything, all the odds and ends at least, in a large plastic bin that fit in his trunk, so it was a matter of taking stuff out of the garage, removing stuff from the bin we definitely wouldn’t need, and trusting the rest was there. (It was! This method worked pretty well.) I also planned out meals for Friday night, Saturday day, and Sunday morning, along with some drinks. It was easy planning for a short trip.

Hawn is about 1 1/2 hours away and we got there by 5 pm. We picked up a bundle of firewood just outside of the park but they sold it there, along with ice, so we wouldn’t have had to. I’d reserved site 29, since I wasn’t sure how popular it would be for Father’s Day weekend. It was pretty full but not completely booked when we arrived, but you know me, I’m a planner.

One thing that struck me was just how GREEN it was there. It was a very nice campground, well maintained, and a beautiful state park.

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We set up the tent and then wandered around a little bit, checking out where the trailhead for the hike the next day was. Then we cooked a nice dinner (chili!), sat around the fire, and relaxed. It wasn’t too hot when you weren’t doing anything much, and after the sun went down it was very pleasant. There wasn’t a huge amount of privacy and some of the neighbors were a little annoying, but that’s campground camping for you. Our site was pretty, except the tent backed up to a large patch of poison ivy! Good to avoid.

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There were large wooden poles to hang up your trash on, but the raccoons can scale them. Or at least the raccoon that visited us could. He (or she) came out just after dark, and I didn’t realize until the next day that he’d stolen a plastic bowl and dropped it in the bushes. The following night after dinner he got into our trash and ate an apple core. In any case, he seemed nice, but we didn’t want to feed him!

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Posing with the tent.

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Louie hard at work chopping firewood into smaller pieces.

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My view from my chair.

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Anyway, we had a nice relaxing night, sitting around the fire chatting. We agreed it was good to get out of the world for a bit, to be disconnected and just relax. It’s refreshing when you know you are out of touch (NO service to speak of, data wise-no news, no worries!).

It rained around 6:00 am Saturday, so we waited to get up until 8 am or so. We’d planned to do earlier just to get hiking before the heat of the day, but oh well. Our neighbors were pretty loud (shockingly so for 7 am) but oh well. The good news is the loud ones left that day Smile

We wanted to hike the Whispering Pines Trail, which is 10 miles if you do the north and south loops. The author of my book, 60 hikes within 60 miles recommended starting with the Pickle Creek Trail, and I’m glad we did!

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I believe this was the Pickle Creek.

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10 miles! I forget how far that is when you are walking.

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Why yes, those are purple hiking shorts. Or eggplant, or something.

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There was almost a view. Maybe in the winter.

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So green!

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Cool water area.

IMG_7641The entire hike was buggy, and it was really hot and humid after an hour or so, and we were pretty worried about ticks (we applied liberal amounts of Deep Woods Off), but the Pickle Creek Trail was the best part! It was a nice day, a challenging hike. We packed our usual pb sandwiches for lunch, had trail mix, lots of water, and a few breaks, and by the end I was suffering, but we made it, and lived to tell the tale.

If I did this again, I don’t think I’d do both loops, and I don’t know that I’d want to hike the south loop in the summer, ever again. But in a different season it might be really nice—it was VERY overgrown and often felt like hiking in the jungle (not that I have, but I’d imagine it’s similar, wading through elbow high weeds?)

Afterwards I was thankful the campground had showers and I only found one tiny tick which had not attached itself.  The campground had very nice facilities overall—nice bathrooms (for a campground, to be clear), and there were also vault toilets, I imagine for during the winter.

We relaxed by the fire again for hours after the hike (we hiked from about 9:30 to 3:30) and then made dinner and went to bed eventually.

We were awoken by thunder around 2:30 am. A huge storm swept through, probably at least 1 hour long, of severe weather. Louie and I sat there together in the tent, worrying. There was torrential rain, loud lightning and thunder, and no way to check the radar to see what was happening. Finally it passed and we were able to get back to sleep. The tent stays pretty dry but has some vents that a little wetness gets in through on the sides near the bottom. I was worried about tornados at the time and Louie said later he was worried about a tree or branch falling on us. I told myself that I just didn’t hear of too many people dying in Missouri State Parks in storms…another lighter storm followed that one but nothing too crazy.

Anyway, when morning finally came, we decided to pack up and leave in case there were more storms coming. We didn’t think any more hiking would be very pleasant since the ground was muddy and wet, so we just headed home. It was a nice weekend getaway!

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My view from the tent: I was packed up sleeping bags and pads while Louie made coffee and oatmeal.

The only good forest is a petrified forest

This is a continuation of my trip last summer. Yes, I realize it’s June, but it’s important to me that I have a digital record of what we did, so here you go! If you have any questions about camping or traveling through Colorado or Utah, don’t hesitate to ask, I might have advice on what to do and what NOT to do.

