Rollin’ Out: Colorado –> WY –> NE –> South Dakota

Day 14: Last time, I ended the post talking about our impromptu drive out of our campsite. It was a rough night for all of us but we made the best of it. Once we got to the hotel, Wilder was wide awake again and wouldn’t dare go to sleep in his pack n play so it ended up being a night of us all sleeping together anyway, just like camping! Which basically means that Chris and I each get one edge of the bed while Wilder gets to do a couple of 360’s between us throughout the night. He has nights when he barely moves and others where he twists and turns throughout, and this was the latter.

Anyway, the upside of this change of plans was that we’d at least knocked off two hours of driving, and this was our longest drive yet (6 hours) so we only had 4 hours to drive today to get to Boulder. We probably left the hotel around 10 (we all accidentally slept until 8:45 but got packed up and left right after breakfast – one of those free ones with the waffle machine!) and drove for about 1.5 hours. Wilder wasn’t in the mood for napping apparently, so we didn’t get as far as usual in the morning. Chris found a great rest stop with a visitor center, a rushing river, and plenty of grass in Eagle, CO. Wilder and I got situated and Chris went into town to find lunch for us. After two weeks on the road, we caved in and this was our very first fast food lunch. There just weren’t any other options, but once I was eating my mayonnaise-laden spicy chicken sandwich, I really didn’t care. We stayed there for about an hour, and after that it was smooth sailing to Boulder – Wilder slept the rest of the trip until we were almost at the AirBnb. The drive into Boulder after we left the rest stop was amazing – we drove through Vail and Colorado Springs and despite the fact that we were on an Interstate Highway, it was still pretty gorgeous.

Once we got to the AirBnB, we got unpacked and settled a bit, started more laundry, and walked out to get some dinner. It was nice to get out in a city and walk a little bit – something we’d not done in a while now!

After we got back and got Wilder to bed (which was relatively straightforward), we used the rest of the night to catch up on some things like email, blogging, and enjoying the cool breeze on the deck of our apartment (and since we were in Colorado, that musky pot smell on the balcony made us feel like we were in San Francisco – ha!). Oh! And we needed to figure out what we were going to do in Rocky Mountain National Park the next day ;).

Day 15: We were up around 6:30 since Wilder was in same room as us but that wasn’t too shabby! Today was the day we’d decided to spend in Rocky Mountain National Park, which is about an hour drive from Boulder (at least to the park entrance). RMNP is VERY busy and we were warned about parking lots being full early but it was a 1.5 hour drive to the trailhead where we had planned our hike (Bear Lake). Of course we get there and just missed the last spot around 10am. Wilder was napping anyway so we just kept driving around and instead decided to do a somewhat longer hike up to Deer Mountain Summit. Found parking there easily and got going around 11:30. Things were going well at first but the hike kept getting harder (and the book promised a moderate hike!) – we were scrambling up dirt in some cases, but we kept saying “but this is the trail! look how clearly marked it is!”. As it turned out, we’d ended up taking a slight detour and wandered off the main trail at some point, and figured it out as we were carefully walking down a steep hill only to find hikers on a much more manageable, and wider, trail. No big deal – just 0.6 miles out of our way and a good 30 minutes later we were back on the trail. The real trail.

Once we got to the summit we had lunch, took a few pictures, and then made our way back down to the car. Total hiking was about 7 miles with summit at around 10,000 ft. The views up top were incredible – you could see lots of the snow capped peaks of the Rockies, the meadows below, and even the entrance station to the park where we came in. We felt the side effects of the elevation but nowhere near as intense as it was back in Yosemite – probably because we were used to hiking so much by now!

Wilder fell asleep on the way down, which was great, but also made for a questionable drive home since we knew he’d be up the whole time! We stopped by the Stanley Hotel to snap a couple of pictures (this was the hotel that inspired Stephen King’s The Shining!) and then made our way back to town. No problems until the last 15 minutes, so I call it a win! Got home, showered and ordered pizza (I’ve missed delivery food!) and enjoyed some tasty local beer from Left Hand Brewery (we are huge fans of their Milk Stout which is more widely available so it was fun to try some more beers!). We were happy to go to sleep knowing the next day was going to be extremely low key with no major driving OR hiking in sight – just a day to chill out in Boulder and take it easy.

