I'm loving that I finally made it to the national parks in UT!
You see, back in 1999, I suggested to Hubby that with the anticipated birth of our second Thing, we should go explore the various national parks in UT, while we still just had one kid to chase after. A week long adventure was planned, when just 3 days into the trip, I felt my ankle-foot pop and lo and behold, I'd broken my foot. There went that trip! And while I was wanting to make it back that way for a few years, timing never lined up such that we could get out that way during a time that the weather and crowd levels would make for an enjoyable visit.
As I started to contemplate plans for Fall Break 2018, I became determined that this would be the year we make it back to UT!
I'd also heard that the north rim of the Grand Canyon was considerably less crowded. Curious to see the canyon from the other side, we decided to make this our first stop.
While one could certainly make the trip from our house to the Jacob Lake area in one day, with an RV covering more than 300 miles or so in a day is not "best practices".
So we took our time getting there, stopping along the way to enjoy the beauty that is SW Colorado. I was pleasantly surprised to see some Fall colors still around Wolf Creek Pass and Pagosa Springs. With snow in the forecast, it was likely we caught the last glimpse of color for this year.
First stop: Friday, 10.12.18, Lathrop State Park in Walsenburg, CO
Our morning view as we left the campground
The Spanish Peaks...back in the day this was an important landmark along the Santa Fe Trail..when this area of the state belonged to Mexico.
The view soon after crossing Wolf Creek Pass, heading into Pagosa Springs.
2nd stop: Navajo National Monument on Navajo Native Land in Northern AZ
Bonus points for scoring free camping!
Post visit Impression: This is no place to bring an RV with a tow vehicle. Parking is extremely limited and some of the turns are very tight. There is a campground within the park, but in speaking to the ranger, very few of the sites can accommodate a moderated sized RV such as ours. Instead, I'd suggest leaving the RV on the free BLM land near the park entrance and explore in just the side car. Another lesson to remember for October visits, you lose the sun, you lose the heat in mid-October. At over 8k elevation, the ride back to the campsite was indeed very brisk.
Many of the park services would be closing that week as the park itself is not open through the winter months. Cell phone coverage is spotty throughout the park and all but non-existent as one travels from Jacob's Lake south into the park boundary area.
In all honesty, I can't really say that this side offered better or even different views. But, I did appreciate that the sights/trails/crowd level made it all possible to see given the limited amount of time that we'd allocated for this portion of our trip. No need to plan a return trip as I feel like we've been there-done that when it comes to all things Grand Canyon. (although seeing it with some snow might still be worth a drive by if ever in the area)
The view leaving the BLM land where we camped outside of the park entrance.
More free camping on BLM land at Sheep Bridge Road, just outside of Laverkin, UT
From there, we headed over to Zion for what amounted to not much more than a drive-through exploration. In order to visit the bulk of the park, visitors are required to use the park provided shuttle service.
I take that back on the "crowd" comment.
Post visit Impression: I would like to return to Zion and spend more time exploring the trails and the inner reaches of the canyon. October offered good weather and fewer crowds so I'm hopeful we can return to this area again.
Next stop was Bryce.
We knew before getting there that snow was forecasted for the following day.
With that in mind, we did the full drive while the sun was shining.
A bit brisk at some of the view points...a sure sign that weather changes were on their way!
Day 2 turned out to be my favorite day of our entire adventure.
We took a morning stroll in the snow, took a brief ride in the side car and finished up with a second hike that led us down to the Queens Garden. In addition to the exploring, I also found myself curled up with a cup of tea, a good book and a super soft blanket. You can easily see why this became my "perfect day"!
Post visit impressions: Just shy of 2 full days in the park, we were able to see all the major highlights of the park. While nicer weather would have allowed us to hike a bit further at a faster pace, I suspect it would have also led to more people on the trails. I enjoyed having the trails pretty much to ourselves, and I could go as slow as I felt necessary and didn't worry about being in the way of others.
This park appeared pretty popular with the tourist crowd. On our 2nd evening in the park, I believe I counted 7 parked tour buses with more international tourists doing the selfie poses.
That alone brought back some flashbacks to our own travels in Alaska this summer and I thought to myself, "Thanks, but I'll pass" in terms of traveling by way of bus.
Cell phone coverage was limited within the actual campground. However, by staying at Sunset View campground, we were centrally located to walking paths that I could explore while hubby stayed behind and tinkered on our smaller generator that was being difficult. The park service runs the campgrounds and while there were no hook ups, the location was perfect, the site was ample in size and I believe we were one of only about 5 other units in the campground on the 2nd evening. $30/night. A fair trade off for the "convenience" of being within the park boundaries.
When the caution signs warn of "open range"...believe them!
Yikes: Imagine what this road was like the day before somewhere along UT-72
After a few hours while we waited for roadside assistance, our wallet just a tad lighter after replacing 2 tires, we found ourselves arriving just as the sun set, back in the home state of CO.
I'm feeling at a loss for words as I pause to reflect on all the loss that has occurred this past month. The horrific tragedy in Pittsburgh this past weekend, an online friend's husband sudden death earlier in the month and another friend learning that her employer has filed for bankruptcy and she must find another job after 20+ years with the same company. It's hard to see so many people hurting and worried.
I pride myself on knowing what to say, and almost as important, knowing when to say something. But right now, nothing comes to mind. And that's an unsettling feeling for me. So instead, I will reflect on this sentiment.
I am needing: to act-show-prove. Act on those thoughts and plans. Show my family and friends how much they mean to me. And well, prove to my boss that I am critical to the success of the team, which I suppose means I should wrap up this post and get back to work.
Until next time...