National Parks of Utah

If you are a frequent reader here at IdiosynCrazies, you will know that Mr. Fae and I traveled to Utah to attend (yet) another family reunion.  I don’t know why we even call them reunions either.  Yes, we ‘reunion’ but that term brings to mind infrequent family gatherings.  We gather.  A lot.  Anyhoo, here are the photos that I couldn’t post about the doings at the ‘reunion’.

Drawn by one of my cousins twice removed...

We spent a wonderful three days here before we headed off on our own adventure:  gathering up more US national parks under our belts.  Utah has been blessed with five national parks all close together so that making a visit to one can easily turn into two or three of them.

We traveled south to Moab to set up base camp.  Oh, who am I kidding?  Base camp?  The ONLY camp at the local KOA.  Shortly before reaching Moab the topography of the area we had been traveling changed.  It started turning into more hills and  cliffs a beautiful red color.  A mile or two before Moab proper you pass by the entrance to Arches National Park.  I’ve always said that the desert is not ‘my thing’ preferring mountain lakes or the tropics.  But this area is absolutely gorgeous.

Courthouse Towers

or this

La Sal mountains in the far horizon

There are over 2,000 arches in this park!

Our recommendation?  Visit Arches.  Make it the first of your Utah National Parks to visit.  And you can skip the next closest one:  Canyonlands National Park.

While I’m sure that there are huge amounts of people that will argue with me over skipping this park, they will be the ones where ATV’s, dune buggies and dirt bikes are their main idea of a good time.  Which is fine but it doesn’t fit into our good time.  Canyonlands is exactly that…canyons.  The Green River flows through here on its way to meet up with the Colorado River.  Canyonlands has two entrances; one on the north side and one on the south side.  We visited the north side first and we were glad we did.

Shafer Canyon overlook

This is what Canyonlands National Park is all about.  Overlooks.  Into canyons.  At least it was this for us.  We didn’t hike down into the bottom of the canyons because that would require hiking back UP to the car.  And you know me and hiking with scorpions, tarantulas and rattlesnakes.

The Green River

The park map for this place shows plenty of places to visit and hike but we had questions regarding the southern entrance.  We were leaving the area the next day and planned on visiting the south entrance but need to know if we could drive our motor home and tow vehicle in and have a place to park.  We were told, sure, come on in!  Because it was a short drive from the KOA to the entrance we decided that I would drive our Jeep in separately.  Thank God we did.  The road leading to the visitor’s center had hairpin turns and a 10% decline on one corner.  Once we got there, I had a little ‘to-do’ with the ranger who wanted to collect park fees.  We buy a National Park Pass each year entitling us to visit all the parks without any additional fees.  I told the ranger that the Park Pass we had was in the motor home behind me.  Sternly, she looked at me and told me that it only covered one vehicle not two.  I *sweetly* told her that we had been advised to unhook our tow vehicle to drive into the park because of the road and descents.  We had a stare off contest which I eventually won and she said she’d let me go ‘this time’.

Hmmph.  ‘This time’ would be the only time.  Once we arrived at the visitors center we were then informed that the only way that we could actually see the main attraction at this part of the park was to hike the 10 mile round trip or to use a real SUV, not our sissified Grand Cherokee.  Ok, they didn’t *actually* say sissified.  But the meaning was clear.  That meant that we wouldn’t see the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers.  Again, hiking was not in the cards for us as the temps were then reaching the 90’s.  And I could hear the snakes, lizards, and particularly the tarantulas smacking their lips at the thought of me hiking 10 miles.

We left the park disappointed but grateful that we saw some of it the day prior.  I know that we won’t visit it again.

Day three found us entering a little known park called Capitol Reef.  It is a teeny tiny park situated between Canyonlands and Bryce National Parks.  At first glance on our way through it to reach our RV camping site, we didn’t think much of it.  We were still sour on the ranger at Canyonlands.  We decided to visit it the next day before we left for our next item on our itinerary.  I’m so glad we did!  Capitol Reef, once you look at it with new refreshed eyes and attitude, is a beautiful little gem.  It took us about two hours to visit the Petroglyphs

The Grand Wash

Ok, I promise!

and the Castle

The verdict?  Please come visit this park!  Oh, and it’s free..no park fees at all!  They also have a great campground (call ahead for reservations) in a beautiful farm setting surrounded by heirloom fruit orchards.

