Back at it again! Continuing on with the day-by-day recount of activities on this giant adventure. I left you in the last post with our final full day in Zion National Park.
Day 9: We packed up our things slowly this morning to leave Zion for Bryce Canyon. The drive was only a couple of hours and we hadn’t made any other plans that day, so we weren’t in a rush and could easily time the trip around a nap and lunch. We left around 9:30 and said goodbye to our neighbors. They were some of the best camp neighbors you could ask for! It made me realize just how important your neighbors are to your stay while doing family camping. Wilder was so happy to have people to play with and it was really fun chatting with them every morning and night to hear about each other’s day. It made me sorta sad to not be camping at Bryce like we’d originally planned – we made the decision back at the shitty Death Valley hotel to cancel our campground reservations for Bryce in order to get a few days break from camping in case Wilder continued to not sleep so well. As it turns out, we would have been fine, but ultimately it was still nice to have a little more space, some air conditioning, and a place to do laundry without using up my quarters! Not to mention, a full night’s sleep without having to get up once or twice to nurse.
After an uneventful drive, we got to the AirBnB and immediately started our giant bag of laundry. Since we still had most of the afternoon left, we decided to drive down Highway 12 a bit to check it out. We’d heard it was a pretty epic drive, but weren’t sure we’d have the time to add it in on our way to Arches since the drive was already 4.5 hours. Anyway, we drove down it for about an hour and stopped at a little spot called the Kiva Koffeehouse. This little spot was a real treasure – for those of you familiar with Big Sur area in California, imagine a “Nepenthe” in the middle of Utah and that’s what this was. Beautiful views, hippie feel to it, and something that looked like it was built around the natural landscape/mountainside. I snapped a few pictures and ordered our drinks while Chris waited in the car with sleeping Wilder – too bad we couldn’t all go in but we’ve learned the dangers of waking him up from a deep car nap when we still have a long drive ahead of us. We did not risk it ;).
Anyway after that we headed back home for the night, got Wilder a nice long bath, he walked around the house about 30 times, and we made plans for our first full day exploring Bryce Canyon.
Day 10: It felt good to wake up in a bed with a full night of sleep and no one tapping on my head at 6am. We took our time getting out of the house and made it to Bryce around 10 or so. Bryce was nowhere near as busy as Zion, which meant that parking wasn’t an issue and we weren’t required to take the shuttle service. Chris had picked out a great overview hike for us on our first day, so we parked at Fairyland Point and proceeded to hike the “easy” Rim Trail from there to Bryce Point. The entire hike was about 6 miles, then we’d take the shuttle back most of the way, but we’d have to walk back to Fairyland Point on our own, so ultimately we had a 9 mile day ahead of us IF we decided to go the whole way. If we didn’t, we could drive the rest of the route the next day and see any viewpoints we’d miss if we weren’t up to hiking.
Things were going well on the hike. The hike ended up being a little more difficult than we expected (but man, the views!!), and Wilder was starting to get a little fussy/hungry, so we decided we’d stop at Inspiration Point, which gave a great view of the area and the hike we’d planned the following day, and we’d drive up to Bryce Point the next day. We hoofed it up to Inspiration Point and snapped a few pictures amidst some whining from a disinterested freeloader, and made our way back down to a little bench where I could feed Wilder somewhat inconspicuously and then we’d eat lunch and hike/shuttle back. Chris put the pack down, turned it around and low and behold – this kid has passed out in the 10 minutes it took us to get down. So quick change of plans (we’d gotten good at this!) and we decided to go back up to Inspiration Point and finish the hike at Bryce Point after all. By the time we made it there, Wilder was awake and we all sat and ate our PB&Js, took the shuttle back to the Visitor Center where we grabbed our Bryce sticker for our cargo box, and then we all happily hiked back to Fairyland Point. All in all, it was a great first day at Bryce and the park was absolutely gorgeous AND we felt pretty good about hiking 9 miles that day – more than we’d planned to do on any day with a little in tow! Zion was large and vast, but Bryce was much more accessible and consolidated. The hoodoos were really neat – Bryce was a park I’d seen pictures of many times, but seeing it up close and personal was otherworldly. I was excited to get down into the canyon the next day.
We got back to the AirBnB mid-afternoon afternoon which meant that Wilder actually got a second nap, and one in his pack n play – a first for this journey! Chris had found a surprisingly nice restaurant in the town we were staying in, so we decided we’d skip the camp-style homemade meal for the night and actually go out to dinner at Stone Hearth Grille. It certainly wasn’t the relaxing meal most of the couples were enjoying since Wilder was not in the mood to sit still (I swear, once he started walking he has done everything he can to get out of all seats), but luckily there was a family at a table nearby and they were quite interested in Wilder just like he was in them. So at least he got the attention he was used to, and we were able to eat and have a glass of wine – the rest of the bottle came back home with us (thank you Utah law!) to finish after his bedtime.
