In the continuing adventures of ‘what could possibly happen if you camp in the desert during the summer,’ we moved to our next stop heading east along Highway 12. Kodachrome State Park is a marvel of multicolored rock beauty. It also tried to kill us, but more on that later.
There was a great kiosk in the park with an excellent visual on what is happening geologically across the whole Grand Staircase region. I think they should have that all along Highway 12 with “you are here” dots. It really helps me get my bearings on what I’m seeing and why one region differs so much in appearance from the next.
Richard rode early from the lookout point after Escalante, all the way into the park. Thus he adds pieces to his Highway 12 section ride. I drove on ahead and enjoyed the vistas and a coyote sighting. Then, I got set up in our site ahead of him, and it was a beauty. The Basin Campground is extremely well laid out, with pull throughs and back ins having plenty of space and privacy between neighbors. We also had electric hookups this time and I was super excited to run the AC. In fact, before I did any unhitching, I plugged Dory2 in and started running the cooling goodness while I put up the Aluminet for good measure.
Aluminet shades are one of the best defenses against heat
There is no cell service anywhere in the park, with the exception of little spurts here and there on the high points of some of the trails. However, there is good WiFi in the Visitor Center. That was where I found Richard after his ride. I was happy to lead him back into a cool trailer and at first, things were going really well. Even though temps were hitting 102º outside, we were seeing mid 80s inside. I was excited.
3 fans aimed toward ceiling
Then slowly, the temperature inside started to rise. We think this is because once you stop moving, there is no more wind to cool off the aluminum roof, so the outside heat overtakes the inside cooling for a while. I did things I thought would help, like run additional fans toward the ceiling to move the hot air around, and close the privacy curtains. I put up the awning and an additional Aluminet over the front, plus I built a pillow fortress to insulate the back window. Still it crept up into the high 90s and eventually crossed over into triple digits inside. Yikes! I was panicked at that point and Richard suggested we get out until the later part of the afternoon. We drove to Tropic, which is about 12 miles away and has a grocery store next to Kyndie’s Ice Cream. Bingo. Much better.
We returned around 4 and I was just hoping for anything less than a hundred inside. Thankfully, the AC had time to do its thing and it was a mere 84 and falling. Thank goodness because I wasn’t sure what we’d do if I had no nighttime shelter from what was going to be a scorching week. It never got that hot inside again, fortunately.
Angel’s Palace Trail
With things under control, we did an after dinner hike on the Angel’s Palace Trail, departing around 7:30. Sunset was due at almost nine, now that we are in the long days of summer, so we had plenty of light. By that time, the world had cooled and we got to enjoy a beautiful view from the rocky walls above the campground. We were tired monkeys by the time we got back, but happy to have a genuinely cool interior for the night. I slept like a rock.
They’re not kidding about the red dirt
The next day was a project day for me and I made use of the awesome laundry facility in the park. There are four nice washers with four matching nice dryers in a building that seems to stay cool without any detectable AC. For clothes that don’t go in the dryer, it only takes about a half hour on a clothes line to parch them fully. We also went grocery shopping in Tropic, which has a decent store and excellent LTE.
Grand Parade Trail
Night hikes were working well for us so we did that again, but this time on the Parade Trail, that takes you around the base of the same walls. From this trail you can find a couple of cool “box canyons” which we believe means canyons that dead end. You’ll notice there are a lot of “pipes” or tall vertical rock formations in this park. There are several theories about their origins, but no firm consensus on what they are. Some of them, really most of them if your mind has already gone there, have rather suggestive shapes. It’s like a psychological test to see how deep in the gutter you are.
On our last day, Richard wanted to spend time with the Visitor Center’s WiFi to see if he could investigate something with the inverter/charger. We’re getting a mysterious code that looks like: “f5t” or “fst” and no one seems to know what that means, including Xantrex tech support. After about an hour of online connection, we both noticed that outside it was dribbling water from the sky. I won’t say “raining” exactly, but the clouds covered the sun and it seemed a perfect opportunity to do the Panorama Trail, even though it was midday. What could go wrong?
