We were both up early and were on the road before 9am. I slept pretty well last night despite the heat, possibly because I was tired from all of the activity at the Rally.
The begining of our drive was thru a valley irrigated by the Colorado River. It is always a little surreal to see the intense green of the agriculture along the river as you travel thru a vast desert. Right before the Utah line we left the Colorado River valley and were treated to a couple of hundred miles of spectacular Utah vistas.
As we were driving thru Utah we were discussing the difference between the views in Utah and in Colorado. Both states are justly famous for their natural beauty, and though they are next to each other the difference couldn’t be starker. Colorado is about green snow capped mountains stretching off forever. Utah is about rugged desert mountains with erosion carved pinnacles. After some discussion we both agreed that we preferred Utah.
Tonight we are at a campground in a canyon above Cedar City. When we arrived the outside temperature in Scout showed 104 degrees so we wimped out and are staying in a commercial campground and running our AC.
After things cooled down we took a short walk to a man made waterfall near the campground. It is also apparently the local swimming hole as a bunch of teens were cooling off in the water. It was still in the high 80’s so we headed back to Scout to rest for the evening.
While Elephant did not move today, we all did. When planning the trip Ron was very skeptical about visiting Bryce Canyon this time of year. But, the weather the last 10 days has been spectacular, so we decided to take a 300 mile roundtrip to Bryce in a rental car.
Bryce is Ron’s second favorite National Park. Because of the time crunch we limited ourselves to the Navajo trail, and sunrise and sunset point areas. We also stopped in the Red Canyon as we entered the park. As the weather was almost perfect it was another great day in Bryce Canyon.
Glen Canyon was also very beautiful even though we did not spend any appreciable time there. Ton said that we need to come back and spend some more time in the future.
After an early wakeup we had two options for camping today, in the park they had availability in the dry campground, right outside of the park there is a commercial campground, after discussing the bathroom situation we opted for the commercial park as the park service is closing all of the bathrooms today for the winter.
We decided to head into the park before checking in at the campground. We took the bus to the Temple of Sinawatra to start the day. About half way down the trail Noi was a couple hundred yards ahead of everyone else when we came upon her talking to four people. It turns out it was two Thai couples from Hawaii and California. Everyone joined in the conversation. Ron and Dr. Dragon (that is the English translation of his name) were talking as they had both recently retired from the military, (Ron’s official retirement date was his 60th birthday). Dr. Dragon had been a Captain in the US Navy, at some point Ron mentioned that Dang had also retired from the Thai Navy. Captain Dragon then pointed at the wife in the other couple and said she had also been a Doctor in the Thai Navy. Dang and Doctor Jin began talking and it turned out they had attended the Thai equivalent of Officers Candidate School together. It is a small world when two people from Thailand can renew an acquaintance from 40 years ago in the middle of a canyon in Utah! A walk that should of taken an hour turned into three hours as a lot of catching up had to be done. At the end we agreed to meet for dinner in the evening.
Ron’s stealth run to the brewery was busted when one of his credit cards turned up missing in the morning. Everyone was worried and turning the truck upside down looking for it. After dropping Dang and Noi off for shopping at the visitors center, and another run into the park Ron was forced to confess that he had left it at the pub, and he and Ton went to retrieve it.
While Noi and Dang were making a second run into the park, Ron and Ton took care of getting Elephant settled for the day, and took a little breather. In the evening we had a very nice Mexican dinner with our new (old) friends from Thailand!
Noi was up before the crack of dawn for some sunrise shots, while Dang, Ton and Ron slept in until about 7am. After Noi returned we had a fairly long drive to Zion. On the way out of Grand Canyon we stopped at a few sites for some more pictures.
We arrived in Zion about 3pm and like Grand Canyon we were able to get full hookups for the first day and then we will have to figure out what to do for tomorrow. After arrival the three Thai women made a reconnaissance run on the bus up into the Canyon.
Ron elected to stay behind and rest his ribs. After a while he decided to make a stealth run to a brewery in town to check out the local beers, and to scout for a place to watch the Timbers tomorrow.