Day 16: I’m excited to report that today was our laziest day thus far! We had no major driving or hiking to do which was a first for this venture. Chris coordinated with a friend of his from his old company who’d recently moved to Boulder, so we met up with him and his lady friend at Avery Brewing Company for lunch and beer (that should probably go without saying, since it’s a brewery, but I like to be clear). Their food was pretty awesome, but the beers were spectacular. Pretty much everyone who knew we were going to Boulder recommended this place, and now we know why! We spent the majority of the afternoon here just eating, drinking, and for the first time since we’d left SF, hanging out with someone we knew! Wilder was stoked because there were french fries and after that, an outdoor patio with some fake grass to walk around in. He’s easy to please, generally ;).

We squeezed in a quick trip to Target and a nap for Wilder, and then we strapped him in the carrier for a walk down to the Pearl Street Mall for dinner and people-watching. Since we’d eaten and drank so much already, we found a little smoothie/healthy food bowl place and took that to a nearby grassy area. While walking to said grassy area, we passed one of those kids watering things where there are water holes that spout up in the air randomly, and of course there were lots of big kids playing in it (because, well, 100 degrees and all). Wilder had to check it out and walked right on over to it and after standing there for what felt like an eternity, he walked in and stood right on top of one of the spouts, at which point he was instantly soaked. He shrieked and I thought he was upset but then he started laughing and squealing. It was pretty funny. Downside is we didn’t have a change of clothes (because we clearly didn’t expect this to happen and I like to live on the edge and not bring a change of clothes when I’m out with a child), so Chris ran into a little shop and bought a sweater to change him into for the walk home.

All in all, it was a nice relaxing day. But just to keep it interesting, Wilder decided he wanted to resist sleep and he figured he may as well scream some before finally falling asleep an hour or so later. This got us all worried (again) about his sleep for the rest of the trip since the night before wasn’t exactly awesome either – it seemed like Wilder was having so much fun being around us all the time that he has decided to get very upset when we leave him. I mean, we are pretty fun parents and all, but geez. Gonna have to figure out a solution or else we’re going to plow through the rest of the country!

Day 17: A major driving day. Our original plan since we had a decent drive today was to get to Hot Springs, SD, which was probably about 6 hours from Boulder. We were up and out by about 9:30 or so.

The first part of the drive was pretty boring – lots of freeway driving as we made our way from Colorado (goodbye!) to Wyoming. Since neither of us had been to Nebraska, we worked that in to the drive, agreeing that an extra 30 minutes or so in Nebraska was ok, since we would otherwise just be driving straight north through Wyoming (and we hung out there when we went to Yellowstone a few years ago). The difficulty in driving through Nebraska is that it is very remote in the western part of the state, and finding a good stopping point was challenging – partially because there weren’t many, but also because we didn’t have good enough service to look for much. Chris – always resourceful and a way better “Goose” than I – found a town called Scottsbluff that had a cute little sandwich/coffee shop in their downtown and around the corner there was a… wait for it… park with grass! and shade! We grabbed our food and hung out in the grass for a bit while Wilder hobbled around with his grilled cheese sandwich that primarily fed the squirrels instead of him.

After that, we continued on, and drove up Hwy 71 towards South Dakota. We were expecting a really boring drive for this section, but we were pleasantly surprised to find that this was one of the most beautiful driving days on the trip. We managed to avoid freeways and drove through a ton of farmland, and then we happened upon the Uglala National Grassland, which was one of the most amazing places I’ve ever driven through. Sure, the National Parks we’ve visited have been awesome, but this was just so unexpected! Tall green grass dancing in the wind, large rolling hills, a ton of cattle with all their little baby calves, and gorgeous blue sky the whole way. We even risked waking Wilder up from a nap to stop and snap a few pictures. I couldn’t resist, and I knew snapping them from a moving car and a bug-spattered windshield would just piss me off when my future self looked back at the pictures from this day.

As seems to be the case with this trip, there is always something that crops up to keep it interesting. I was walking back to my car after taking pictures and looked down at my frighteningly white legs (well, the bottom 1/4 is red because I wore yoga pants one day and forgot sunscreen – yay!), and they were covered in some sort of freakishly giant gnats, all of which bit me and left globs of someone’s blood on my leg after I swatted them off / killed them. Then they all proceeded to swell up to about the size of my thumb, which isn’t that big, but big for a welt from a bug bite. UGH. Imma have to get that future yard of ours treated for this type of stuff because I’m going to be really annoyed with the amount of bug bites I get. +1 in the column for moving back to SF where we don’t seem to have mosquitoes!