Totally great weather for a midday hike…
So summer rain clouds have a short life span, I have learned. What looked like solid cloud cover turned out to last about as long as it took us to reach the farthest point out on the trail. Then the sun came out in all its glory, surrounded by nothing by blue skies, and the temps shot up immediately. This was the hottest part of the afternoon and the thing we knew to avoid any time someone said “don’t do anything stupid out there.” Oops. We had some water, but not as much as we would have brought if we’d known we would be in the middle of the desert in the middle of the afternoon. But we never would have done that, so…
“Secret Passage” – last picture I took, but thankfully not *last last*
Really we were only about two miles from the trailhead, but every time we left the shade from a canyon wall, or big tree, we felt like we were traversing the Sahara. So we went tiny distances from shade to shade and contemplated sitting under a tree until nightfall. We also watched the clouds closely because it looked like there were more piddle clouds moving in. It might sound really peaceful to sit under a shade tree and watch the slow movement of the clouds, but this felt more like Survival Camp and we were the campers some counselor was going to have to angrily go rescue. We did in fact make it out of there and back to the car. Of course, by that time, it was cool and piddling again and groups of hikers were just heading out, wondering what the hell was wrong with us and our flushed, panting faces.
We really enjoyed lounging in Dory2 that night. I had a margarita after downing three liters of water.
Things we think we learned about keeping an Alto R1723 cool when we have hookups in 100°+ include:
- don’t have a BFW (kidding/not kidding), but if you do, FOR SURE cover it with a Magneshade the minute you arrive,
- get the AC going ASAP with roof still down and run the Fantastic Fan a few minutes to expel hot air on arrival,
- minimize door opening,
- no cooking inside at all, even early,
- for showers use the Truma Eco water heater setting on Electric1 for 30-40 min to take the edge off the cold water (or take cold showers),
- take sponge baths in the afternoon to cool down,
- use the awning and/or Aluminet to shade both side walls,
- use good fans aimed up and toward the back to move the hot air off the ceiling and keep it circulating,
- keep rear curtains closed at the back wall and put pillows in front of that plexiglass window,
- put on the blackout cover under the Fantastic Fan and keep it closed,
- keep privacy curtains along the bathroom wall open because that is the flow of air from the AC and it seems to help to keep that whole wall unobstructed,
- keep privacy curtains on kitchen wall closed,
- allow a couple hours after arrival (preferably with no one inside) for the AC to get into its groove.
We were ok after that first spike, but we screwed up heating the milk steamer inside the next morning and it took a while to recover. We want to get a “Coolaroo” shade cover to throw over the roof and those big black solar panels, but we’re nowhere near a Costco or Walmart right now. Several Altoistes have used those, and anything that can deflect the sun’s rays off the roof should help.
Temperature management is not a spectator sport
Hookups are great, but they are not magical. When it’s over a hundred outside, it’s not going to be seventy inside. It’s good to choose driving activities to do between noon and four and it’s good to do hiking or biking activities first thing in the morning, or after dinner. So far we’ve been ok and are still having fun in the heat. I’ll let you know how I feel in July when it’s closer to 115º. But then again, our hometown was hotter this week than it was out here, so we may as well see a bunch of red rocks and really commit to summer.
Total miles: 42.6, 17.9 mpg. Site 33 in the Basic Campground. Great site. Back in with lovely views of the rocks and the … interestingly shaped spire. Water spigot is either nothing or firehose. Great dump. No cell but pretty good WiFi at Visitor Center. Plus, AC and cool water bottle filling station. Arch View and Bryce View Campgrounds are up an unpaved road. There seemed to be a couple of sites that had hookups. The views didn’t appear better up there and there were fewer shade trees. The Shakespeare Arch collapsed in 2019, BTW. Didn’t seem particularly worth it.