Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life-and travel-leaves marks on you.
----Anthony Bourdain

Thursday, March 28, 2024

The Great West Trip Part 6

Our next destination is definitely a hidden gem, so get ready for a huge photo dump. I had trouble deciding which pictures to include in this post.

Robert's brother told us about this place. What he didn't tell us about was the washboard roads getting to the destination. The road was pretty desolate; we kept checking to make sure we were going the right way. There are only dirt roads with very few signs along the way.
Where is this place? The Little Grand Canyon, just north of Arches National Park in Utah. This area is part of the San Rafael Swell. I'm a little surprised this isn't considered a National Park, but it is BLM (Bureau of Land Management) Land. Which means you can camp wherever you want as long as there are no signs contradicting that. 

It seems like it took hours to get to the top. In reality, it probably only took less than 2 hours. But, when you're driving on washboard roads, listening to everything in the van rattling, it seems a lot longer. When we made it to the top, I couldn't believe what I saw. I haven't been to the Grand Canyon yet. I don't know if this would have made such a big impression on me if I had been there.
There are no words to describe this beauty so I'll just let the pictures do the talking:
We were a little disappointed that we couldn't camp right at the top. 
We were the only ones there. We didn't see anyone else until later in the day as we were driving out of the canyon. It was over 100 degrees, so that may have had something to do with it.
As you can see in the pictures/video, rain was starting to come in. There are some designated camp areas in the canyon but not knowing how long it was going to rain or how much rain there was going to be, we decided it would be smart to get out of the canyon and find another place to spend the night. The drive out of the canyon was stunning:
We came across a couple of vehicles with what appeared to be college students at the pictograph panel. It was kind of a relief to finally see people. 
Human and Snake
Rain Angels? It was determined that the lines were drawn on purpose and weren't a product of dripping paint
Maeve parked in front of the pictographs
Since it was raining, I did a quick "jump out and take pictures" but didn't linger long. We didn't want to get caught at the bottom of the canyon in the rain...just in case.
The San Rafael Bridge is right beside one of the designated campgrounds. It was built by the Civilian Conversation Corps between 1935-1937. It used to be the only bridge across the Green River until the 1990's. It is now only open for pedestrian use. It is listed on the National Register of Historical Places.
A quick word about the campgrounds in the area: They are equipped with vault toilets and picnic tables, but that's it. We thought about staying at one but, since it was at the bottom of the canyon and we weren't sure about the weather (plus there was no cell service) we decided to try to find a place to boondock. There were no people at any of the campgrounds, probably because (as mentioned earlier) it was over 100 degrees with no shade. 
The rain cooled things down rather nicely. We found a spot just outside of the canyon and about a 20 minute drive to the interstate to stay for the night.
We slept incredibly well. As I said in a previous post, even though our cabin air conditioner wasn't working, we kept cool by closing all of the doors/windows except for the one over the bed and turning on the MaxxAir Fan.  Robert asked me if I ever thought I would sleep on the side of the road out in the middle of nowhere. I reversed it and asked him if he thought I would ever do it. Even though we were the only ones out there, I felt completely safe. We ended up seeing a total of 3 or 4 vehicles that evening and one of them was a government truck. 
We headed out the next morning before the temperatures started rising too much.
View on the way to the highway as we said started heading more south
Our next stop was Arches National Park, just under 2 hours away. More beautiful views as we drove:
Arches was, in a word: HOT. It wasn't as crowded as I expected. We had to make a reservation to enter the park and it was very easy to do. I was concerned that we weren't going to be able to get in when we got there, but we had plenty of times to choose from. No worries at all. I think there may have been 2 cars ahead of us at the gate. We were given a window of time to enter. As with the other parks we visited, there are times when a reservation is not needed...early in the morning and in the evening. We arrived around 11:00 a.m., drove around a bit before we headed out. 
The iconic arch. I was surprised it was so far away from the trail. And up a hill. So I viewed from a distance.
The green rock was from a time when this area was underwater. Volcanic ash landed and where it landed, it's lack of iron in the water turned the rock green instead of red.
Fiery Furnace
The formations were really cool to see. All you could do is stand in wonder at what nature has done to the landscape over time. 

To be perfectly honest, we kind of rushed through Arches because of the heat. July is definitely not the time to go if you want to get out and really explore. Plus, with the lack of humidity, it was rather hard to gauge our dehydration. So we stayed in the air-conditioned van and drank plenty of water. Then we decided to not go into Moab but head toward cooler weather in Colorado. 
Maeve in front of the Fiery Furnace
Until next time...

