Otter Creek SP

Anticlimactic as state parks go, but there is definitely water there

So sometimes reservations are WOW and sometimes they are ‘meh.’ This one, despite the excitement potential in its name, was the latter. Back when I was cobbling together whatever reservations I could snag, there was a hole between Kodachrome and Bryce, and this place seemed like it was not too far and was well reviewed. I think if I fished, it would have been great.

Pretty ride on 12 up to Bryce

Richard rode out of Kodachrome with our “pin” being a meetup at Ruby’s Market, just outside of Bryce. That was a great ride for him, with the pink cliff of Bryce ever in the foreground. It was about a two thousand foot climb, but he’s a maniac, so no problem. He likes that stuff. The last stretch was under construction, so he had to be super careful. He said most drivers were very courteous and gave him a wide berth, and it was not too busy in terms of traffic.

Ruby’s Market is a solid restocking stop

Ruby’s is a great oasis. There is full LTE and all kinds of stores and service businesses, aimed at traveling tourists. We checked out the grocery store so we could plan a big shopping trip before we came back on our way to Bryce. There are still things in the produce department that are just going to be harder to find, but there was enough to build several Blue Apron recipes.

John’s Valley Road

We headed north on John’s Valley Road and that was a lovely drive. It was quiet and mostly flat and straight. Eventually, you come to the Black Canyon and it gets quite scenic. We were imagining Otter Creek tucked away in some lush, lakeside valley with trees lining the banks. Nope. This is a reservoir with rocky banks and a distinctly desert feel. I do not believe otters hang out much here anymore, but I’ll bet they do still exist either way upstream or downstream. The fishing people seemed to be having fun though.

I can see how this would be popular for locals or for people who love to fish

We didn’t much care because it was a one night, time-kill, kind of a place. I was worried one night would feel too short a time, but that was not a problem. I did think about getting my boat out, but just as I was getting things from the car, the wind picked up and clouds came in. It was a strong enough wind that we got out our little Kestrel anemometer and clocked gusts up to 30mph.

I grilled a steak and made panzanella salad and that was great. We tried to bum WiFi off the RV campground across the street with limited success. There was no cell service so we watched a couple episodes of “Broadchurch” and fell fast asleep. Our next destination is Bryce Canyon, so there will be no shortage of views on this trip.

Total miles: 65.8, 18.9 mpg. Site 51. Electric hookups. No cell. Boat launch inside park. Great solar, not great shade. The store across the street that goes with the RV park had delicious popsicles.

Kodachrome SP

Beautiful campground

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. 

Escalante Petrified Forest, SP

Thank goodness for shade shelters

Hey guess what y’all. You know how it’s summer? And you know how we’re in the desert? You’ll never believe this, but it gets really hot here. I know. Shocker right? So we have no hookups for three nights in Escalante Petrified Forest State Park. Which means no AC. But hey, we have so many fans, it’s not even funny. So I’m sure we’ll be fine.

Let’s start back to leaving Fruita, which we were both sad to do. Our route on this day would take us on Highway 12 for the most exciting stretch of it. I’ve known about this thing called “The Hogsback” for a really long time. I knew it was a stretch of the road with steep drop-offs on both sides with no guard rails and it caused me to chicken out on taking this road several years back. This time, I felt ready to tackle it, but not without some trepidation.

Follow the pilot car, my ass.

We began with the ultimate anti-climax of hitting road construction that stopped us dead for probably thirty minutes while we waited for a pilot car. There was a long line of cars that got stuck and people were getting out of their cars, or off their motorcycles, seeking shade under the bushes while we waited. It was annoying, and why they were working on a Sunday was a point of discussion among the sadly stuck. Finally, the pilot car driver returned and we got ready to follow. We were the first in line and the driver tore off at speeds higher than the posted speed limit. This was a particularly steep and windy section of the road so she was way far ahead and out of sight pretty quickly. The construction seemed to go on forever and it was unclear whether we’d passed the end of it or not, with no pilot car to be seen. That is a pilot car fail if you ask me. Like, she had one job. So we pulled off at a visitor information center where Richard got info. Everyone there seemed equally annoyed with how the construction project was being handled, so at least we felt validated. They gave us reassurance about the Hogsback and sent us on our way.