Day 11: Our hike today in Bryce Canyon was exactly what I had imagined Bryce Canyon to be. We had a leisurely breakfast at the AirBnB (instant pancakes! just add water!) and hopped on over to the park to start a highly recommended hike. Chris’ parents had hiked a similar trail a few years ago, and our National Parks book had also recommended this hike. Let me say here that my preferred way of hiking is to do the hard part first and then finish up with some nice downhill… but this was the opposite. We started at Sunset Point and proceeded to hike down the Navajo Trail to Wall Street (the only slot canyon in Bryce). A lot of people take the Navajo Trail back up, which isn’t really that bad, but it’s a bunch of short switchbacks and it’s super hot. We saw plenty of inexperienced hikers run out of water, coveting any semblance of shade they could find to cool off on the way back up. Instead, we had lunch at the bottom (our typical peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which Wilder has grown to love as well!), and then took the Queens Garden Trail back up to the top. This made for a more gradual ascent, even though it was a little bit longer in terms of actual hiking. I think our total mileage that day was somewhere around 3-4 miles with only a few hundred feet of elevation gain. It was still just as hot as our previous days in Bryce and Zion with temperatures easily into the high 90’s, so we made sure we all had plenty of water and we took our time getting back to the top of the trail.
The pictures (above) are some we took while down in the canyon but as usual, the pictures can’t begin to clearly articulate how freaking awesome these parks really are in person. As for Wilder, he was wide awake during this entire hike, as we’d gotten a good car nap in prior to starting the hike since we drove all the way down to the end of Bryce to Rainbow Point, and then back to the trailhead. He thought this one was pretty awesome too, and as usual he made lots of friends along the way. We finished up the day of hiking by stopping at the General Store for a few groceries and some soft serve ice cream outside, then we made our way back to the AirBnB at which point Wilder got one more nap in, and we had a simple dinner there while we packed and figured out a game plan for our 5 hour drive the next day to Arches National Park.
Day 12: Even though we already did a good portion of the Hwy 12 drive the first day we got to Bryce, we ultimately decided to do the whole thing after reading about the parts we’d missed on the other side of Kiva Koffeehouse. So we were up and out of the AirBnB by about 8 that day. Our plan was to get an hour of driving out of the way while Wilder was awake and cheerful, and we’d stop at the coffee shop (again!) on the way out for breakfast and a chance for him to walk around some more before a longer stretch of driving.
This went as well as we could have imagined it! The drive to the coffee shop was awesome, just as it was earlier in the week, but the second half of it was even better! This part went primarily through the Dixie National Forest. This drive was breathtaking. There were lots of spots with free roaming cattle which completely cracked us up, and there were plenty of view points along the way to get a few pictures of the landscape. It was pretty cool to see the change in scenery from the red rocks of Bryce and up to 10,000 feet elevation or so where there is lots of greenery. We even had time to get to the freeway before Wilder woke up, which was further than we’d anticipated! You have to time these drives around naps, and on top of that you have to make sure that when he does wake up, that you can stop if you need to, which is sometimes dicey depending on where you are. In this case, Wilder woke up smiling so we kept driving a little further, and made it about 4 hours before stopping for lunch and a park. Chris found a really cool taco truck that had taken over an old gas station parking lot in a town called Green River. We were lucky to find a small park literally across the street where we took our food and hung out for an hour or so to stretch our legs and let Wilder wander around and “get his steps in”.
Our final destination for the day was a campsite at Dead Horse Point State Park, which is about 30 minutes from Arches and maybe another 10 from the town of Moab, the “hub” of the area. Since we had to go to Moab anyway to get groceries for cooking the next two nights, AND since we’d made such good time on the way in, we decided to cash in our good fortune and drive slightly outside of Moab to squeeze in a winery! The drive there was along the outside of Arches National Park which was spectacular. Unfortunately we got there and learned that Utah passed a “no one under 21 allowed in tasting rooms” law so we couldn’t do the tasting but instead went to their little bar at the nearby hotel since they carried their wine. It was not good. Fortunately I chose wisely and went for a beer anyway, but Chris suffered through a subpar glass of wine. Not that we had high expectations for Utah wine…. but still. Sort of a bummer considering it was an extra hour of driving.
After our wine “adventure” we made it back into Moab where we stopped at a hipster grocery store (like Rainbow in SF – this place also didn’t have any bags so I had to walk out balancing bottles and raw chicken like a juggler) and then we drove up to Dead Horse Point State Park (wtf with the name?!) to camp.
