Spring Break for Miles + loads of vacation for me = Southern Utah road trip! With Jean recently starting a new job she was not able to come along this time, since she was staying home with Willow we could visit the National Park (where pets typically aren’t allowed past the parking lot). Our trip was quickly cut short by two days due to the end of season hockey party and Easter. A broken garage door spring made packing challenging, but we were loaded up with a week’s worth of stuff, a rough plan, and hit the road Sunday morning….
Sunday we were on the road by 7am. We took just a couple gas, bathroom, and Subway stops arriving at Arches National Park around 2pm. It was surprisingly cloudy and the wind had a chill. First stop was the visitor center for a Jr Ranger activity book. We stopped at Park Ave for the views, hiked around Balanced Rock, then over to the very popular Double Arch, and around the Windows (the sight of Miles one and only temper tantrum when he was 1.5yrs old). We had fun taking pictures and fortunately the sky decided to clear up. Back out of the park we found a camping spot along Willow Springs Road right next to where we camped last Spring. It was pretty windy which made setting up the tent and grilling a challenge, then early to bed glad that we brought my 4-season tent and our warm sleeping bags. The windy completely stopped as soon as the sun set.
Monday we awoke to a chilly morning after a fantastic night’s sleep. I made us coffee, hot chocolate, and oatmeal in the tent’s vestibule while Miles stayed toasty warm diggin’ the -5 degree sleeping bag. Soon we packed up and headed back to Arches to beat most of the crowd to Delicate Arch. We checked out Wolfe Ranch and continued along the 1.5 mile trail up slickrock then around an exposed rock ledge before Delicate Arch appears out of nowhere. So amazing!! We took in the scenery from several vantage points and waited our turn for a picture under the arch. Masses of people were hiking up and we stopped at the Rock Art Panel back near the parking lot. Moab was insane, as expected, and we filled up with gas and headed south towards Monument Valley. The 3 hour drive went by fast and the views just kept getting better and better, especially around the San Juan River. The next few days would be all new terrain for me. I thought Monument Valley would be a couple viewing areas, but WOW… it was awesome!!! Amazing views of the famous “Mittens”, and then an 18 mile drive around the area. So cool. We took lots of black and white photos, then drove just outside of the Indian reservation for our camping spot at Gouldings. Miles was disappointed when he saw the RV’s, but ecstatic when he heard there was a pool! Another chilly evening of grilled dinner then early into the tent. Miles quickly finished the few remaining pages of Harry Potter, since there was wifi we watched part of the Dukes of Hazard movie.
Tuesday morning started off with another chilly morning and a great night’s sleep. I made eggs for Miles and breakfast scrambler for me. Same routine of packing up and hittin’ the road, this time towards Capitol Reef National Park. Highway 261 had switchbacks right up a cliff-face and highway 95 was a gorgeous drive along the upper edges of Glen Canyon. WOW! Hard to keep my eyes on the road during the 3.5hr drive. Entering Capitol Reef National Park we stopped to hike to Hickman Bridge for a good leg-stretchin’, then stopped at the visitor center for another Jr Ranger book. Along the scenic drive the canyon walls were tall and colorful, but the park didn’t seem as dramatic as Arches…. Until we got to the end of the road. Miles suggested we drive along the dirt road along Capitol Gorge and things got cool in here…. The canyon narrowed and the walls were sky-high. We hiked back through the canyon to the rock wall while pioneers scratched their names then up to The Tanks. Good stuff! Back to the truck then to Fruita CG next to the orchards where we had the very last site reserved. I got in trouble from Miles for not bringing along firewood or marshmallows, so we drove a few miles to the nearest town for both. It was a much warmer and no wind night, so we hung around the campfire talking about all sorts of goofy stuff. I was getting chocked up thinking about what a fun time I was having with Miles and hoping that he would always remember this trip.