Grand view of the Grand Staircase

Really it was a shame the construction put such a damper on the journey because this is one of the most spectacular roads I have ever been on. We did get to appreciate it for the rest of the way at least and future travelers will enjoy a nice new road surface. The summit takes you up to 9600’ with a jaw dropping view of the whole “Grand Staircase” region. From that vantage point, you can see a huge crescent that looks like the world just ends and disappears over a precipice. Above that, you can make out the multicolored layers of rock, marking different territories by their varying levels of erosion. This “staircase” is what defines the entire Colorado Plateau, stretching from Bryce in the north, to the Grand Canyon in the south. This is the theme of our summer and the most impressive pieces lie along Highway 12.

The Hogsback

We descended all the way down into the town of Boulder, which I thought would be a lot bigger. Climbing out of that, you pass through a Disneyland version of the natural world, where it just doesn’t seem possible to have that much striking scenery in one place. Then finally we came to the Hogsback. No panic attacks, not clutching at the steering wheel, no biggie. It was about a mile of being on the ridge, but the road was plenty wide enough and I never felt I might careen over the side. At the end of the day, it was less daunting than a lot of places on Highway 1, or even the ridgy part of the road to Fremont Peak State Park. No problem. Once upon a time, Richard was going to ride this, and we both decided it would be not that fun. It is a nonstop assault of steep climbing and descending, hitting 14% at times. There is very little shoulder and enough car traffic that it would be stressful, in equal parts mentally and physically. So he was glad to drive that particular section.

What an incredible part of the country

We passed through the town of Escalante (which we have been pronouncing with a latin “ay” at the end and have been told the locals do not pronounce it). The state park is really nice. It sits next to the Wide Hollow Reservoir and many of the sites have some good tree shade. Ours for the first night, however, did not. This was also the first place we’d been to for a while where there was LTE from the campground. That was great from the checking in with the world perspective, but not so great from the checking in with work for Richard perspective. It was a hard shift coming off Capitol Reef for him.

Petrified wood

We switched sites the next day, due to not being able to reserve one for three nights in a row, and that was an improvement. Site 6 had trees for afternoon shade and that really helped. Don’t get me wrong, it was still plenty hot and we learned that pouring water on your head while fully clothed is wonderful. Inside the trailer was way too hot midday, so we chilled in our Nemo chairs and enjoyed the breeze, alternately spraying ourselves with the Aquabot, or going full douse. After dinner, we braved the trail up to see the petrified wood, and that is totally worth it. Petrified wood is cool and there is a lot of it in this part, hence the name I guess. It is far more colorful than I imagined and the light at the end of the day really makes it sparkle.

Section riding Highway 12

Richard got in a ride along 12 from the campground to a lookout point, and I got in some boating on the reservoir. Besides that, there are only a few stores in town, but I killed as much time as I could in those during the hot parts of the day because they are air conditioned. It’s a little awkward when you’re the only one in a very small grocery store and you have to pretend to read labels on the five boxes of cereal they have. I made sure to buy something. I will give a shout out to the Escalante Mercantile store because they have a very hip selection of high end and specialty food items. They also have fresh sandwiches, salads and baked goods, which made an excellent dinner our last night there.

Out comes the Aluminet

I would recommend this park and for sure get up to see the petrified wood. We noticed some of the sites had hookups, but most did not. Some have shade and some do not. Sorry I didn’t note the good and shady ones, but 7 is one of them. All of the ones closest to the water had good shade.

We’re in an “extreme heat” situation in the southwest that is going to get more intense over the next couple of days. Luckily, we will have hookups for a while now. 

Total miles: 77.4, 15.6 mpg. Site 7 (no shade cover or tree shade), then site 6 (shade cover and tree shade in the afternoon). Some sites by the water have hookups. Pretty good LTE for both. Good dump, potable water. Trash dumpster by kiosk. Boat launch. Town of Escalante has some grocery stores, but limited in scope. Try Escalante Mercantile for organic, gluten free, and specialty produce.

Fruita Campground – Capitol Reef NP

Gorgeous site at the end of loop B

Capitol Reef is ridiculous. It is over the top, too much. I mean, come on. Stop it already. There are too many breathtaking views to describe and not enough words in the thesaurus to write anything reasonable about this place. There must be poetry dedicated to this wonder of the world, but I am neither a poet, nor a photographer, so all you’ll get here are a bajillion iPhone pictures and a log of what we did while here.