After another long day we had a late meal and everyone turned in. The plan is to head up the canyon early tomorrow after relocating the truck to another campground.
We are making a quick pass thru Monument Valley. We managed an early start to the day to cover the 140 miles to Monument Valley in time for Dang, Jeap, and Noi to do a Jeep tour of the valley. Ron and Ton stayed behind as the women decided Ron’s ribs were not up to a rough road.
On the way in we swung thru Gooseneck State Park which is a famous place where the San Juan river makes several 90 degree turns in a short area.
The tour was a great success and lots of pictures were taken. The guide was a Navajo women named Hope which was interesting as almost every other guide is male. She brought a different experience to the tour.
After the tour we were sitting on a balcony in the visitors center waiting for sunset, when a couple of small birds landed in a bush in front of us. Dang said that they were sparrows, and Ron with great confidence told her it was not a sparrow. About the same time a Navajo sitting next to us said that it was not a sparrow. He had been there for a few minutes doing pencil drawings of the valley. After a couple of minutes of looking at the birds I saw him take out his phone and open a bird app. After a couple of minutes he smiled looked up and said it is a sparrow, a Barrel Sparrow to be exact. Chock one up to Dang and Thailand over an American and a native living in the valley!
Darrin told us he was a guide and asked if he could answer any questions. We spent an hour or so talking to him about the Navajo, Monument Valley, and the surrounding area. He was a fountain of knowledge and clearly incredibly proud of his tribe, and heritage. On top of that his sister is a graduate of Oregon State living in Eugene with her husband a graduate of University of Oregon, so as he said his nephews are platypuses. For non-Oregonians that means a product of parents of the two universities whose mascots are the ducks and the beavers.
The day started with Ron and Ton heading into town to try to pick up some prescriptions for Ron. But after waiting around awhile for Ron’s doctor from Oregon to contact the pharmacy in Moab we decided to head back to get Noi, Jeap, and Dang.
The women headed back to Arches for some follow up photos and another shopping spree at the visitors center. They had strict instructions to return by five as the pharmacy closed at six.
They completed everything and were back at Elephant in plenty of time to head into town to fill the prescription and take care of some laundry.
The day ended simply with some cheeseburgers and a salad. The cheeseburgers were a hit as everything tastes better when grilled outside.
We were up before the crack of dawn to head into Arches for sunrise. Ron had a very uncomfortable night sleeping from his fall the other day, and was beginning to wonder if there was more damage than he thought initially.
We hit all of the highlights of Arches and sunrise was spectacular. Near the end of the day Jeap and Noi decided they wanted to hike about 4 miles to Delicate Arch for sunset photos. Ron’s discomfort from his fall a couple of nights ago was still pretty intense so while they did that Dang, Ton and Ron headed to the urgent care clinic in Moab.
After some poking and prodding and X-rays it turns out that Ron has three broken ribs, which explains the discomfort he was feeling. Unfortunately there is nothing to do about broken ribs but rest so he will be soldiering on.
Jeap and Noi set personal records for steps during the day at 27,000, and got some great photos.
Primarily a driving day again today. It was a little farther than thought it would be to Moab from Ogden, and we had to pass long ways thru Salt Lake City which was not fun Elephant.
Our first stop in Moab was to pick up the rental car. After getting the car (with a nice upgrade from what we ordered from Enterprise) we headed into our packed KOA in Moab.
Ron was a little stiff and sore from his tumble yesterday, plus he and Noi were still fighting the effects of colds. After settling in we headed to bed early as we are planning to be in Arches NP for sunrise and sunset tomorrow.
Today was another driving day. After a slow start to the day we headed down the road. The first and only stop for the day was at the Costco in Pocatello ID to stock up on supplies and to boost the economy of Idaho with some purchases for Thailand.
For the night we stayed at Willard Bay State Park. It was located right on the Great Salt Lake. It turned out to be a nice place to stay and convenient. We had a nice grill out and dinner despite having to fend off some mosquitos.
