13. National Park Road Trip…April/May/June 2016

day 37…5.27
Woke up to another gorgeous morning at campthe weather has been beautiful this weekwindy at times, but cooler than when Ive been here before at this same time of year.  I had a little mishap at camp this morning….my fault.  I’d paid for my campsite through tonight, but wrote down tonight’s date rather than tomorrow’s date (check out date) on the register slip.  For some reason, I decided to double check the tent post….& that’s when I found my mistake.  To add in another problem, someone had slipped their registration for tonight in under mine…which you can’t legitimately do.  As long as someone is in the site, they have the option to renew each day (up to 14 days) until noon.  But, I knew I wouldn’t be back until late tonight & didn’t want to come back to a big fat problem.  I made coffee & read until about 8:30 & drove the two miles to the next campground to visit the camp host.  His wife answered their RV door & understood my mistake…said it happens all the time.  They’d be around to fix the tent post slip in a bit & not to worry about the other campers.  I drove back to camp for a lazy morning of reading by the river.  The host couple came around in about an hour & we chatted & chatted & chatted!  A mistake on my part led to some wonderful conversation, great tips & information on my upcoming week in Utah & what to do & see & some other tidbits I was curious about when it comes to full time RV life.  I’m always interested in those who live a nomadic life & the in’s & out’s of how it all logistically works.  It was a super fun conversation!  Before they left, he got out a bright orange cone & plopped it on my picnic table  (I referred to it as my dunce cone) & said if there was a problem tonight, to send the others over to see him.  Such a nice couple!

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Soon it was time for me to leave.  For the past three times I’ve come to Arches, I’ve tried to hike the Fiery Furnace.  It’s a Ranger led hike that takes you down into these magnificently colored giant rock fins in the park…an easy place to get lost in.  Sara had been in the Visitors Center one time when were in the park & said if I was willing to extend my trip until Friday, I could get a ticket.  I vaulted out of the car & went inside to talk to the Ranger.  They make you look over 8 photos & ask if you have the ability to do whats pictured & aren’t afraid to do any of these things before they’ll sell you a ticket.  So, here I am, in the park several hours early because of the crowds, making sure I get in (last year they closed the park for 5 hours due to crowds).  I took a couple of the short hikes, since I had time, but the crowds were crazy  & this was only Friday!  Here are some of my photos from my pre-Fiery Furnace hike.




I decided to go a couple of hours early to the Fiery Furnace trailhead to make sure I got a place to park (wouldn’t have been a problem after all, people come & go quickly to this scenic viewpoint) & just chill out.  I made myself from lunch, made a make shift recliner in the back of the 4Runner & read all afternoon.  Soon it was time for the hike & 20 other people showed up excited as I was!  Below is the pic from the viewpoint…the hike takes inside these strange formations.

Our guide was perfect…a tiny blonde that has a deep love & respect for this park.  We stopped four times during the tour, each time taken into a pretty awesome room with some special feature & sat & learned about geology, the plant & animal life, & how climate change is effecting everything.  But mostly we hiked!  Through narrow spaces, climbing up rocks, jumping over chasms, sliding down rocks, again & again.  It was a BLAST!  

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There was one optional section called the dog bone…a narrow bone shaped hole in the rock we could crawl through.  Several of us did it…a tight fit, but so much fun!

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The hike was great…just lots of fun!  And here is the beautiful part!

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day 38…5.28
Id wanted to sleep in this morning, but I was awake before 6, so I soon got up, broke down my tent & repacked/reorganized my car.  I had some errands to run this morning in Moab, so figured I’d get an early start.  I’d just made coffee & was about 10 minutes from leaving, when a little car with two young guys slowly drove by.  They stopped & asked if I was leaving camp & I said YES!…I’d be gone in just a few minutes.  They were so stoked about getting such a nice campsite on a holiday weekend…great way to start the morning!  Once in town, I did a load of laundry & some research on my computer (free wifi at the laundromat), then went to the grocery store, then to take a shower.  There was an Art Festival in Moab today that I wanted to go to…so convenient that the park is next to recreation center where I showered :)   It’s a small festival, but it was fun to walk around & check out all the art.

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While I was strolling through the festival, I got a call from Sara asking me about my plans for the rest of today.  I’d planned on driving back up the river road to hike Fisher Towers & then a trip to the winery.  She said she had an offer I couldn’t refuse…her friends, the ones we’d hiked with, were leaving a day early & wondered if I would like to stay in their room tonight?  The super nice resort was off of the river road I’d already planned to be on (heck, I’d have changed my plan anyway).  Wowie!  I didn’t hesitate to say yes & thank you, thank you, thank you & soon made plans to meet Marcy for the room key.  

It was really hot by the time I got to the trailhead…it’s only about a 4.5 mile hike, but for some reason—maybe the heat—it felt much longer.  The trail went up & down & up & down over & over & over.  The towers are huge formations standing out in the middle of the desert…this trail is about 18 miles east of Moab.