And first off, I will end the suspense of the wind advisory travel. Short version: Honda Passports rock. I think this was about as intense as the wind storm I drove through with the Acura several years ago. I think the Passport handled better. And given we were driving into headwinds a lot of the time, getting 15.5 mpg is not too bad. I wonder if it’s the higher ground clearance or wider stance, but all I know is that we didn’t get pushed around at all. Winning in wind.

Highway 24 is just beautiful here

The drive along highway 24 was spectacular, even while windy. The previously flat stretches of landscape slowly begin to rise as you continue west, until you come into the last few miles of canyon before the park. Then you’re driving through gorgeous gorges all the way there.

Richard has been excited about Fruita campground since we started planning this. In fact, every time he has said the word, he’s done a squeee face and flapped a little. It has lived up to every expectation and then some. Our site is spacious and sits at the foot of the loop so you can stare right at the canyon wall while you chill in your Nemo chairs in the shade. Right there the journey is worth the price of admission.

Looking down on Fruita from the first lookout

After getting set up, we did the Fremont River trail, but I only made it to the first of two overlooks. It starts out pleasantly, following the river with periods of shade. Once you get to the gate though, it climbs up the side of the canyon wall and is very sun exposed and up up up. Once we made it to the overlook, I told Richard I was tapping out and cut him loose to go check out the second one. It was only another quarter mile or so, but I was done. Plus, it was still super windy and I was ready to be on the ground. We had a great Blue Apron dinner and watched “Galaxy Quest” so that we could be excited when the crew went to Goblin Valley.

Hard to get any more scenic

Friday Richard rode the Scenic Road and I drove it. I thought we’d already seen the scenic road and had a hard time believing the extent of how freaking scenic that drive is. It’s just crazy. At the end, we caught the unpaved road that leads to the Capitol Gorge Trail. Again I love the off roadiness of Bruce2, although I did see plenty of minivans and sedans doing the same drive. I just feel we “looked” better out there.

At the trailhead, there is a vault toilet and a shaded sitting area. The trail itself goes about a mile down the canyon wash, with one spur trail taking you to “The Tanks.” That’s a .2 mile climb up to some natural rock basins that usually hold water. They are dry now, but the park rangers will tell you not to walk through them because there are species of fairy shrimp whose eggs can sit there dried out for ten years and still survive.

Family of Bighorn Sheep

The rest of the trail only continues another maybe quarter mile past that spur and I’m glad we did it because we spotted a family of bighorn sheep with the most adorable baby. Dad was just standing in the middle of the trail ahead of us when I saw him. He then bounded up to the rock wall and stared at us disapprovingly until we passed by and left his family in peace. That was cool.

Richard rode the scenic road the other direction and we gaped in awe again as we viewed the landscape from the other side. We went to a ranger talk that afternoon so we could learn a little more about the geography. The ranger had some nice visual aids to help explain the tectonic forces at work that caused all this. It gets its name “Reef” from the fact that it acted as a barrier to travel, much like a barrier reef would do in the ocean. The “Capitol” part comes from one of the sandstone domes that early explorers decided looked like a Capitol building. And the layers of multicolored exposed rock are the result the great subduction and uplift caused by the “Laramide Orogeny,” which happened between 75 and 35 million years ago. Capitol Reef is called a Waterpocket Fold, which is a kind of “Monocline,” and the west side has been lifted over 7,000 feet higher than corresponding layers to the east. 

Sunset Point

Lastly on Friday, after nappy time for me, I made a makeshift Blue Apron. You can’t always get kale or red grapes or shallots on the road, so I’m learning how to make substitutions with things like green beans, green onions, and red pears. Then we took in the sunset at a place called Sunset Point. That seemed like something I would be interested in. Pictures don’t do it justice, with the enormous rock pillars casting shadows on the multicolored reef wall as the sun went down. It was just beautiful. Also, it had 2 bars of LTE at Panorama Point. Sweet.