We decided to repeat our plan in Moab of renting a car and leaving Elephant stationary for the visit. Something made Ron decide to call ahead to get a reservation. Good thing as there was a mountain bike race, and a long school weekend going on in Utah. It took calling five places before we got the last spot in the KOA in Moab. The price is a little bit of a rip off but there was no choice.
One problem for the night was Ron fell going to the bathroom at night and landed pretty hard. There is a little step down from the bedroom in Elephant and Ron missed the step. There was some moaning and groaning but he was able to get up and get back to bed.
Today was a day to explore Zion. After a relaxing morning we headed to the river walk with Pae and Supachai. It is a easy walk beside the Virgin River towards an area called the Narrows. It was a very pretty walk that seemed easy after the walks the previous couple of days.
We had signed up earlier in the day for a two hour ranger talk. It was quite fun and interesting and as usual the Ranger did a good job and was very well prepared.
At the end of the tour we said good bye to Pae and Supachai. Ton and I would like to thank them for a great time, and we really enjoyed their company.
Today we shifted base to Zion. We had agreed to meet Pae and Supachai at the hotel so we had a pretty early start so we could dump our tanks. When we got to the dump station we had an international dump station party with a couple from Germany, and England. With some cooperation we were all able to get out of there pretty quickly.
The drive to Zion was an uneventful 70 miles. Our next target was to get into a campground in Zion. Given how busy Bryce was we were pretty pessimistic about getting into one of the Park Campgrounds. When we pulled into the station to pay the entrance fee they had a sign saying both campgrounds were full. We decided to check anyway as it was still before noon hoping someone left. When we pulled into the South Campground the campground host waived us down and we were expecting the worst. But she told us this was our lucky day because we could have their last spot if we wanted it. Of course we did and jumped in. After setting up we headed into town to have a quick Thai lunch.
Zion was very busy and the bus system they have in place was overwhelmed. But we were able to go up and hike the Emerald Pools Trail. What a difference 70 miles can make. When we woke in Bryce in the morning it was 40 degrees, and when we went to hike the Emerald Pools Trail it was 93 degrees. We took it easy and it was well worth the trip.
We called it a day a little early as Pae and Supachai were staying in a hotel about 50 miles from the park. Ton and I enjoyed a relaxing sunset from our campsite to call it a day.
Today was spent exploring the park. This was Ton and my third trip to the park. Our son Dylan had worked here one summer so we have a special relationship with the park. We were surprised how busy the park was, we expected that it would be on a shoulder season, but all of the facilities were full. We were lucky to get a spot in the campground.
We began with a drive on the 18 mile loop stopping at all of the pull outs and taking a bunch of photos of the hoodoos and the other scenery. For us it was still quite beautiful the third time thru, for Pae and Supachai they seemed to really enjoy the experience. To make up for missing the Bristlecone Pines at Great Basin we hiked the Bristlecone trail here and saw some, though apparently not as old as the ones at Great Basin. We also hiked the Queens and Navajo Trail loop. Ton and I had never done the Navajo trail and we were glad we did, when it was done!. We climbed out on the Navajo trail and it was quite steep, but worth it. The park service here has put in a program where if you hike three trails totaling 4 miles you get a prize. You prove it by taking pictures of markers on the trail. Ton and Pae were very proud of their pins.
We finished out the day by attending two astronomy talks. The first was on the history of astronomy and it was standing room only, probably over two hundred people. Bryce has the reputation as the best place in the US to stargaze and they set up 5 telescopes in the visitor center parking lot. Again their was an amazing amount of people there, but the views were awesome.
We had decided to meet at Bryce Canyon. After a quick start in the morning Ton and I decided to do some shopping while we waited for traffic in Salt Lake City to die down. We topped off the refrigerator and added a couple of six packs of Utah’s finest microbrews.
The drive to Bryce Canyon was uneventful. By the time we all had settled in we decided to head over to the park to Sunrise Point. Ton and I had been here a couple of times when Dylan worked at Bryce Canyon, but it was Pae and Supachai’s first time and they were blown away. After spending an hour or so taking pictures we headed back into town as we had signed up to attend a concert in Bryce City. I did not have high expectations, but it was quite good. The Utah parks are always full of Europeans on vacation and they did a fun thing at the concert, as they seated everyone they asked them where they were from, and at the beginning of the concert they hung flags representing all of the countries in attendance. Somehow they had missed a large group of Welsh who let them know they were there and the team on stage were able to fetch a Welsh flag right away to big cheers. The three Thai in our group were proud that Thailand was the only Asian country tonight.