Moving on….

Wilder was a champ on the road today – smiling and laughing the whole time he was awake. We easily made it into Hot Springs, South Dakota but it was only something like 3 or 4 pm. We grabbed a cold brew from a cute little coffee shop in town and sat for a bit to figure out what we wanted to do. We found a couple of options for hotels in Custer, about an hour away, and decided to drive up that way for the night. But once we got through Custer, we realized we actually weren’t that far from Deadwood, SD (yes, the tv show!) so we just said screw it and drove there! Figured it would be fun to check out that little town.

Of course our luck ran out on the way there and clouds started covering the sky. Fortunately it didn’t rain for too long but it was crazy dark. We checked in at the Bullock Hotel and as we were checking in the lady asked us if we got caught in the storm. We told her just a little rain but nothing too bad, and she started telling us about the giant hail storm they just experienced! There was glass all over the floor, she said, because their skylights were shattered by baseball sized hail!! And on top of that, most of their guests who had parked out back in their lot had shattered windshields as well. Geeeeeezzzz. We’d literally avoided a major road trip setback by about 20 minutes! Luckily the rain had stopped by the time we got settled into our little room, and we made our way out for dinner and to do a little wandering around Deadwood.

We had a really great dinner at Deadwood Social Club. Wilder gobbled up some of the wild boar ragu I got and made friends with the ladies at the table behind us – as per usual. I also had a couple of very tasty Manhattans which made me pretty happy. Then we hit up a few stores for some touristy shit and even sampled some of Deadwood’s finest moonshine. We decided it was the perfect treat for Luke and Cheryl and grabbed a bottle for the road (not literally for the road, but for their place).

As for Wilder’s sleeping (I’m sure you’re dying to know), we decided to stretch it and put him down for bed later tonight, thinking that maybe, just maybe, he wasn’t sleepy these last couple of days and if we just pushed it back some, it would do the trick. And it did! He was asleep in minutes after putting him to bed in the pack n play that we shoved into the bathroom.

Day 18: The morning started off without too much trouble. We found a rinky dink coffee shop and grabbed breakfast, loaded up the car, and got going around our usual time of 9:30 or so. Today was a day of lots of scenic routes as we planned to make our way back down to Custer and eventually to Mount Rushmore and then Badlands. We turned onto Highway 87 (Needles Highway) into Custer State Park and then onto Highway 16A. The views were amazing – the roads were narrow, the guard rails were nonexistent, and the viewpoints were plentiful – my kind of drive! We took our time (because it was pretty and because almost every turn was literally a hairpin turn, so not much choice) and before getting to Mount Rushmore we stopped at the State Game Lodge for lunch, some more stickers, and a little outdoor time before making the rest of the drive up 16A. It was surprisingly not that crowded on the road so we were able to go super slow and pull off to take pictures. There were these super cool one-way tunnels on the last part of the drive, and when you went through a couple of them there were views of Mount Rushmore in the distance – so cool!!

We hadn’t planned to spend a ton of time at the Mount Rushmore Monument, but we still wanted to at least get out and see it. I’m glad we did – we probably stayed for about 30 minutes – took a few pictures, grabbed another sticker, and made our way on towards Rapid City, where we’d planned to go to Dinosaur Park, this little area I’d read about that had giant dinosaur statues. I figured Wilder might enjoy it so may as well check it out. The weather had cooperated up until that point but the dark clouds slowly started creeping in and before too long it was raining again. We dug out our rain jackets and forged ahead to the dinosaurs! Wilder let out a few squeals but in all honestly there really wasn’t much to it – just 4 or 5 dinos and little plaques about each one.

Since we were supposed to go to Badlands tonight, we had to sit in the car and figure out what we were gonna do the rest of the day and if we needed a Plan B in case it continued to rain. The forecast called for rain at Badlands later that night, so we decided that we probably weren’t going to be camping, at least the first night of our reservation. We decided we’d find something in Wall after we went to Wall Drug, another touristy stop on our list that lots of people recommended. The drive to Wall was pretty boring (just down I-90) and it was finished raining by the time we got there thank goodness. We got a little cabin at Amy’s Motel and then walked over to Wall Drug, which turned out to be super super lame (aside from the donuts). We had dinner across the street and then went back to the motel/cabin for the rest of the night, with plans to get to Badlands the next day and spend one last night camping.

