Day 5 – Saturday, June 11, 2022 – Moab, UT
So much for rolling out of bed, bright eyed and bushy tailed. Matt turned off the 6:05 am alarm and we blearily staggered out of bed at 6:45 am. Oh well, so much for our early departure. We dined again on the continental breakfast, which again was excellent – ate outside and noted that it felt warmer than yesterday. We weren’t wrong. The new theory is – take the time in the morning and multiply by 10 for the temperature. But at 7 am it was still 85 degrees. Blechh!!
Our plan for the day was to go check out Canyonlands National Park, west of Moab – Arches NP’s supposedly not-as-cool sibling park – and raft in the afternoon. We got on the road after packing up, and made it to Canyonlands by 8:30 am or so. There was no one in line. There were barely any cars at all – haha – our kind of park! This park is known for having two main parts (and some other ones that are much smaller) – you cannot access both main parts of the park from the same location. We chose to go to the Island in the Sky part, which is north of Moab – the Needles portion is south of Moab. There is a LOT of fun driving here – you can take a 4×4 (not like our 4WD Subaru, but like big jeeps) onto the White Rim Road below – it takes two days to circle the park, and you can back country camp. It looks amazing!
We checked out a couple cool features – the Mesa Arch and the Grand View Point. It was stunning. The scenery is much more dramatic than Arches – this park is known for the deep canyons surrounding it (we know, *total* surprise), carved by the Green and Colorado Rivers. We loved it. We then made our way to Whale Rock, which Matt very much wanted to hike up. Zoe began screaming, no more hiking – Sarah said, “okay fine, we do want to do some ‘rock scrambling’ here, but no hiking”. Who would have guessed, it worked. Her and B hopped out of the car, super excited, dumped water on each other, and off they went. They were up the entire rock feature before any of us, excitedly pointing out the different flowers and cacti. Parenting lesson learned: lying works.
We made our way over to the visitor center, which even though it was the size of our living room, contained no less than 548 different kinds of stuffed animals, all of which Zoe had to carefully analyze before selecting a bighorn sheep. NOTE she has one of these already, but she wanted a normal size one, not a small one. OH MY GOD. There was no reasoning with her. She is now dragging around Snowy, her life-size snow leopard (purchased at the Mall of America), Kit, her bobcat kitten from Arches, and now yet-unnamed bighorn sheep. It is 105 degrees. This is not snuggling weather.
Anyway, we decided to head to Dead Horse Point State Park after this, as it was around the corner and Sarah wanted to see the iconic view point at the end (from the chase scene in Thelma and Louise (or from the Simpsons episode based on the Thelma and Louise movie – your choice)). We read up in the brochure and were horrified to learn the story behind the name of the park. (note: when the idea for this trip was conceived, we had the bizarre idea that we were going to drive across the country and tent camp our way through the southwest. What the hell were we thinking – we can barely tolerate sleeping when the house temp is 72 degrees?!? anyway, this was one of the places we had reservations – we are not sad that we have an air conditioned room for us and the kids to come back to and an outdoor pool. Not sad at all that we went towards the hotel plan, not the 105 degree camping plan (man I hope we really did cancel those reservations)).
We had a snack of sandwiches in the parking lot and made our way back to the hotel by about 1:00 pm. We had rafting planned with Nav-Tec, the oldest rafting business in Moab. We made our way down to their storefront and rode in the vans (with about 20 of us total) to raft part of the Colorado River. This unfortunately was going to be a bit more of a mellow float; when we tried to book anything with more than class 1-2 rapids, they just laughed at us for wanting to bring an 8 year old. This was a lovely afternoon – we had a kick-ass guide who was just perfect, and were with two other couples in the raft. We had a great time, everyone got wet (haha, esp Matt!), there were some nice riffles, and got to jump in the water too (until the current pulled away B, Z and another adult guy – oops!). It really was a nice experience.
We headed back home, and hit the pool. We were melting. It is SO hot here. We lightly debated what to do tonight – do we let the kids sit in the hotel room, playing on electronics while we Reddit? Or do we head up back to the Canyonlands for the famed sunset at the Green River Overlook (well, famed because Matt saw it on some website)? Screw it, we are heading back. No regrets.
We hustled the kids back into the hotel room, changed them up, they ate mac and cheese and leftover pizza because, whatever, and we hit up Giliberto’s, a Mexican joint here in town. It was highly recommended by the raft guide, who described her carne asada burrito in such detail that at least 4 of us on the trip were committed to immediately going there and getting it. One guy had the menu up on his phone on the ride in the van back to the raft place and was asking about various options. So Matt and I both got the carne asada burritos and Noah got the shrimp fajitas. They were all burning hot.
