We packed up and headed out. Greg had to get some work done and print some stuff out and ship it off to a client so we headed for the Kinko’s in St. George, UT. I went to Target and got food organized for the next few days and the kids just hung out and played on their electronics. Greg got his work done, we had lunch, and headed off to Nevada.
This leg was tricky. We weren’t sure where we’d sleep and there aren’t a lot of choices out there. We thought we had a campground picked out — the pictures on the website looked good and they had good reviews so we headed off. On the way to Alamo, NV, you drive through desert. Lots and lots of desert.
When we got near Alamo, there was a Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge with several good sized lakes in it. We were so surprised. We noticed there were campsites, too but drove on knowing that it was hot and we’d prefer to have hookups to run the AC and cool things down.
Well, the campground wasn’t bad but it wasn’t what we wanted, either. We looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, and drove back to the lakes. We camped there for free. As we drove in, Greg and the kids spotted a Roadrunner — it ran across the road and up into a Joshua Tree! There were no hookups but the location and view more than made up for it. We were right on the upper lake.
There were birds and ducks everywhere. We had a good dinner and then sat out by the lake watching the sunset. The moon came up — nearly full — and Greg got the telescope out. There was a nice cool breeze blowing across the lake which cooled everything down. It was the perfect camping spot.
Again, we had to move campsites. This time, we got a site right along the river which was really lovely. We got set up and then took off on our day trip. We drove from Zion National Park to Bryce National Park. The drive takes a couple of hours and is through beautiful Utah countryside — high mountain valleys and charming small towns.
We stopped for lunch at The Galaxy at Hatch — a diner that promotes itself as having BIKERS, BURGERS, and BEDS. The restaurant is new and they are opening a bike shop and a small motel on the same location. The food was amazing and the people were so nice!
Bryce Canyon is truly amazing — we made a couple of stops and Greg and the kids hiked down into the hoodoos (formations) there. I wasn’t up for anymore hikes but stayed topside and took a bunch of photos of a raven family.
Tired, we headed back to camp and Greg took the kids to the river to swim and splash while I put leftovers together for dinner.
We got up early, had a good breakfast, packed up our belongings and went on one of the coolest hikes you can imagine. As you drive up the Virgin River, the canyon gets more and more narrow and eventually becomes a slot canyon. It’s about 30 feet wide at the bottom in some places, wider in others, and the solid rock cliffs tower above you nearly 1,000 feet. The hike is up the river . . . In the river.
I don’t have pictures to show you because I don’t have a waterproof housing for my camera and wasn’t willing to risk it or my iPhone on this trip.
To navigate this hike successfully, you need good hiking sandals or closed-toe shoes, dry bags (or at least good ziplocks!), and walking sticks. As you hike up the river, you are fighting the current. The conditions vary with the time of year and weather conditions but for us, the water was mostly mid-calf but there were a couple of spots were we swam for a bit. Sometimes the water is thigh-high on me (so higher on Gage!) and you sort of have to help each other through. You can’t see the floor of the river but it is covered with river rocks of various sizes so each footstep has to be carefully placed. I only fell once!
Needless to say, we were exhausted when we got back to camp. Greg and the kids hiked about a mile up and then turned around. I’d stopped a bit earlier than that. We all felt that we could have gone further but you have to get back, too. It was probably the highlight of the trip for all of us.
We hitched up in the morning and drove to Zion. It is such a beautiful drive up the valley. As you enter the park, you enter this amazing landscape of red rocks — it reminds me of the eastern side of Yosemite except that instead of granite, it’s red sandstone. They call the formations slickrock. At one point, you get to a tunnel that is too small for modern motorhomes (even ones from the 70’s!). It was built in the late 20’s and was, when it opened, the longest tunnel in the US. Our motorhome is JUST too small for us to stay in our lane. The park service has a system for the tunnel. If you are in an oversized vehicle, you pay a $15 fee and they stop the traffic going the other way and just let one way traffic through so the large vehicles can go down the middle of the tunnel. It’s pretty amazing.
When you come out of the tunnel, you are in the canyon at Zion and you work your way down to the canyon floor along the Virgin River. It is so beautiful there.
We found our campsite and got set up and then went to the Visitor’s Center. There is a bus that takes you to the remote areas of the park — what a difference it makes to be out in the park and not have to deal with all the cars and parking issues. As you travel up the canyon, the bus has a commentary with information about what you are seeing. If you stay on the bus, you get an 80 minute ride, looking at some of the most beautiful scenery around. We watched a movie about the park as well and then headed back to camp.
We got up early and hit the road. The drive took us out of Utah and into Arizona and back into Utah again. We had lunch in the town of Kanab, UT at a great Mexican place called Escobar’s. (We liked it so much that we drove back there for dinner!). We camped out the Junction at a little roadside campground. We had full hookups and got to use the pool at the Best Western across the highway. It was really nice and peaceful there.
Monument Valley is a Navajo park. We drove out and paid our fee to get in. You drive a 17 mile loop through the monuments on rough, dirt road. We were ready in our Suzuki but did enjoy seeing a Cadillac sedan making the drive as well — hope he made it! Monument Valley is such a special place — the monuments themselves are so beautiful and striking as they rise up out of the valley floor. At every vista point, there are Navajo artists selling their wares — mostly jewelry. We bought a few things!
We had lunch and a brief siesta back at camp and then headed off for another drive. We drove to Navajo National Monument — another site of ancient pueblo people. We stopped in the nearby town and got a new fuel filter for the motorhome. We hiked a trail at Navajo where we could see one of the ruins, Betatakin.
When we got back to camp, Greg changed the fuel filter in the FMC and then he and the kids went swimming again. We had another thunderstorm — this one pelted rain at Greg while he was working on the FMC.
Back into the desert! We packed up and headed off to drive back into the desert. We took our own sweet time leaving Durango. We washed the motorhome and my car and ran a bunch of errands (none of which panned out for us!).
Our first stop was Four Corners — it was hot and dry out there. We parked the motorhome and went to take the obligatory photos of the kids standing in four states at once. Then we shopped! Gage bought a really cool Navajo arrow. The artist spent some time talking to him about it and let him pick out the stone point to put in it. Ruth got a bracelet and a necklace and I got a couple of pairs of earrings. We also got some delicious Navajo Fry Bread — yum!
The rest of the drive was beautiful as Greg found a scenic byway to get us there. It was hot and there were some pretty good hills but we arrived at Monument Valley just as the clouds gathered and started spewing thunder and lightening. We decided to stay at the private campground which is tucked into a valley between two huge sandstone monuments. The kids and Greg went swimming while I made dinner.