View from Cohab Canyon Trail

Our last day was Saturday and Richard hiked the Cohab Canyon overlook trail in the morning. I had zero interest in that one because it starts with a straight up vertical climb. That was a great one for him to do solo and he did an excellent job not getting lost. Meanwhile, I showered and washed my pants using the Scrubba and a clothes line idea I wanted to try out. He also did great adhering to his ETR and we headed out to nearby Torrey for a food shopping day and to get out of the heat. He didn’t get enough exercise hiking a vertical trail, so he biked the 11 miles while I drove and tried to upload photos when I got into service. That was successful (though slow) enough that I was able to get caught up on the blog. The shopping adventure was both a fail and a triumph in that I had forgotten all of the recipe cards I use to create a shopping list. Also, the tiny store in Torrey didn’t have a lot so we pressed on to the “big city” of Loa where there was a good food market. I recreated the last four recipes I’d done from memory and just shopped for those. I don’t know, I was impressed with myself for that.

Road to the Grand Wash trailhead

After dinner, we went out for our last hike in this beautiful place. The Grand Wash trail is perfect to do around 7pm on a hot summer night because the sun will have gone down enough to put the whole place in shade. You get to do a bit of off roading before you get to the trailhead and from there it is a gentle walk down the wash. We made it most of the way and got through the “Narrows,” which was what I was interested in. If you keep going another half mile, you’ll hit the other side of it, which is on highway 24. Instead, we turned around and walked back, getting to the car just after sunset with plenty of light. What a perfect hike to round out a perfect trip.

What a totally gorgeous place!

This was one of our all time favorite national parks, and favorite campground. It is deep in the middle of spectacular scenery, with lush green grass and a running stream nearby. There was plenty of shade from the trees and you can even buy pies and cinnamon rolls from a little building in the campground called “Giffords Farm.” You can pick fruit when it is available from the orchard too. I guess the only downside is the lack of cell service, but that can be an upside too. It was just awesome and we were sad to leave.

Total miles: 70.6, 15.5. Site B 27. Nice site. No hookups but good solar with afternoon shade. Great views, plenty of space between sites. Good dump with potable water. No cell service unless you go to Panorama Point. Good fast WiFi at the visitor center. Grey water/rinse sink at the bathroom. Pies and baked goods available at the Giffords Farm building, but they sell out fast!

Goblin Valley SP

Very nice State Park with unique other worldly geography.

Wow, what a great one night stop! It was hard to get reservations at this place and I can see why. There are only 27 sites and there is a lot to see. I was in it for seeing where “Galaxy Quest” shot the scenes with pig lizard and Gorignak. Turns out there are people out there who actually took the time to match movie backdrops to the exact locations inside the rocky valley where the actors stood. I feel more nerdy knowing that is a thing, but also more sane knowing it wasn’t me.

To start the day, we had to bid farewell to Linda with dogs, who is making a beeline for home. Just too much crazy for one trip and we wish her safe travels and less tight quarters when she gets home. We hit the road with a shopping stop planned in Green River. This is about the only town along that stretch of highway 70 and it’s not much to speak of. We did find an adequate grocery store so that we were ready to head into the 24/12 national park extravaganza.

Gorignak’s home planet. Also home to Pig Lizard. RIP.

After about twenty miles down highway 24, I dropped Richard at the start of Temple Mountain Road so he could ride it, and then headed up to the park. He rolled in with enough time for us to go check out the “goblins” in Goblin Valley before dinner. This area is a geological oddity in its unique mix of silt and sandstone deposits. The erosion that has taken place in this valley produced hoodoos unlike any others. The big bulbous spherical rocks that sit atop delicate and fast eroding bases do in fact resemble fantastical creatures. And there is a whole army of them all assembled in one place where you can walk among them freely. It’s very surreal and looked like a fake set someone threw together and left behind.

We went back for a Blue Apron “Togarashi Chicken” dinner and I opted to cook indoory in Dory, since the wind was picking up. I can now give a full review of the new Suburban stove and I totally love it. The flame is more even and the dial is way more sensitive, allowing me to really control the cooking temperature. The rice was the best I’ve ever made while camping and did not boil over. And the chicken tenders cooked to perfection without creating smoke. I had come to just accept that cooking inside meant smoke, to the point that we always removed the “cooking timer” (aka smoke detector) and ran the ceiling fan full blast before starting. There just wasn’t any smoke this time and I attribute that to the lower and more even flame. The stove also starts more easily with a better ignition switch. I am super happy about it.

Beautiful desert sunset.