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

Entering the Fiery Furnace

A Night Off the Ground

We left off in Torrey, Utah, after visiting Capitol Reef National Park. Now we were driving to Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, which was only about 1 1/2 hours away, to camp for one night en route to Bryce Canyon. We stopped there mostly because I wanted to see more petrified wood.

When I was a girl, my family took a long road trip through the Southwest of the US. I recall really enjoying Petrified Forest National Park, and then, this is what I really remember, finding it so entertaining that when you left the park, the rangers would ask if you had taken any wood (stone, really) with you. And of course we hadn’t, so we said no, but it wasn’t like they searched. My brother was a very creative type, and he would write hilarious short stories about a bumbling pair of small time crooks who were trying to make a few dollars by stealing petrified wood. Naturally, they always got caught, because that was how the stories ended, but they were just so funny!

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Anyway, we headed out on Route 12 to Escalante. This highway was part of the journey as well as the destination, as the guidebooks said it was pretty amazing and a must-drive. Drive we did! (Well, Louie, because driving on mountain roads freaks me out.) You are basically driving through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which my understanding is that Escalante means staircase, and the whole name of the monument is redundant…but every two minutes you will gasp because the views are just so incredible. To really explore the monument you have to backpack into it, because not too much of it is accessible by car. We weren’t spending much time here because we were on a National parks tour. But anyway! There’s places to pull over, and information about Mormon settlers and all kinds of stuff.

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We stopped in the tiny town of Boulder to get an espresso on the way. Things we did a lot of on this trip: eating ice cream, then getting sleepy and needing coffee. Odd Smile

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We made it to the campsite without much trouble, and set up our tent, took, showers (yay, rare occurrence!) and walked around. This park was by a very nice lake, but we couldn’t find a way to get down to it.

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To be fair, we didn’t try very hard, because we were busy doing other stuff too, and I was tired. (I’m assuming, I can’t remember, but I was often tired.) We were pretty relieved we seemed to be out of bear country for the time being, but we were still paranoid and frantic about bears.

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You can see the lake in the background. It was a lovely location (site W116), and the campground was really nice. Individual shower areas, a covered picnic table, clean bathrooms, and enough privacy. There were a ton of European families driving rented RV’s, as was the norm in Utah (at least while we were there. I worry this summer will be different.)

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The next morning we got up and took a short hike from the campground, called the Petrified Forest Trail. We saw some nice rabbits and large rabbits (jackrabbits?) and lots of petrified wood, which I love. I think the hike was about 1 1/2 miles, and not too challenging, but very nice. IMG_5965

We didn’t take any petrified wood, and the signs seemed to indicate doing so would bring bad luck! In any case, if you took some, and everybody else took some, there would be none left to look at.

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We didn’t want to dawdle long (I think we left around 9 am), so we headed to Bryce Canyon, which was about 1 hour away! To be continued…

Nights Camping: 9

Miles Hiked (estimate): 56

Favorite Camping Meal: Couscous, tuna and white beans, green peas, beer

A Night off the Ground

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

After leaving Arches, we headed to Capitol Reef National Park. Capitol Reef is definitely one of the less visited parks—I’d never heard of it before starting to research this trip, and I suspect many of you haven’t either.

Capitol Reef was an odd park. There’s beautiful landscapes—the park is based on something called the Waterpocket Fold which caused most of its unusual features. But there’s also large amounts of Mormon history and historical buildings.

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On our drive from Arches to Capitol Reef, we were trying to get a handle on what to expect, and we just couldn’t. This park took a little getting used to. At first I thought maybe it had too much of an identity crisis…but in retrospect, much like this blog Winking smile Capitol Reef was interesting and amazing because of all the different things it had to offer.

The park was free to enter, and in fact the only time one needed to pay was on the Scenic Drive. Our National Parks pass covered it, but it was definitely a good deal. We made a few stops and looked at various sights, natural and historical, went to the visitor’s center, and drove on the scenic drive. There was a gravel road Louie wanted to check out, but it looked like it was going to storm and I made him agree to wait until the next day.

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The area looked like it had been strip mined in places, but this was all natural. Very crazy to look at, and different from the other parts of Utah we’d seen. It had certain similarities of course(it looked more like Canyonlands that Missouri does…), and especially to Colorado National Monument, but had its own feel.

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I’d reserved a small cabin for the night in the border town of Torrey. The campground in the park was non-reservation, and while it turned out it wasn’t full, we were happy to have beds for the night! Before leaving the park for the evening we bought a homemade fruit pie at the historic Gifford House. That was definitely a weird thing, that there are orchards (started by the Mormon settlements) in the National Park AND that there was handmade pie for sale. We figured we’d go out to dinner and eat it afterwards.