We took off, and thank god we were driving to Canyonlands, which takes an hour, because it literally took that long for the burritos to cool. We ate them in the Green River Overlook parking lot, which oddly enough was not packed full. They were AMAZING.
But it was still very pretty – we then found a more stunning sky view off some random service road that Sarah was convinced we would be arrested for parking in. Also: the entrance was unattended when we came in! We think that is the first time in our days of National Park hopping that that has ever been the case.
We headed back in the dark – the moon is close to full and there are some clouds, otherwise we would have stayed to look at the dark skies and see the stars. We are now relaxing with beer and electronics, the way God intended.
Miles driven: 193.9
Random fact of the day (source: raft guide, which was then verified by multiple internet sources): the music video for Blazes of Glory (THE song for Young Guns 2) by Jon Bon Jovi was filmed atop one of the mesas on the Colorado River that we floated by. They had to helicopter in all the props, had asked for permission from the BLM and got denied, and then got stuck up there for two days for some reason. Then owed a hefty fine after all was said and done! So we were reading up and watching the video, and interestingly, this was a single by Jon himself, not technically Bon Jovi. Who played bass for the video? Randy Jackson. Wait, you mean…. YES. Randy “yo, dawg” Jackson from American Idol. Holy shit. Well, it gets weirder. He is now BACK to playing bass for Journey. Wait, you say. BACK to playing bass for JOURNEY? YES. Randy freaking Jackson played bass for Journey in the mid 1980s and you can find videos of it on the internet. MIND. BLOWN. (note: no one on the raft trip even knew who Bon Jovi was aside from Matt and I (SO OLD))
Day 666 – Sunday, June 12, 2022 – Moab, UT to Kanab, UT
After finishing last night’s musings about the day, and softly clicking the laptop shut, we all started to get ready for bed. Noah was just sadly hopping around on one foot. We were, like, dude, what’s up? He was like, my ankle kind of hurts. OMG, it was swollen to twice its size and had a mysterious bruise on it, and felt warm to touch. He’s like, I have no idea what happened. Of course he doesn’t. So we did what all responsible parents did and placed ice on it and gave him Benadryl and ibuprofen. Who knows what’s wrong with it.
Today we straggled out of bed even later than the prior day. We barely made it to the continental breakfast. Apparently eating 2 hours later than normal means you bake to death on the outside covered patio. B: “I can’t eat when it’s this hot.” It was 90 degrees at 9:00. We packed up the room and headed out, after grocery stops and a coffee stop at Moab Coffee Roasters.
The journey today was going to be over to Kanab, just a quick travel day. Oh how our plans went awry, but not in a bad way (I know you are bummed). We journeyed up to the interstate and headed over, popping onto highway 24 which headed south. There were high wind warnings and extreme heat warnings, with it being 100 degrees the entire day with 30-45 mph winds. We didn’t quite anticipate what that would mean, but soon found out.
On a side note, Matt gave Sarah the Roadside Geology Book for Utah, and she happily was reading it to him. It’s pretty dry, but the most interesting was the San Rafael Reef, which comes up out of nowhere and is quite visually stunning along the highway. Highway 24 travels along side it, which was fun, and we enjoyed the view of the reef – like jagged teeth out of nowhere. A sign appeared for Goblin Valley State Park. Why, what is this place? We have ALL DAY to explore!
So off on the road to Goblin Valley we went. Hmm, it is kind of windy. We head in, to see the strange sandstone and mudstone formations formed thousands (millions?) of years ago by erosion, from all the surrounding sand and sandstone. Then the wind hit us. HOLY SHIT. Sand everywhere. In our eyes, hair, mouths, etc. I’m sure the park ranger was laughing as he had directed us the picnic area, which was filled with people grabbing their picnic stuff and running to their cars. We saw a bird that was blown backwards, which was fun entertainment while we ate in the car with all the windows securely closed and the air conditioning on full blast. That poor bird got nowhere. We hiked down into the valley of goblins with the theory that the wind would be more sheltered there. Partially true. It was really cool to look at. And this place truly was in the middle of nowhere, which was neat.
On we motored, watching the sand blizzarding around us. We got back on the highway and slowly made our way down to Hanksville, a sad desolate town, where we got gas. A cackling man asked Matt how us Wisconsinites like their weather (we found his trailered giant boat amusing, given any “water” was likely hundreds of miles away). We then continued on highway 24 through to Capitol Reef National Park (their motto: not all national parks are created equal). We are still not entirely sure how this place ended up as one, but they had passport stamps and stuffed animals and a visitor’s center right off the highway, so it works for us!