Wednesday morning was our usual routine (including not changing clothes, as we promised each other) and packed up to start the 3hr drive to Bryce Canyon. At this point, Miles had a “command center” in the backseat with all of his stuff surrounding him and plenty of empty snack wrappers. The scenery changed quite a bit as we went up and over Boulder Pass along highway 12 with plenty of snow, aspens, and Colorado-esque views. Then down through the spectacular Grand Staircase and Escalante area, at one point the road went along a narrow ridge with monster drops on both sides. We stopped to see my buddy Wayne and his girlfriend in the town of Escalante and spent about an hour catching up on each other’s lives. A short distance later we were entering Bryce Canyon National Park. Since the only open loop of the North CG wasn’t full yet, we nabbed one of the last couple spots then headed out exploring. Being at higher altitude it was a bit cold and windy. Parking at Sunrise Point was a mess but the views are amazing. I was completely blown away by how beautiful this place is. After dozens of pictures we hiked down Queen’s Garden through all of the unique hoodoo’s and up the Navajo Trail. I could do that hike every day! AMAZING! Back at the truck we drove along the scenic drive to the very windy Rainbow Point, then stopped at several of the viewpoints (Inspiration Point was the best) on the way back to camp. Set up camp, cook dinner, Miles worked on Jr Ranger pages. Another chilly and windy night so we retired to the tent early, but were able to listen to the Flyers/Avs game (which I missed since I completely screwed up the dates!)
Thursday started as a 27 degree morning! Miles stayed huddled in the warm tent while I made us breakfast. The last requirement for his Jr Ranger badge here was to attend a Ranger Talk. The first one was at 11am so we watched the visitor center movie, then hiked from Sunset Point to Inspiration Point and back. The talk was very informative about the wild geology of the area. We grabbed Subway (Miles has a new love for meatball subs) on the drive west and did the easy two hour drive to the east entrance of Zion. As expected, the campgrounds were full, so we reserved a spot just outside the park for $44 (yikes!). First stop was Canyon Overlook trail on the east side of the tunnel to stretch the legs and take in the awesome views. I told Miles all about how Eric and I ran 48 miles across the park the last time I was here. Through the engineering marvel from 1930 tunnel and towards the visitor center, it was ridiculously crowded and cars were parked all over the sides of the road. We luckily got a parking spot as someone was pulling out then it was right to get a Jr Ranger book. Since Miles took such an active part in planning this trip and deciding what we were going to do I let him decide our day, which revolved around Jr Ranger activities! We had to get to the museum before it closed at 4pm, the line for the shuttle took nearly 30 minutes, but luckily we got to the museum just at the start of the 3:30pm movie. Whew. Next was stops at the Zion Lodge for snacks on the lawn and the Grotto where we enjoyed the short hike to the Weeping Wall. The massive red canyon walls always amaze me at Zion. We shuttled back to the visitor center and drove to camp with just enough sunlight left to setup the tent and make dinner. It was a calm night so we used the rest of our firewood and pondered ways for Miles to fly.
Friday started as another frosty 27 degree morning and our last night camping (Miles set a PR by camping 5 nights in a row). Packed up and off to the visitor center where Miles earned his fourth Jr Ranger badge, I bought him a couple presents for being such an awesome travel buddy, then onto the shuttle to the Temple of Sinawava and The Narrows. Along the mile long paved trail the canyon walls got more narrow and steeper. Miles kept asking when we were getting into the water and we were the minority not wearing booties and waders. At the end of the trail we plunged right in and immediately got frozen feet/legs. Once they were numb it was easy walking and we traversed between dry or shallow spots. Holy cold!!! After about a half mile we were frozen enough and turned around, wading back to the trail. I changed Miles shoes and socks, trying to warm up his feet, and a couple tears were shed. We walked back as our feet ever so slowly warmed up, enjoying the bits of sun and taking in some last minutes of peace by the river. We shuttled back to the truck and headed out of town for the five hour drive to Fruita. Apparently my tint is too dark as I got pulled over by Utah’s finest state troopers. D’oh! We called ahead and ordered a pizza (thankfully, because the place was packed!) checked into our hotel, inhaled pizza, showered (first time since we left Colo Spgs) and swam in the pool.
Saturday was another dip in the pool then the 5 hour drive home to unpack and clean up. Definitely an amazing trip with my boy, I loved that he helped plan so much of it, and I get all choked up hoping that he remembers it, and enjoyed it, as much as I did. 1,820 miles in total.