RV Trip 2015 - Wyoming & Utah - Part 4 of 4

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Day 18, Friday, 09/25/15

Next, a stay at Lower Mule Canyon camping area, while in-transit to Natural Bridges National Monument. This ‘dispersed camping’ turned into quite an experience. (Dispersed Camping means there are no designated or obvious sites, but you should only camp in an area that has been previously disturbed.)

The plan was to drive a mile down unpaved Comb Wash Road to the site of some Anasazi ruins. But the road crossed a dry creek bed, which looked deep enough that the RV would get stuck in it. Since we didn’t think it wise to go forward, and couldn’t turn around, we had to back up the road (a slight grade) until there was a modest clearing on both sides of the road that allowed us to do a many-point turn. But once turned around and proceeding back toward the camping area, we got stuck in the sand. So we backed up a bit, then got rolling forward again using some ‘tractor treadmarks’ on one side of the road for traction. We had looked forward to seeing the ruins, but the road was too sandy for our bikes, and it was too far to walk to, at least in that heat.

After that adventure, we found a campsite with a little shade, and enjoyed a cocktail while looking at the surrounding cliffs, a blaze of color at sunset. (Lower Mule Canyon, free)

Day 19, Saturday, 09/26/15

Today we swung through Natural Bridges National Monument.

First, we took in the movie at the Visitor Center. (We saw several such films on this trip, and they always seemed to be well done, although at one of them, the acoustics in their ‘theater,’ combined with the female narrator’s voice, made it rather difficult to understand much of what was being said.)

After learning a bit about how the bridges are formed, and eventually worn away entirely, we drove through the park and stopped at the overlooks to see the big three highlighted in the film: Sipapaku, Kachima, and Ochokomono.

Kachima Bridge.

This isn't actually a "bridge". It's only a couple inches tall.

Ochokomono Bridge

We next headed on to Capitol Reef National Park. Again, we did not have reservations, and the campground inside the park (Fruita) was full.

A ranger at the visitor center told us about some free ‘dispersed camping’ up the road about 7 miles. That was a bit of an experience as well (somewhat like the day before). The terrain here was pretty rough and we did a little damage to the RV (broke the sewer pipe cap, and bent the bike rack some more) crossing some ruts and rolling over some large rocks. But the ranger also told us that probably as many as 30-40 campers would be leaving the Fruita Campground in the morning, and that if we got there by 10:00 or so we could surely get a spot.

Day 20, Sunday, 09/27/15

We headed back over to the Fruita Campground in the morning and were able to get in. They had 3 loops (A/B/C) and we decided to go for the newer Loop C, with bigger sites. The moment we entered Loop C, we saw several deer meandering in and around the sites, nibbling at the grass, or fallen fruit, and they seemed pretty fearless, at least as long as they were with a group.

We drove the loop looking for the best open site and there was a deer walking right through the first spot that looked like a good candidate. (That pretty much sold it for me, but Chris wanted to see what else was available.) Well, after checking them all out, we headed back to that first spot.

After settling in, we rode our bikes back to the visitor center, using a pretty narrow, hard-packed dirt bike trail paralleling the paved road through the campground/orchards. One of the rangers told us we could ride our bikes down the highway (a little over a mile) to see some petroglyphs!

So we did that, although all along the way we were thinking that it would be a hot ride uphill on the return trip, unless we found a shortcut. But we continued on and went to two different viewing spots. I’ve seen many pictures of petroglyphs (made by chipping or carving into rock) and pictographs (made by painting on rock) but it was fun to see some in person. Even if we don’t know what the artist was trying to convey, it’s fun to look at them knowing they were created over 1,000 years ago and have survived the elements all this time!

We did spot a shortcut back to the campground going through one of the orchards. The orchards in the park were planted by Mormon settlers in the late 1800s, and contain 2,700 trees of different varieties (cherry, apricot, peach, pear, apple, plum).

Park visitors are welcome to pick the fruit (free, for what you consume there, a small fee if you collect it by the bushel). And there are ladders and tools for picking fruit high up in the trees. It was too late in the season for most of the varieties, but we stopped to pick some apples, and then headed back to the coach.

After lunch we reviewed the guide for the park, and decided we’d seen enough and that we could use the rest of the day to relax at our lovely camp site while watching the resident deer.

Well, we did ride our bikes around the different campground loops in search of pears, as the ranger had told us there were still pears to be had. And we did finally find some. They were all on the ground, but we found some that were still in pretty good shape and ate them for dessert that evening. Yum! (Fruita Campground, $20/night)

Day 21, Monday, 09/28/15

As we left Capitol Reef, we stopped at Panorama Point. It was a nice sweeping vista, but not as engrossing as the seemingly unlimited surreal landscapes throughout the region.

Check out a nice 360-degree Panorama Point panorama if you’re interested.

As we approached Torrey, roadwork had reduced the road to one lane, so we had to wait while traffic from the other direction was escorted through the construction area. We were amazed to see that the backed-up traffic contained a long line (think convoy) of identical ‘Cruise America’ rental RVs (we lost count, but think there were about 25)!