The only goal Sarah had on this trip was to get jam from the Gifford House, a homestead located in the park. Apparently these early Mormon pioneer types had seen these enormous desolate rocky dessert and thought, yeah, let’s put in an orchard here and make jam. There is this tiny spindly “river” (almost dry creek bed) and I’m sure they saw the sad green plants growing near it and thought it was an oasis. Either way, Matt got pie and said it was good, and Zoe and Sarah split a freshly baked cinnamon roll. We also bought jam. It was cool, but kind of scammy. It was a million degrees and we were so not hiking this place, so might as well buy jam.
On we went, turning on to state highway 12. This stretches through the Dixie National Forest, and through the Grand Staircase Escalanate National Monument. It was GORGEOUS. What a beautiful drive! It took FOREVER. Lots of curvy roads and we got up to ~9600 feet. It was beautiful! A lot of contrast with trees and desert. It was very pretty. Plus the temp dropped to 76 degrees but it was still windy – we got out at every overlook we could to enjoy the change in temp and the views. Then we descended back down and of course it was 97 degrees again.
We then faced a dilemma. Due to our detours (and that darn jam stop), it was getting late. We then noted that we were going to be driving by Bryce Canyon National Park on our way to Kanab, and the thought of driving another 90 minutes to Kanab tonight, then driving back to Bryce Canyon NP tomorrow, was too much for us to bear. So we decided to feed the kids and ourselves with whatever was in our incredibly giant cooler (hello chips and salsa and yogurt and ANYTHING you want!!) and then hit up a few points of interest at Bryce Canyon tonight instead.
That was SUCH a good idea. The park was crammed full of visitors, but there were some parking spots left, and we were able to hit up the visitor center for our usual magnets and stuffed animal, and then check out points of interest around the Bryce Amphitheater (valley area full of hoodoos). We used to laugh at the section of the little newspaper/map they give you at National Parks that says “if you only have 1-3 hours”; what kind of losers go to NPs to only spent 1-3 hours there?!? Well, us today. Dammit, we are tired. So it told us where to go and what little “hike” (walk) to do, and screw it, we did it. And it was perfect.
Bryce Canyon (well, the small part of it we saw) was beautiful, and coming just before and at sunset was perfect, as you get to see the deep red colors of the hoodoos, which are a bit more washed out in bright sun during the day. There were less people, and it was only 90 degrees, not 100 degrees, for the win! We also realize that there was no way in h*** we were going to get Zoe back here for a hike tomorrow, which is what the rest of us would be interested in doing. So this was a fair compromise.
We then took off (after B found a North Carolina license plate in the parking lot! Poor kid, still needs Hawaii and Mississippi among a couple others (good luck finding Delaware, B)). We noted that Noah’s ankle is again swollen but he swears it doesn’t hurt (so weird). The 90 mile drive took FOREVER. Then the sun went down. We had a vague idea that all the scenery was probably beautiful, but we don’t know what it is. Either way, we rolled into Kanab at 10 pm, exhausted, to the Comfort Suites. Matt heaved our giant cooler and luggage in with the squeakiest luggage cart ever. Sarah already got sand all over the bed just by brushing against it. We all need showers more than anything (thanks, Goblin Valley State Park!).
Miles driven: 380.3
Random Fact of the Day: Mick Jagger, Sting, and Michael Jackson were all considered to play the Goblin King, but Jim Henson’s kids convinced him David Bowie would be the coolest choice.
Day 7 – Monday, June 13, 2022 – Kanab, UT
Every day we sleep in a little bit later. Originally we were going to spend today tooling around Bryce Canyon, and then tomorrow we planned to drive through Zion and then hit the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. OMG are we glad our plans changed. There is no way we are driving BACK 90 minutes to Bryce. So glad we hit it on the way (we are taking note of where the best places to stay to spend more time at all of these parks would be – for Bryce, staying at Bryce Canyon City at the entrance is the way to go – they even had a Best Western Plus if we didn’t want to camp!).
Anyway, today the plan was to drive down to Pipe Springs National Monument (no clue what it was, but it was in our awesome atlas), head over the Colorado City, AZ (as featured in Under the Banner of Heaven!) and gawk, then hit up In n Out Burger in Washington, UT, then drive back through Zion National Park later in the day, when hopefully not as crowded.
We hit up the continental breakfast. This is not the greatest hotel (but not the worst by any means – nothing will compare to the awesomeness of the Moab Best Western Plus) – there were crying breakfast employees (or maybe their family members) next to the coffee and the hotel “owner” “talking” to another guest in the lobby loudly. The selection of food was not great. But better than nothing.