After dinner, we went out to the trail for the “Three Sisters” to watch the sunset. It was a toss up for a while whether the sun would get blocked by clouds, but instead we got a full show. It was one of the more beautiful sunsets I’ve seen and it was made even more picturesque with the backdrop of these iconic hoodoos. I took a lot more pictures than I’m posting.

The wind had been increasing since the afternoon, but instead of dissipating, it had grown alarmingly. Wind is not my favorite towing weather and I was wondering when it was going to let up. After the sunset, we went over to the Goblin Valley overlook and picnic table area, the one place anywhere where you can get any cell service, and Richard looked into weather forecasts. It said the wind advisory was going to last until around 10am the next morning. So it seemed like if we killed some time with a morning hike, we might miss some of it. We were wrong, but the hike was fun.

We did the “Carmel Canyon” trail right after coffee and shower. The 1.5 mile loop takes you through a deep valley with a short stretch of slot canyon. The descent down to the canyon floor was steep and a little slippery with sand on sandstone underfoot, but I scooted down on my butt in some places and made it around the loop like a boss. A slow, butt scooting boss!

Carmel Canyon looking like it’s dripping with carmel.

We then got in our last cell service fix and found out the wind was going to last until 10pm. If anything, the gusts were getting stronger. Like actual dust storms were forming and everything was getting covered in fine red sand. At least we would not be driving busy highways, so we packed up and planned to just go slow. We filled the fresh water tank in Dory and did not dump the waste tanks so that she would have more weight to counter the wind buffeting.

Stay tuned to hear about how it went. Next stop: Capitol Reef National Park!

Total miles: 112.9, 17.7. Site 22 – handicap site and we called to see if that was ok. It is, as long as there is nothing else available when you make the booking. No hookups. Good dump station with both rinse water and potable water. Only place with any kind of cell service is at parking area shade cover for the valley. Vault toilets at parking area and regular bathrooms in campground. Not sure about showers. It has been a long time since we’ve been in a campground bathroom at all. Nice shade covers and picnic tables at the sites with wind panels, but it depends which direction the wind is coming from if they work.

Dead Horse Point SP

Hookup sites near Canyonlands NP FTW

This is a really nice campground. Located on the other side of the canyon from Canyonlands National Park, this state park offers well maintained sites with paved pads, shade structures, and electric hookups. It is also about two thousand feet higher than Moab, so when it is pushing 100 degrees down there, it can be mid eighties up top. In fact, most of the time, we were seeing seventies, so that was awesome.

It was basically all uphill.

I dropped Richard at the intersection of highway 191 and 313, which goes all the way to the national park. There is a turnoff to the left that takes you to Dead Horse Point State Park, for a total of around a 22 mile ride. He had an uphill, wind in his face kind of a ride to get to the campground. I got to the site well before him and did all of the set up. That’s a lot of work! I tipped my hat to Linda who was already set up and does this all by herself every single time.

We grilled an early dinner and found the West Rim Trail, which takes you right to the very edge of the canyon. Richard got a tutorial in finding trails over rocky surfaces and we waited out the sunset. It was a bit too overcast for much of a show and we felt occasional droplets of almost rain.

Data says walls are better than windows.

Tuesday morning we verified with temperature gun data that the plexiglass windows let in significantly more heat than the aluminum walls. We have been finding Dory2 to be noticeably cooler than Lola, even in some heat, and tested whether that had anything to do with the lack of the BFW. The gun has spoken and we hereby state our hypothesis that having no BFW is less hot than having a BFW, by a statistically significant margin. We also submit that it helps to keep the privacy curtains closed on the sunny side. We are open to peer review.

We headed into Canyonlands around 10:30 and found a long line of cars going in. We worried that the Grand View Trail we wanted to do would have no parking, but I managed to squeeze Bruce and his off-road badass self onto the side of the road in a way that seemed legal. Then we hit the trail.

Glorious views at the end of the Grand View Trail.

The national park brochure uses the word “stunning” to describe this hike and I can’t argue. In fact, I can’t come up with better words. Richard has a hard time believing there is any canyon bigger, so he will probably be impressed when we go to the Grand Canyon. The hike is about a mile out and a mile back with very little elevation change. There are stairs at the start and some steps in the middle, but it was not too strenuous for me. And the steps more than paid for themselves with the views.

When we got back, Richard got on his bike and rode back to the Visitor Center while I drove and stopped at view points. He said it was spectacular riding with mostly downhill if you do it in that direction.  One of the descents was a little scary, but mostly because of the wind.