Our site was really great view-wise but we both whined a little because you have to walk in 100 yards or so with all your crap. That isn’t fun with a toddler wanting to jump in cacti. But we managed after a failed attempt to change our site at registration. The guy babbled for a few minutes in what I thought was an answer and then he said, “wait. What was your question?” I think he must have just finished a can of whippits or something because he was totally weird. Or maybe that’s just what happens after working at a state park booth all day – you sort of freak out when you have to talk to a human….
Anyway, we sucked it up and went to our campsite to unpack around 6. Given we’ve camped five nights now, we are pretty much pros at this, so we both got to work at our respective tasks and pretty soon we had the tent ready and a dinner of chicken and mac n cheese. Meanwhile, Wilder was sufficiently covered in red sandstone and happy to be in the dirt again!
The campsite was relatively quiet after 9:30 or so and the campsites were further apart than at Zion, so we didn’t make any friends here, but we also didn’t piss anyone off during bedtime, so it was overall a wash ;). We were happy to get to sleep at a reasonable time and were excited to have a day ahead of us in Arches!
Day 13: I keep saying this, but these Utah National Parks are so freaking amazing. Arches was no different. I made another batch of pancakes for breakfast and then we made our way to Arches for what would hopefully be a couple of hikes. We’d heard the parking at Arches was slightly more difficult than Bryce, so we weren’t sure we’d get spots at the trailheads, but we were hopefully early enough to get lucky. We figured if we didn’t get a spot at one trailhead, we’d just find the other one and hike in a reverse order.
Aaaannnnd success! Our first trailhead was crowded, but we still got a spot. This was the hike we were pretty set on doing so that worked out perfectly. We parked, got all our gear and sunscreen on, and made our way to Delicate Arch. This was the kind of hike I enjoyed – one you could see your destination (or at least the high point) on the way, knowing the trip back would be much more straightforward. You could see a lot of the hike ahead of you – the slickrock as they called it resembled some of the granite hikes you’d encounter at Yosemite, but fortunately not as steep! Plus, this hike was one of the more popular ones in Arches, so there was always someone to follow on the trail. Once we arrived at the arch, Chris and I decided to take turns going over to the arch for our pictures underneath it. It wasn’t exactly dangerous (there were a ton of kids and families going), but we didn’t feel comfortable taking an excited and roudy toddler in a backpack over there, so we settled for separate pictures of each of us. Again – responsible parent decision ;). After our pictures, we had a quick lunch and made our way back to the car to get to our second hike of the day. The hike to Delicate Arch was only about 3 miles and a few hundred feet of elevation gain so we definitely had more gas in the tank!
As you can probably tell from the pictures, Chris carried Wilder most of the time on the hikes. I think he liked the attention :). For the second hike we did today, I carried Wilder, at which point I found a new appreciation for the difficulty of carrying a child in a backpack. Once you add the weight of said child + the weight of the pack, it’s pretty much like backpacking, which is something I haven’t done in, oh, two years at least. Fortunately the hike we planned here was pretty short – we got a stellar parking spot and hiked a mile or so in to see Landscape Arch, and then turned around, hiking about 2 miles for this one over a relatively flat terrain. Even so, my feet were aching by the time we finished!
And even after two hikes, we still had some time left in the day! We hopped over to Moab for a snack and beer at Moab Brewery, then drove to a lookout point at Dead Horse Point State Park to check out some view of the nearby canyons – totally amazing and something I didn’t even expect to see on this trip. Someone nearby said, “the Grand Canyon has nothing on this place.” I sort of agreed – the color changes were incredible, and it sorta reminded me of Waimea Canyon on Kauai. After that, we got back to camp, I made tacos, and then we got ready for bed.
Here’s where things take a dicey turn.
What should have been a regular bedtime for Wilder ended up being a pretty disastrous night, unfortunately. I did my regular nighttime feeding, then put him in the tent to go to sleep. He cried and cried. I thought he was asleep and then about 45 minutes later he was crying/screaming again. I went in the tent to feed him again (sometimes he gets distracted when there is a lot going on so he ends up still hungry) and at that point he was ready to play, jumping around in the tent like it was a freaking 5 year old’s bounce house party. After over 2 hours of trying to get this child to sleep, we both decided it was time to just call it. We packed up the tent, threw everything in the car, and left for Boulder at 10:30pm. We knew we wouldn’t make it too far, but were determined to get him to sleep some, and figured we may as well cover some ground in the process! We ended up stopping about 2 hours out in Grand Junction where we found a decent hotel.
Not a great way to end the post, but this is reality! It isn’t always rainbows and sunshine on the road. We do our best, and 95% of the time, things are awesome, but there are certainly exceptions. Like I mentioned in the first post, you have to learn to roll with the punches, and know that overall, you’re having loads of fun, even though some moments are real downers. This night was pretty rough, but all in all, we were still on vacation, and all we had to do the next day was get to Boulder, so we kept that in mind.
Next up – Boulder, Rocky Mountain National Park, and South Dakota!!