We headed out to Pipe Springs National Monument. This monument was about the indigenous peoples who lived in the area, and basically how the Mormons came in, stole their water supply, and immediately began putting in orchards and herding cattle – and when converting them didn’t work, they enslaved them. The ranger running the place was informative, and we all learned a lot. Zoe got to be a junior ranger, and took an oath after completing an activity book. It was fascinating – highly recommend. The incredible winds distracted us from the 98 degree heat, too!
We then motored on through the desert landscape and passed into Colorado City, AZ. If you haven’t read Jon Krakauer’s book “Under the Banner of Heaven” we highly recommend it. Basically, this little town was owned by a fundamentalist cult that is an offshoot of the Mormon church. Oh, polygamous, not big deal? Throuples are a thing? Yeah, these were forced child marriages to their own parents and relatives, and similar stuff. BAD stuff. AND because the government only recognizes marriage between two people, you had families with one dad and 5 wives, but 4 of those wives appeared to be “unwed mothers” to the state – each with 8-10 kids getting government benefits. But these are folks who feel the government is ruining everything, pay no taxes and what work they do do, is under the table. They ran the schools and thus literally no one was actually getting educated – the school district bought a plane for their own use to fly around in, because free government money! The feds came in and did break up what they could. And we (really, Sarah) wanted to see this place for what it was worth.
The town is kind of dumpy and full of REALLY large creepy rundown houses that have been added on to multiple times and have multiple entrances (hmm, wonder why). We are too polite to take and post pics of people’s private houses (except for Warren Buffett’s (haha) – see prior blog from 2018). Matt kept saying, “What are you looking for?” Well, we found it. There was a billboard that said “Resources for Plural Families”. WTF, a billboard, huh. And then we saw a lady in town dressed like the people in the book – long old fashioned dress and long braids. Of course we had to go to the local brewery and Matt got a crowler (of 3% ABV beer – because none of the beer here seems to actually have alcohol in it).
On we motored, Sarah reading to everyone from her “Death in Zion National Park Book”. B listened with rapt enjoyment, while Matt, Z and Noah tolerated her. We then hit up In N Out burger for a different fast food place in Washington, Utah, and it was delicious!! YUMYUM
In Sarah’s death book, they noted they was a slice of Zion you could get into with your car (we will tell you about the hot mess of Zion otherwise in a moment) from the interstate on the west side called Kolob Canyon, so off we went, as long as we were over there. It was beautiful – desert landscapes hitting forested crags and peaks. We did a little hike to an overlook and enjoyed the cool winds (despite 98 degrees). On the way down the rocky trail, Sarah (who was wearing hiking sandals) jammed the front bottom of her toe into a branch or rock. Blood began gushing out – on to her sandal, the trail, etc. Matt and B and Z took off running for the first aid kit in the car, and Noah took one look at it and said “I need to use the bathroom” and ran away. Matt washed out Sarah’s wound after B took pictures for HIS blog (thanks kiddo) and dressed it. Warning – there is a graphic pic below (PG rated).
We then circled back down and got on the highway – the highway enters Zion NP on the west side, traveling east through the park, and would shoot us back out just north of Kanab. The deal with Zion is that in order to be on the road into the canyon, you need to get on shuttle buses (no vehicular traffic allowed on the one road into the canyon). However, most of the parking in Zion and the surrounding border town (Springdale – which looked awesome) is usually filled. This is one of the most visited national parks and it is NOT large at all. It was SWARMED. SO many people.
Given Sarah couldn’t walk due to problems stopping the bleeding, Noah’s ankle was 3x its usual size despite him denying pain, and we were getting antsy and hungry as it was like 5:30 pm, we decided not to grab a shuttle, but rather enjoy the drive through the rest of the park. It was quite pretty and we would love to come back when the kids are older (Noah and B hike and do not complain, but Zoe is touchy at her age still, despite being completely physically able to hike 5-10 miles at a stretch). We get it.
We traveled through the tunnel which was very cool and then made our way down out of the park and moved on to Kanab. It was a pool, take out food, and laundry night. Matt grabbed take out – from Wild Thyme for us, pizza from Lotsa Motza for the kids. The Wild Thyme food was AMAZING. WOW.
Snuggled into bed, ready for the Grand Canyon tomorrow! Oh wait, we cannot take the recommended way to Flagstaff due to two separate forest fires? What…? Uh oh
Miles driven: 202
Random fact of the Day: Arizona doesn’t use Daylight Savings Time, so every time we cross the border, some of our watches and phones change and some don’t, and we are confused about what time it really is. The other state that doesn’t use daylight Savings Time is Hawaii.