We soon left for our drive to Bryce National Park deciding to take the Escalante Forest highway.  This is not for the faint hearted.  The road eventually winds up to the spine of the mountain tops, over 9,000 feet in elevation with 14% descents.  For me it was more of a nailbiter drive towing our vehicle than enjoying the views.  And they were incredible!

We arrived late in the afternoon around 5pm and set up camp right outside of Bryce National Park.  We decided to take a quick tour to the closest of the sights to us before heading back.

Jaw droppingly astounding.

Bryce Canyon Amphitheater

There was nothing that we saw in the surrounding area that even hinted at this type of topography.  You merely walk over to an overlook and get hit smack dab right between the eyes with this.  We were speechless.

This amphitheater is the main attraction here at Bryce Canyon and here would be the one place I would actually hike down into.  Unfortunately at this point in our travels we were looking at wrapping it up and getting back home.  And Mr. Fae did take a small hike down on the path leading into the ‘hoodoos’.  He mentioned that there wasn’t much air for hiking…we were at 8,000+ feet in elevation.  I believed him.

Our eyes and minds were still trying to sort out the beauty of this place while we headed off to our last park on the itinerary…

Zion National Park.

And my almost nervous breakdown.

If you know me well, you know that I have a phobia.  A phobia of being in enclosed spaces.  I will never become a miner or a spelunker.  I don’t mind elevators if I don’t have to travel more than, say, 25 floors.  Caves are on my tabu list of things I will never do.  I can cope with tunnels as long as I can see the end light.  Now imagine my surprise when we were alerted to a vehicle length restriction to enter this park.  Oh my.  When we stopped at the entrance area, we were told that we needed two drivers for our set up.  One to drive the motor home and one to drive the tow vehicle.

Um, why?

Because of the hairpin turns didn’t allow for our length.  Oh, and the tunnel.

Tunnel?

Yes, the ONE POINT ONE MILE TUNNEL.

To say that it was more than too late to turn around (even if we could) would be a grand understatement.  Mr. Fae looked at me and knew.  He just knew that I was close to becoming a screaming lunatic.

When the going gets tough, the shell-shocked screaming lunatics drive their jeeps through mile long tunnels.  And take pictures.  Because I’m an idiot.

I know it’s a little blurry maybe.  But just be thankful that I got a photo for proof that I actually did this!

Once through the tunnel we made a rapid exit to our campground for me to recover.  Mr. Fae was recovering as well because he imagined the seven gates of hell I was going through in that tunnel.  I’m sure there was more beautiful sights but I was concentrating on maintaining my lane with shaking hands and legs.

The next day we went back into the park and back up to the tunnel.  Not to go through again, oh no, but to take a photo or two of the canyon it was built into.  Unfortunately, the rest of the park is for the shuttle only.  You can’t explore or stop to take pictures where you want, you must stay with the shuttle.  The shuttle takes visitors even further back into the washes and ancillary canyons.  We didn’t have the time or inclination for anymore canyons with the heat hitting the high 90’s.  The little town at the base of Zion is called Springdale.  It is a fun little town with tons of shopping to be had.  Definitely touristy.

Our next item on the agenda was to swing down to the Grand Canyon with a northerly turn up through the Hoover Dam area.  But to be honest, we were done with incredible canyons.  Our eyes just couldn’t take anymore red cliffs, soaring vistas…no sir.  We were burnt out.  I know someday we will the Grand Canyon, it certainly is on my National Park to do list.  And we want to see Hoover Dam.  But that will be another day…

Not bad.  Five national parks in 5 days.  Thank you Utah!

Love,

Fae

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About Fae

Although I have other blogs I do for my grandchildren, I felt it wasn't enough to satisfy my inner author. I needed a grownup blog to share things on or rant about. Purely egocentric. Hope you like it.
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One Response to National Parks of Utah

  1. Farie says:

    Fae, thank you for sharing this wonderful trip. Hubby and I want to go to Utah at some point, and Arches was on the list, but we are definitely adding Bryce Canyon, too!

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