Hotels are always interesting with kids because there’s just one room, and little kiddos like Wilder get too excited when they wake up with their parents in the same room. I was never a big fan of co-sleeping for this reason, although I know a ton of parents keep their kids in the same bed for months. No thanks. That said, I am always more nervous about sleeping in a hotel which is why AirBnbs and even tents have been nice when it comes to bedtime. When we first walked into this little motel/cabin situation, I was thinking it would be the worst sleep ever because I couldn’t see how we’d “hide” from him. But creativity is key – we nestled that dang pack n play right into the doorway of the bathroom, just enough to shield him from us once we had the door opened too. He could still hear us, but we cranked up the white noise and kept our voices to a whisper and it worked like a charm. The difficulty came when I had to pee before bed, and I had to do some yoga-like maneuver to get up over the crib, into the tub, and then onto the toilet, at which point my head was basically IN his crib. You’re welcome for the mental image there.


Day 19: Man. Last night, we had the BEST night of sleep on the whole trip I think. Wilder went to bed without trouble and slept all night with barely a peep out of him. And in a tiny $88 motel! Had to wake him up around 8:15. We left the hotel around 9:30 and drove over to Badlands.

Badlands was really cool. I’ve had trouble explaining how incredible these places are other than saying awesome and cool but I suppose I’m at a loss for words! This park is so different from the rest we’ve visited – lots or grass and prairie land and then all of a sudden you see buttes and spires and these beautifully colored mini-mountains. We did a hybrid hike and went through most of the Castle Trail but then looped around on the Medicine Root Loop. Total hiking was about 8 miles. It was pretty flat and although it was hot, it was breezy in some places too. Wilder took a couple of short naps along the way and we had our usual PB&J lunches at Saddle Pass while we admired the views a little more.

After our hike, we made a quick sticker-buying stop at the Visitor Center and grabbed a snack and beer at the Lodge Restaurant (even grabbed a $20 bottle of South Dakota wine for camp!), and then made our way to our campsite for the day. The campsite was absolutely perfect! It was smack in the middle of the park with awesome views of the mountains. Hung out around our site and made a weirdo dinner of leftover potatoes and baked beans – mmm mmm. Wilder had more admirers and a family came by to visit (from Minnesota!) while we were setting up our tent.

Things were going well at camp until it was time to get Wilder ready for bed. I was sitting outside the tent feeding him in my warm PJ longjohns (that also seemed to keep the mosquitoes out) when all of a sudden my crotch got super warm. It was confusing at first since I hadn’t experienced this in a while, but then I realized that I was getting peed on. Yay! I guess this kid had wiggled around too much and his diaper had slid off one side of his butt, so that was awesome. Then Chris went to get him ready for bed at which point we realized that he had also taken the most massive shit of his life. Fortunately getting him to go to sleep went ok…but still. Always keeping it interesting!

Meanwhile, the sunset was spectacular. It was nice to sit down and admire the views for a little bit – we were almost halfway finished with this adventure, and this was the last planned night of National Park hiking/camping, so I was happy to be able to sit and soak it in a little before calling it a night.

Day 20: There isn’t much to report for today than lots of driving! Had a pretty good last night of camping and got up around 6:30, left at 9. Since we cross time zones it was essentially 10am. We’d planned to drive halfway to Luke and Cheryls in Rochester MN today since the whole drive was 7.5 hours but we were doing some research and realized there’s absolutely nothing to do in Sioux Falls (we’ll, nothing we wanted to do and nothing super fun for Wilder) so we just decided to plan to drive the whole way and bail out if things went south.

The thought of waking up tomorrow at their place rather than another hotel room sounded pretty good, and Wilder generally cooperated so we just plowed through Eastern South Dakota and Western Minnesota and made it to their place around 8pm after a few rest stops, gas stops, and a late lunch/Park stop in Sioux Falls.

Wilder was STOKED to see their cats, and they actually let him pet them! He was in heaven. I knew he was going to be pretty happy for the next few days, as were we! It already felt good to be somewhere familiar, knowing we had some relaxation ahead of us for the week.

Rollin’ Out – Bryce Canyon –> Arches

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!!