Thursday, March 21, 2024

The Great West Trip Part 5

When we left Yellowstone by the South Entrance, we immediately entered Grand Teton National Park. Except there wasn't a sign so I was a little confused as to where we actually were.  We were soon greeted by an amazing sight:

I was feeling pretty patriotic seeing this just as we left Yellowstone. I thought it was extremely exciting. And then, as we drove further into the Park, a bear ran across the road ahead of us and down the hill. And that was the extent of seeing wildlife in Grand Teton. 

As mentioned in the last post, we managed to snag the last spot in the Colter Bay Campground. A huge thank you to the person who canceled just before I booked it! When we rolled into the campground I had to show the employee that we had the reservation because his paperwork didn't have the updated reservation. I didn't take any pictures of the campsite; there was nothing spectacular about it. I think it may have actually been a tent site since we had to park on the side of the road. To the best of my recollection, there was a fire pit and picnic table. The public restrooms had a flushing toilet and sink but no shower. The next morning we went to the Colter Bay Visitor Center to shower and do laundry. The pay showers were amazing. I think we paid $5 each for lengthy showers. It helped that we were there fairly early and were one of the first ones there. There is also a store that has groceries, coffee and breakfast sandwiches, as well as a gift store. 
View of Jackson Lake
I was awestruck by the beauty
After we were showered and our clothes cleaned, we started driving out of the park. We came across a young couple carrying a bicycle wheel. We stopped and asked if they needed a ride somewhere. This couple was cycling the Continental Divide from just next to the Mexican Border up to Canada. They were walking to the post office (about a 10-mile hike from the campground) to pick up a part a friend of hers overnighted to her. They had both just graduated from college and were taking the summer to cycle before "becoming adults". Once we dropped them off at the post office, we decided to wait for them and offer them a ride back to the campground since we weren't on a timeline. I know they appreciated it, but we kept telling them that we would hope someone would do the same for one of our boys. 
View as we drove to/from the post office
We drove through Jackson and stopped for groceries. Honestly, I wasn't very impressed. It was so crowded; I wanted to get groceries and get out of there. It was too touristy for our taste.

At the last minute, we found a Harvest Host for the night. This was another dairy farm that had an ice cream/dairy shop. We weren't so thrilled with this spot. It was hot, there was absolutely no shade, and we were told to park right next to the cow pen. On top of that, this was our view:
Thanks, but no thank you. We ended up getting a hotel room for the night so we were cool and were able to take luxurious showers in Afton, Wyoming. This was a very cute little town whose claim to fame is the largest arch made out of elk antlers...over 3000 of them, in fact.
It would have been nice to have had a few more hours to look around. This one street is pretty much the whole town. There was a shortcut from the Oregon Trail that went through Afton (Lander Trail). "This shortcut saved emigrants as much as 7 days travel." If only we had known!
We made it to Utah!
Since we didn't get a picture when we originally crossed into Wyoming, after taking the picture in Utah we crossed the street & snapped this picture! rock! This was at a beautiful rest area in Utah
This was also taken at the rest area. So unique!
Moving on, we clipped Idaho and then made it to Utah. We discussed going to Craters of the Moon National Park. While it looks like a very cool place, we decided to keep moving on. Robert has a friend in Park City, UT that he attempted to see. Unfortunately, we weren't able to make that happen. Our oldest son lived in Park City for a while so it was cool to see a glimpse of where he lived, as well as the skatepark where he spent some of his time.
This is a pavilion right next to a skatepark
Again, Park City was very crowded and hot, so we traveled on to Salt Lake City and spent the next day there. We didn't see was well over 100 degrees. I hear people joke all the time, "But it's a dry heat" and now I get it. Yes, it was hot. Hot is hot, but without the humidity, it certainly didn't feel like it was over 90 degrees. We managed to see the Great Salt Lake in the distance before driving down to Provo (another hotel) for the night. People in Utah love to put things on the side of the hill:
The "Y" is for "Young"...of Bringham & Young. We weren't far from the university.
Afton had a star in the hill behind our hotel since it is in the Star Valley. This "Y" is on "Y Mountain" and was built in 1906 out of lime and rock. It has been reinforced with concrete and paint. Believe it or not, this project was not a university project; the idea started because, in 1905 or 1906, the junior class of Bringham Young High School wanted to paint '07 on the mountain, which of course upset the senior class of '06. A compromise was reached with the university president and high school principal coming up with an idea. Originally, there was going to also be a "B" and "U" but after hours of hauling lime and rock up the mountain, the project was abandoned. So now there is just a "Y". There is a parking lot roughly a mile away and it is one of the most hiked trails in the Utah Valley. I had no idea you could actually go up there. I don't know that we would have done it, but it could have been a possibility!

So far, we have seen some pretty incredible sights. But what was coming the next day was the best yet!
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