At our table we had a German couple who have moved to Vancouver BC, and a Finnish couple who are on a three week Bus trip. The concert of Western traditional music was quite good and the group presenting did a great job of representing the US. Everyone had a good time.
Today we finished the drive to Salt Lake City. First we checked in at the Air Force Base outside of town to get a spot, luckily we went there first as we got the last spot they had. We had a little time so we went by the shopping on the base and walked around a bit to see what they had.
Later we met Pae and Supachai at Squatters Pub Brewery downtown. We were hoping to visit this brewery and were pleasantly surprised when they called us and told us to meet them there. Ton and I had always skipped downtown Salt Lake City as we were a little nervous about parking downtown, but it turned out to be no problem as things were quiet on a rainy Sunday.
After a couple of beers Pae wanted to see the Great Salt Lake so we headed out to a state park near Saltair. The view of the lake was nice and we also got a good view of the largest copper mine in the US. Pae tasted the water and determined it was very salty.
We ended the day by heading to Cathedral Square which is the center of the Mormon Religion. It was quite impressive with lots of large buildings surrounded by well maintained gardens, and statues of prominent people and events in the religion.
Today was supposed to be a travel day heading west to Great Basin National Park in Nevada. Ton felt sorry for me and let me sleep in so we were late getting going. We were hoping to cover about 300 miles today but ended up covering only about 140 miles due to the scenery and an unexpected stop at Capitol Reef NP.
Ton really loves Utah. She thinks it is the most beautiful state in the United States. So today every time we had to make a decision about picking the road that was going to allow us to go fast or the road that was going to be pretty, we ended up on the pretty one. Today the pretty road was Utah 95 which was marked as a scenic highway and it lived up to it’s billing. If you ever have a chance give it a drive as every curve on the road seemed to open up a new stunning vista, with a lot of diversity in formations, color, and size.
As we were driving we noticed that one of our options passed thru Capitol Reef National Park. As we drove up to the park the sun was finally out and the colors were spectacular. Interestingly since we have been in Utah it has generally been overcast with occasional rain showers and has caused Ton problems with her pictures. We decided to do the 20 mile scenic drive with a thought of then heading further west. Well three hours and two dirt scenic roads later we pulled into a spotless campground at the park for the night. Since we stopped a little earlier than normal we had some time to socialize. Our neighbor was a German driving a Fiat based camper he had shipped over two years ago. He spends 6 months here and then flies home for a while. Sounds like a plan for me. Later a couple of folks came by to check out Scout and we gave them the quick tour. Everywhere we go we get tons of positive comments. I was pleased to hear from our German neighbor that he thought Scout would be great in Europe, not too big, but capable of going anywhere.
Today was a fun day for us. We drove the 17 mile Monument Valley road. Ron was talking about how Scout allowed us to explore back roads that we would not be able to do in our Sprinter when we were passed by Hyundai Elantra rental car! Anyway the drive is everything we expected it to be, and the formations in Monument Valley are among the more picturesque we have seen in a short area.
In the morning as we were packing up for the day our neighbor came over and told us that we really needed to also visit the Valley of the Gods. It is a 17 mile gravel road maintained by the Bureau of Land Management, and I enjoyed it more than Monument Valley. The mountains and land forms are not as picturesque as Monument Valley but I think overall are just as spectacular. We stopped about half way and had a picnic with stunning scenery for 360 degrees.
By the time we had finished those two drives we had to make a decision whether to return to Monument Valley for the night or to push west until we were tired, ultimately we decided to go west and as we were driving we saw signs for Natural Bridges National Monument so we decided to make that the target for the night. I am glad we did as it was a clean facility that made a really favorable first impression. The campground was small and spotless and we got a really pretty site. The three natural bridges were impressive.