Dinner was another grilled Blue Apron recreation. Those are going very well and I have yet to cook inside Dory2. The stove is a new model and I’m anxious to try it out. Dory1 and Lola’s stoves are the same and the flame control is not that great. It’s either full on, as low as it goes, or a tiny variation of that. Rice almost always boils over, even at the lowest setting. We shall see….

Sunset over the canyon.

On our last night, we did the same hike again and tried to meet up with Linda. I just have to take a moment here and say how grateful we are that she came out with us to pick up. She had just gotten a new puppy (of the same lineage as T-Rex) and with her daughter’s youngster doggie, she had four in tow. That’s a lot and she’s the first to say that. We dubbed this trip the #wtfdytwh summer adventure. We all knew better than to hit the southwest in the summer time, let alone with four dogs. So here we are, not being terribly surprised, but it’s still hard to see it all unfolding, in glorious technicolor doggie detail. We love you Linda, and are very grateful you braved this to hang with us

This was a favorite park for us. It is worth it to go out the “Point” where apparently all the horses died. The story goes that wild horses were herded out to an inescapable bluff and fenced in, but no one bothered to supply food or water. History is brutal, but the view is nice. The stars are mind blowing too. If you go there, be sure to check them out.

Tomorrow we part ways with our BFF as she heads home and we continue in the desert. It has been an epic trip so far but we will miss our friend.

Total miles: 162.3, 19.0. Site 20, electric hookups, but no drinking water inside the park; be sure to fill up on water before coming. Good dump and water available for hose rinsing. Not great cell service, except in specific points near the rim. At the end of the Grand View Trail, we got LTE, but it was slow. No WiFi in either the state or national parks.

Morefield Campground – Mesa Verde

Nice shot in site. It’s nice to camp with Linda Pratt because you get all these awesome shots for free.

While we have been grateful for the ability to travel in a nearly post pandemic country, there remain lots of things that are still closed. This includes most of the tours through native lands and national parks. I know there is much more to see in Mesa Verde than what we witnessed from a distance, but it was still quite impressive.

On our way out of Colorado, backtracking through Durango, we stopped at a hardware store because we realized we now have the wrong size lug nut socket fitting and we need to check the lug nuts after about a hundred miles. This coincided nicely with enough cell service to upload pictures and do some blog posting. We are now in the land of low cell service, so blog posts will be done well after the fact. The only way I’ve found to manage this is to keep photos in albums and write posts in a note that I can copy later.

Fun to see your buddy out your window.

It wasn’t a long drive to Mesa Verde, so we arrived in the early afternoon. The Morefield Campground is located inside the park and, though the sites are reservable, they are not assigned. We arrived before Linda and held a site for her next to us. It’s a huge campground, with close to 400 sites, but doesn’t feel it. Some down lower are close together, but ours were nicely spaced.

What an incredible place this is. Worthy of a return trip when there are tours.

Once situated, Richard headed out on a bike ride along the national park road, up to the Sun Temple. Linda and I headed up later and found him just before the meetup point. He was plenty tired after 21 miles into the wind, so he put his bike in the back and we drove the loop again together so I could see all of the pull outs and displays. This is a fascinating park, with an amazing natural and anthropological history. I’ll bet the tours into the dwellings must be amazing.

Million dollar view.

We stopped at one final lookout, at Park Point, before returning to Dory. Richard got in a sunset hike along the Knife’s Point Trail. I was not aware he was going to do the whole trail and was bummed to have missed it, but now we know what we need to work on in terms of communication. That is all part and parcel of these long trips together and it’s all good. We now have a procedure whereby he needs to tell me his ETR, or Estimated Time of Return, for his “I’m just going to check this out” excursions. I can then decide whether or not it’s something I want to join in on. And he will know that if something is going to take two or three hours, rather than twenty minutes, he should check in or come back. Traveling together in a <100 sq ft trailer automatically means you get to also work on your marriage. Yipee!

Total miles: 113.9, 16.0 mpg. Site 312. Great solar. No hookups. Not great cell for either of us. There are places on the national park road, like Park Point, where you get good LTE. Otherwise inconsistent. Two dumps with rinse water. Both good dumps. Store, gas, laundry at the Morefield check in office location.