The very last of this trail ends by climbing up on a big huge rock…note the sign!  The views from here were fantastic…love the pic with the Colorado river winding it’s way in the distance.




The desert flowers are blooming so I got a few pics of these die hard plants.



The hike wiped out any remnants of my early morning shower, so I took off my sweaty shirt & threw on a clean one for the winery tasting.  Castle Creek winery sits along the river…too bad they can’t sell you a glass of wine…just free tastings & you can buy a bottle but can’t open it & drink it on their wonderful deck.  I bought a bottle of Malbec to share with Jill when I see her near the end of my trip.

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Now I was ready for a night at the resort.  I was like a kid in a candy store. Here was my night:  First I sat out & read by the river, had some cheese & crackers I’d bought this morning & a beer.  Then I went for a walk.  Then I went back to the room & plugged in everything I needed to charge.  They have a nightly campfire (although it’s actually a fake fire) by the river & you get a smore’s goodies to roast & make your own treats…so then I did that…all alone…no one else was at the fire pit but me.  Then I changed into my swim stuff & sat in the jacuzzi…oohhh yaaaaa!  The sunset was lighting up the surrounding red rocks & then I went back to the room, did some work on the computer & with my photos until about midnight.  Then, I wonderfully crawled between the fresh sheets & laid my head down on one of the best pillows EVER….& slept for a solid 8 hours.  Wow…that was so awesome!

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day 39…5.29
The shower was great & I’m sure I stood under the water a little longer than necessary.  I wanted to get on with the day, so I packed up & unplugged all my stuff & was soon back in the car.  It was so nice of Marcy to offer me this little bit of ‘trip magic’…I really enjoyed it (did I mention the pillows were magnificent?)  I didn’t want to drive back through crazy holiday Moab, so I took a little bit longer route up to I-70, but it’s a beautiful one I’ve taken before.  The two lane road continues along the Colorado river almost the whole way…with the giant red rocks looming above, it’s a wonderful drive.

I was going to stop to see the Sego Canyon Petroglyphs but totally forgot about it until I was too far west (yes, I’m backtracking).  I was headed to Goblin State Park & the San Rafael Swell.  The Swell is super interesting looking….lots of color in this giant ribbon of rock with unique rock formations.  It’s very cool.  I drove into Goblin State Park which I’d been told by the camp host was pretty cool.  I waited in line then handed over my credit card.  It was $13 a day….the pass was only good for one day.  That seems a little ridiculous…the most expensive National Park is $25 & that’s good for 7 days.  The Ranger gave me a brochure & I asked if there were any slot canyons here…He said not in this park, but handed me another brochure & said the slot canyon trailhead was just back down the road before the entrance to the park.  I glanced that their brochure…they had 3 trails…none longer than 3 miles & all starting at the same trailhead.  I drove through the park towards the trailhead & could see cars lined up ahead of me & a couple miles up towards the trailhead, cars were parked everywhere!  It was finally ‘my turn’ & the ranger said I couldn’t go any farther because there’s no parking.  I’d have to wait a little while.  I asked him what else was there to do?  He said nothing.  I asked if he thought I could get a refund…& he said yes.  I pulled a U-turn, got back to the entrance & got my refund.  If the parking lot was that bad, imagine what the little bitty trail was like?

I pulled over & read about the slot canyon hike called Wild Horse…8 miles if done as a loop through two different canyons, or out & back anyway you want.  Sounded good.  I’ve always told myself, I wouldn’t hike in a slot canyon alone, so evidently I picked a good weekend to follow my self-inflicted rule.  The small parking area was full, but I found a spot just a few cars away.  There were a lot of people…big groups…at the trailhead, but .5 mile in the trail splits into two different canyons.  Some guys in the parking lot said I should hike the Wild Horse canyon…it’s the most popular but the most fun.  And was it ever!  There were people around, but the farther back I hiked, the less people there were.  But this dry canyon had everything…obstacles to climb up & down, very narrow passages, tiny places, giant walls, darkness & sunshine.  Check it out!


Until I got 3+ miles in,  which was the end of this slot canyon, I couldn’t decide if I was going to hike the loop or just go back.  The loop included a 1.5 mile walk on a jeep road & I’d heard the other canyon was more of an open wash, so I turned around & hiked Wild Horse again & it was even more fun going back!  Below is a pic of the Swell…it goes on & on for miles!


I drove around looking for a campsite…there are hundreds of places to camp…there were also hundreds of RV’s & tents everywhere.  It was hot, & there’s not much shade & it was still early evening…so I moved on.  I drove into the tiny town of Hanksville, & got a burger & fries & a ‘world famous’ burger joint.  I had my doubts that the tag line was true, but there was only one other restaurant in town & it was at the campground.  I talked to Danny then drove west & found a good place to park for the night on BLM land.  It was cooling off but I opened my hatch & laid in the back & read & peeked out at the view.  Lovely!


I didn’t sleep much at all…think I drank too much caffeine too late in the day, but the benefit of being up most of the night in such a dark area is you have many opportunities to look at the sky…& tonight’s had millions of stars!  It was gorgeous!

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