Tag Archives: National Parks

Road Trip Diaries: Hellooooo Colorful Colorado – and Mesa Verde National Park

I’m sad to say that It’s been about four years since I last updated this blog. Grad school and working life has taken its toll. However…it’s back!

So, going back to July of 2013 – after our weeklong travels through the Big 5 of Utah, we made our way to the southwest corner of Colorado to visit Mesa Verde National Park. The weather, while still very warm, was noticeably cooler than what we experienced in Utah. After showering about two times during that hot, dry and sweaty week however, this was exactly what we needed.

 

 

Colorado, the “colorful” state, greeted us with this sign against a plain golden backdrop…

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The Last of Utah (for Now): Canyonlands National Park

Damn. What a year! I’m a bit sad that I haven’t progressed on my goal to finish writing about our awesome National Parks Road Trip from the summer of 2013. Since then I’ve been completely side-tracked by grad school, summer jobs, and other adult life-related activities. Note to all the young people out there: Don’t grow up, it’s horrible (I’m only partially kidding).

Anyway, back to the story:

After finishing a pleasant half-day at Arches National Park, we made our way out of Moab and went back west towards our last stop in Utah: Canyonlands. Of course, most people these days know about Canyonlands due to that whole story about a guy that got his arm caught between some rocks…but we definitely aren’t that hardcore.

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Canyonlands can’t be fully appreciated in just a day’s time, although you can certainly experience some great short hikes and amazing vistas (ABOVE). To truly enjoy Canyonlands, you need a 4WD vehicle, a GPS device, plenty of food and water, and a personal guide who really knows how to navigate the land – that’s how you get to see all the really sketchy and amazing stuff. But we weren’t there to visit the Maze section of the park. Nor the Needles for that matter, since we didn’t have much time. Most causal visitors like us take a day trip through the Island in the Sky.

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But before we could begin our trip to Canyonlands, we first had to find a new place to stay for the night. We tried to find a site at the famous Dead Horse Point State Park — however, we soon found that EVERY site had been taken (the place is quite popular by both families and photographers alike). The ranger at the visitor’s booth was really nice however, and gave us directions to a great little campground down the road.

Little did we know that we’d be staying at one of the most gorgeous (and obscure) little campsites in Utah…

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Road Trip Diaries: From Escalante National Monument to Capitol Reef National Park: AKA, The Day We Met The Thirsty Spirit (Part II)

(Continued from my previous post about our trip through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument)

After our fairly “exciting” adventures in the slot canyons, we said goodbye to Escalante and headed out on Highway 12 toward our next destination – Capitol Reef National Park. However, I had heard that the BLM campground at Calf Creek was pretty nice (it also contains the trailhead for the gorgeous-looking “Calf Creek Falls hike“), so we did a short pit stop to check it out.

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A site at Calf Creek campground

Oh man. It was pretty dope. The campground was small and so scenic. Almost every site was secluded and surrounded by trees and tall carved rocks. If you’re able to secure a spot (the campground seems to be pretty popular), that seems to be one of the best campsites to stay at in the Escalante area.

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Highway 12 to Capitol Reef

The sky darkened overhead as we tried to race toward our next destination before nightfall. As a light rain pelted our windshield, we watched as our surrounding scenery progressively changed around us. Instead of bare dry rock for as far as the eye could see, we were now surrounded by a mixture of tall dark pine and glowing white aspen trees along the highway. It was refreshing.

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As we began to approach the park, we could see tall, brightly colored rock formations rise up around us like sculpted rainbow mountains. I haven’t heard much about Capitol Reef, but it looks like a photographer’s playground.

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The aptly-named Fruita campground doesn’t have much to see outside of a large orchard of apricot trees on the side (Capitol Reef, by the way, allows visitors to come and pick fruit during the harvesting seasons!). The campground has a very basic “parking lot”type layout with just a few trees at a lot of lawn at each site – and absolutely no privacy. Despite the occasional patch of rain, timed sprinklers were still watering the lawns around us. I was tired, sweaty, and desperate to take a bath. Since there were no showers (just bathrooms) in our campground, I wandered over to a sprinkler with a rag and a towel to rinse my sweat-covered skin off

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Our “oh so scenic” site at the Fruita campground

Right after we arrived, Joy started to cook our pasta dinner (we took turns cooking each meal). The rain was still a bit of an issue, however. Since our site’s table and benches were cold and wet, I stayed in my tent and rested as she filled up our jugs with water and prepped our meal.

About two hours later, I heard her go into her tent and say, “OH MY GOD”.