Then we drove through the Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument. It is a huge park (over 2,600 square miles), with no actual “center.”

We stopped at the Head of the Rocks Overlook to admire the view. Though you can’t really spot anything that looks like what you think of as a ‘staircase’ (the cliffs of the various layers represent risers in a staircase), it is a fascinating formation containing clues to the geological history of the Earth for a period of more than 200 million years.

If you want to check out a cool blog containing some great illustrations and explanations, check out Dr. Share's Written in Stone blog.

We camped this night at Kodachrome Basin State Park.

The campsite we got was basically a wide shoulder on the road, which was so narrow we couldn’t extend our living room slide-out all the way. The weather was crazy hot, and there were no hookups, so we needed to run our generator for A/C. But we could only run it for 40 minutes, because the allowed hours were only noon-4pm and we parked in our designated spot at about 3:20. Fortunately it wasn’t too bad outside in the shade, and we had a picnic table in a very shady spot. Chris cleaned up the table and benches while I made cocktails.

When I stepped back out of the coach with drinks and an appetizer he said, “I was sure I heard a trickle of water and thought I must be crazy, but there is a very tiny creek running through here.” So we sat outside (in the shade) with our Gin & Tonics, Triscuits & cream cheese, and did a couple of days’ worth of our word puzzles.

Then it clouded up and cooled down a bit; we saw dark clouds rolling in. And pretty soon we heard thunder and got just a few light sprinkles.

With a little sun and a little rain I of course looked up at the sky (opposite the sun) looking for a rainbow, which wasn’t there. So I started turning slowly in a circle--there had to be rainbow somewhere. And then we saw it, something we’d never seen before: a rainbow in the same part of the sky as the sun, and upside down! We later learned that it’s called a “circumzenithal arc.” We have a couple of pictures here of the one that we saw, but you can find plenty of others on the internet. (Kodachrome Basin State Park, $19/night)

Day 22, Tuesday, 09/29/15

Today we saw just a bit of Bryce Canyon National Park. We had been here before, so we were practically flipping a coin to decide whether or not we would go in. But what the heck, it was free with our annual pass, and it was on the way, so we did. The park was packed, and many of the scenic stops can’t accommodate RVs our size.

We first tried Sunrise Point, but there was no place to park, so we headed farther into the park and stopped at Swamp Canyon/Sheep Creek.

Headed back out of the park and tried Sunrise Point again, and got lucky this time. Both overlooks were fabulous and included far more greenery--making them just a tad less surreal--than the spots we viewed on our earlier trip. We were both pleased we had decided to make the stop.

Caution, bear!

We left Bryce and continued on to Kanab.

For a change, we were able to camp at the chosen spot, which was Crazy Horse RV Campground, and we had full hookups. Yay! The manager told us the pool was about 85 degrees, and although that was warmer than we needed, we decided to check it out. Yikes! It was more like 65 degrees. I took a really quick dip, but Chris, after hanging his legs over the edge for just a bit, said no way.

We had tentatively planned on going to the Visitor Center at 8 AM the next morning to try our luck at the ‘lottery’ for a permit to hike ‘The Wave’ on Thursday. (The original erosion creating this truly surreal formation was water, and while that water source is long gone, it continues to be eroded by wind. If you don’t know about ‘The Wave,’ check it out here The Wave.) But we found out that the 8-mile long dirt road to the trail head had a pretty deep rut at one point, which the ranger recommended not trying in the RV!

Day 23, Wednesday, 09/30/15

The drive to Jacob Lake was short (thankfully, because I knew we had a couple of long days coming up to get home).

The campground (inside the Kaibab National Forest) was very nice. We had no hookups but the sites had good separation between them and lots of trees.

We got there pretty early (for us), and set up camp, including putting out our patio mat, for only the 2nd time on the whole trip.

We even put up our colorful ‘streamers’ on the awning. We then rode our bikes over to the lodge where Cynda & Marcel would be staying and left a map for them showing where we were in the campground. We rode back to our site and sat outside in our chairs with a beer, thoroughly enjoying the cooler temperature and the whispering pines.

Cynda & Marcel decided to swing through the campground before checking in at the lodge hoping to spot us. And they did, or we spotted them. We chatted briefly, gave them a quick tour of the RV, and then they went to the lodge to check in before walking back to join us for dinner. We told them about our trip so far, and Cynda regaled us with her crazy ‘Capitol Reef’ story. We all had a good laugh, and a very nice evening. (Jacob Lake, $17/night)

Here's Cooper in his usual ‘camping’ spot. The stairwell (or at the top of it) by the screen door. Once we get set up in a site, he pretty quickly takes up residence there, where he can view/smell ‘today’s world.’

Day 24, Thursday, 10/01/15

We left Jacob Lake and headed for the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

But first we stopped at the Navajo Bridge that crosses the Colorado River at Marble Canyon.