We checked into the cabin at Torrey Trading Post. Torrey is a very small town just a few miles out of Capitol Reef. The cabin was around the side of a small store, post office, and a few private residences. We had to share bathrooms with the other few cabins (2 or 3 others) but as there were the nicest bathrooms we’d seen in awhile, it was no hardship! We took showers (ahhhh) and did laundry at a small laundromat across the street, while relaxing. There was a TELEVISION in the cabin, and Louie and I were able to watch some of the Olympics while looking at things on the internet through wi-fi. You really start to love amenities when you’ve been camping awhile!

After the laundry was done we went to Café Diablo for dinner. It was highly recommended by guidebooks and Trip Advisor and we definitely enjoyed it. The Rattlesnake cakes seemed to be the thing to order for an appetizer, and we both got various fish entrees. The chef seemed to be a really creative guy, to the point of being a little ridiculous, but it was a fun meal and we enjoyed it.

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Our view from the table wasn’t too bad either.

After dinner we relaxed and shared the pie—strawberry rhubarb. Unfortunately the rhubarb wasn’t as well cooked as it should have been, but otherwise it was an excellent pie. The cabin had a little picnic table and we hung out outside for a bit and tried to angle properly to watch the sunset. It was kind of funny because there were kids who seemed to live there (it was a family owned business) running around and adults moving vehicles and yelling at each other, and there we were, on our vacation.

I slept GREAT. Sleeping in a bed was amazing.

The next morning we had a bit of a snafu. Louie had noticed that the doorknob to the cabin was a little funny, but when he returned from the bathroom first thing in the morning, we realized I was stuck in the cabin and he was stuck outside. We were having a conversation through the open window about what to do when the owner’s son heard us and called out his window did we need help. Why yes, or at least a screwdriver. After a bit of finagling (and Louie climbing IN the window to help take the door knob off) we got the door open. We were checking out soon, so we didn’t get a new knob at that time. The man was very apologetic, and we did understand. After all, we were well used to disasters! It was pretty ridiculous though, I felt. Here we were, NOT camping on the ground subject to the elements and wildlife and still managed to have a snafu.

After that excitement we headed for breakfast at the Capitol Reef Café. This was a super cute place and also advertised rooms for pretty cheap. All of Torrey was very cute, and we’d stay there again—people were friendly, and it was a VERY small town. I wouldn’t want to live there, but I would spend a few more nights on vacation happily. There was just something about the town that we both really liked—it was small, friendly, and a bit cheesy and touristy but in a totally fun way.

After a good breakfast with potatoes and veggies and eggs, it was time to hike. We started with the Chimney Rock Trail, a 3.6 mile round trip hike. The trailhead was fairly empty, except while we were getting ready at least two or three other groups were too. Meaning, all of us were leaving for the hike at the exact same time, which was sort of annoying. We managed to separate out eventually, and had a great time—the best part of seeing the parks has ALWAYS been getting on the trail.

Small soapbox: I’m a huge National Parks lover, as you can tell. But people say, oh, I don’t like all the crowds, I prefer to go to {insert place} and that means more to me. Well, of course you are entitled to your opinion—differences in opinion are important! But, if you think National Parks are simply crowded, just pick a hike rated “strenuous” or even “medium” or, that is more than 1 to 2 miles long, and you’ll get every inch of solitude you wanted, I promise! Especially at a less popular park, but even at the popular ones, like Yellowstone and Rocky Mountain, you get a lot of solitude on the trail. (Grand Canyon, I’m sure it’s only true off the main trails, but it’s still well worth doing, because there is a reason those trails are so popular.)

But I digress. The Chimney Rock trail was fantastic.

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I realized this was a piece of petrified wood! Wood that has turned to rock. Don’t ask me to explain how, but you can google it Winking smile

After that hike we went and hiked on the Grand Wash Trail. This was at the end of the gravel/dirt road I’d mentioned earlier. The sun was coming out and it was getting hot by this time.

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We probably added another 4 miles on that hike. I didn’t enjoy it as much—I think I don’t drink enough water when it’s hot and sunny. In any case, after the hike we had some lunch out of the cooler (I believe hummus and pita chips and fruit, we did that a lot, or peanut butter sandwiches, or bagels for lunch) AND we splurged and got another pie. This one was mixed berry and we also got ice cream and coffee to go with it.

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We enjoyed our food outside the Gifford House and relaxed.

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And on that note, I’m going to leave off here. Our next stop would be a campground in Escalante-Petrified Forest State Park, en route to Bryce Canyon. I’m not going to lie, I wished we were staying in the cabin another night, and I wished I’d made a slower itinerary…but looking back, it’s really amazing all the stuff we saw, all the places we went, and what we were capable of! Does that sound crazy?

(And next vacation we are spending like 3 days minimum at each place…Winking smile  and I suppose I should stop complaining about something that I brought upon us myself!)

Nights Camping: 8

Miles Hiked (estimate): 55

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