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Utah Diaries: From Escalante State Park to Burgers in Boulder

We were pretty beat as we drove away from Bryce Canyon National Park. After an all day hike amongst the hoodoos, we had to drive a few hours to our next stop: Escalante. Actually – to be honest – we didn’t really know what our next stop would be. I guess that’s the beauty of going on a road trip! A month ago when we were planning our trip, I saw a picture of some gorgeous slot canyons/land formations in a Utah tourist magazine, and decided that we had to go and check out that area. It was in Escalante, but we really didn’t know what that meant. Escalante National Monument? Escalante State Park and Petrified Forest? Escalante city? We had no idea.

As we drove on, we passed by buffalo farms on the roadsides, and miles and miles of the most beautiful landscape ever. No wonder this highway (Highway 12, I believe?) has been designated as one of the “Top Most Scenic Highways of America”. I honestly thought they were lying at first. But then it just kept getting better and better:

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Jumping for joy

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Mountains of red and tan rock as far as the eyes can see. Check out the highway on the bottom right.

Unfortunately, when we rolled into the town of Escalante, the visitor center had already closed (it was already past 5 pm). Joy was still sick and pretty tired, so while there were many places we could have camped at, I made an executive decision to stop and stay at Escalante State Park (and Petrified Forest – it was so cute). It also had a lake/reservoir nearby, and it was getting late. Joy likes water. I thought it might be a good match for us…

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Utah’s Bryce Canyon: Winner of the “Most Out-Of-This-World Hike in a National Park” Award

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It’s still gorgeous: outside of Zion National Park

We could have definitely stayed at Zion for another week or so, but Joy and I were only at the beginning of our National Parks road trip – we had just a little over 3 weeks left. This is how awesome Zion is: we met two Canadian guys on the Zion shuttle back to our car who said that they had driven all the way from Vancouver to Utah, JUST to hike and backpack Zion National Park!! They only had like a week and a half for the entire trip, so they pretty much drove down for a few days, spent a few days in Zion, and turned around and went straight back to Canada. No other stops along the way.

P1100722-105As we made the drive towards Bryce Canyon National Park, we stopped to hit up a mini-mart to get some snacks for the road. The store carried hardcover Babysitters Club books and used leather cowboy boots! (the kid who worked the store said that the owner “was kinda weird” and liked to stock his store with interesting stuff). But we just bought drinks and sour straw candy. We on a budget, ya know.

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BABYSITTER CLUB BOOKS in hardback!!

It was about 5 pm and cloudy when we rolled into the park. The air was muggy but cool (much cooler than Zion), sunlight beamed around the clouds, and the land was beautiful. Mule deer and their babies ate peacefully along the sides of the road as we drove past them towards the hoodoos.

After the sun set, we drove around to secure a campsite. While you can crash the campsites (there’s a few in the park), the good camp sites aren’t guaranteed (many people, it seems, do make reservations in advance). We ended up driving to the North campground where we settled in a nice spot with a lot of space in the middle of a loop. Some sites on the edges of the campground however, have amazing views of the hoodoos from their “backyard”! There’s probably only a few of them, but STILL. That must have been an amazing experience.

The next day, however, made all our campsite-finding problems totally worth it…

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View from the overlook

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35’s the New 21: Joy and Tiff’s Left Coast Road Trip 2013!

Gawwwdamn. It’s been a busy year! Returned from my two month trip to Peru and Bolivia in the end of February. Applied and got into grad school for the 2013-2014 school year. Just finished up my last day of my job (of the past nine years!) yesterday. I came up with this idea last year, but I never had a chance to execute it.

Joy and I are about to embark on a mini-bucket list dream of mine to hit up as many National Parks as we can from Cali to Arizona, up to Utah, Colorado and Wyoming…to our MAIN goal of reaching Glacier National Park in Montana, back down through Washington, Oregon, and back to the Bay Area. I guess it’s not so much of a “cross country trip” as it is just a “road trip loop” of the north and southwest United States. Except for Nevada. Ain’t nobody got time for Nevada!

Follow along with our adventures HERE!

CALIFORNIA

  • Blue Lakes Campground, El Dorado National Forest

ARIZONA

  • Grand Canyon (the cooler side)

UTAH

  • Zion National Park
  • Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Capitol Reef National Park
  • Canyonlands National Park
  • Arches National Park

COLORADO

  • Mesa Verde
  • Mt. Sneffles
  • Denver
  • Rocky Mountain National Park

WYOMING

  • Grand Tetons
  • Yellowstone National Park

MONTANA

  • Glacier National Park

IDAHO

  • Coeur D’Alene

WASHINGTON

  • North Cascades
  • Goat Lake
  • Olympic National Park

OREGON

  • Portland
  • Crater Lake

CALIFORNIA

  • Lassen National Park (?)
  • BACK TO THE BAY AREA!

Any recommendations on hikes to do, places to go, other parks to see? I know this is a bit of an ambitious list for a month, but we’ll see how it all goes!

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