Here I am, at the end of my fall adventure: the stories told, the photos shown, the experience shared as much as I could. All that’s left is what we project managers call the post-mortem meeting: examine the work (or the trip) and highlight the lessons learned. So let’s begin…
I had heard of the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument, but I did not know why it was called that and I didn’t really understand the importance of the place. As I drove the Hells Backbone Road at the northern end of the National Monument, I could see for miles and miles, no civilization except the road I was on. I wasn’t the only one pulling off at every scenic viewpoint, trailer in tow, to try and capture the expanse before me.
But, the National Monument is only part of the Grand Staircase. What exactly is it, and why is it even called the Grand Staircase? Read on to find out the answers…
Coming out of the tunnel into Zion literally made me cry with happiness. I was completely overwhelmed by the canyons, towers, and temples of this place. This was Utah’s first National Park and it is, without any doubt, it is the most breathtakingly beautiful one.
Just look at this view. It’s like a painting, all soft colors and hard edges as far as the eye (and camera) can see. If you’re reading this on an iphone or small tablet, please don’t. Go sit at a bigger screen to really appreciate the beauty that is Zion National Park. I’ll wait…
Over the last week, I’ve been scanning in some of my Dad’s photos, everything from old cars to grandkids to trips he took over the decades. (And a lot of photos of power plants because he was a mechanical engineer.) One batch of photos caught my eye and I’m pretty sure you can guess why…
Yep, I found a half dozen shots of Bryce Canyon from a trip he took there in 1986. He was 61 and had been retired for a few years by that time. He had a really nice Minolta SLR with a beautiful 58mm mm lens with manual focus and I’m pretty sure that’s the combination he used to take these images.
Bryce. Just that one word evokes an entire lifetime of hearing stories from my Dad about this place. He went a few times, back in the days when he and his buddies were going up to Bonneville to run hot rods they’d built (and just that once, the company car my Dad had on loan, but that’s a whole ‘nother story…).
As I approached Bryce, my excitement grew. It took a big hit as I passed through the tourist traps that are line both sides of the road approaching the park boundary. But then, I saw the entrance sign and I was prepared to be amazed. My excitement was crushed flat as I drove the mile and a half to my new campsite. There was nothing amazing to see here. Pine trees, a few prairie dogs out sunning themselves, and a whole lot of cars in parking lots.
So much for first impressions. All the cool stuff at Bryce is below road level. All of it. Like this view…
And the hands-down winner of “best laundry” and “best showers” for this trip is Kodachrome State Park. Seriously, no contest at all. Yeah, yeah, this place has got some gorgeous scenery. And yes, it is right on the way from Capitol Reef to Bryce, so it does make a good pit stop. And oh, by the way, it does have some hookup sites, so you can recharge the RV batteries if you’ve been caught in days of bad weather or overcast skies.
It was also a good place to recharge my personal batteries, with reading, napping, and staring up at the moonless sky at night, enjoying the Milky Way over my head. But honestly, this stop was all about getting clean.
One of the things I loved most about Capitol Reef was the tafoni. The WHAT, you say? Tafoni. Yeah, I didn’t know that’s what it was called either. But now we both do 🙂
It looks like this when you stop the car, get out, and actually stand in front of some of it.
Cavities, holes, pits, whatever you call them, I fell in love with the big walls of tafoni at Capitol Reef.
You would think that by this point in my trip, I would be expecting amazing things at every stop. And I was. But, honestly, Capitol Reef was perhaps the most unexpected place I’ve been in my life. Why, you might ask? Here’s the thing… I hadn’t done any research about this place. I had somehow skipped my friend’s blog post about their visit. I’d actually never even *heard* of Capitol Reef until I was planning this trip and figured I might as well be check this National Park off the list, since it was literally on the way. So I had no expectations, no preconceived notions whether it would be so-so, amazing, or off-the-charts crazy beautiful.
Spoiler Alert: Yes, Bryce is amazingly cool with all those hoodoos and Zion literally made me cry when I saw it, but Capitol Reef was indeed off-the-charts crazy beautiful. It made me smile with pure happiness every time I looked around me. It just might be my favorite National Park, or at least tied with Yosemite (my first and, therefore, forever National Park love). [Read more…] about 2021 Fall Trip: Chapter 5: Capitol Reef
I did not expect much on the 142-mile drive from Arches National Park to Capitol Reef National Park. On Google Maps, I-70 to Highway 24 just looked like a whole lot of desert. Having survived a childhood of being driven all over the Arizona desert visiting family, I wasn’t expecting much. Wow, was I ever wrong. And never more happy to be wrong!
Coming down I-70 west out of Green River (which is a solid gas stop, by the way), I saw the first taste of things to come. Meet the San Rafael Reef, the eastern edge of the larger San Rafael Swell. Just look at those crazy uplifts!
That first drive into Arches National Park felt like I was on a movie backlot where the set designers had gone completely crazy. There’s just no way to grasp the scale and expanse of Arches when you first see it. It’s a good thing I got there early in the day when the traffic was pretty mild because with each mile, I drove slower and slower, trying to take it all in.
Four drives out and back on that 18 mile road in three days and at the end of all that, I still felt like I was a tiny little bug in that huge landscape.