“Trust in the Universe.”
Miles Driven: 1193.95, around 3k total (will update this)
Average gas: $3.15
Slept: At a truck stop, in hot springs, in yurts, at a campsite (5 nights)
This post is going to be a little different than the last, as well as a little different than the ones to follow. Utah, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Massachusetts all have me wondering how there will ever be enough time! Instead of separating experience by day, rather, it makes more sense to separate each experience by place. Spoiler: I ran into car trouble which lead me to staying in Utah even longer than expected, and I’m so grateful for that! The universe and God work together if you are patient enough to see it. I was reminded of that.
Located along Highway 80, it’s very difficult to avoid Evanston when coming in from Wyoming. What a treat that wound up being! I’ve decided to take online courses while traveling so as not to prolong the acquisition of my BMBA in Global Business Management from Sierra Nevada College. While driving along the 80, I found it real difficult to stay in the moment. Rather, I was stuck in my head, trying to figure out how I was to finish the final summer assignment (Wifi is required for this. And for the Californians reading this: No, there is no Starbucks!). Almost on cue, I look up to see a sign for Bear River State Park: free Wifi! So quickly I pull off and enter this beautiful park. There are several parking lots, all with their own restrooms and gazebos. About a half mile in, there is a parking lot alongside a large gated off field labeled “Bison habitat.” There weren’t any bison out and about, but there was a creek, and while sitting beneath the gazebo using the Wifi, it began to sprinkle. In the end, I got an “A” final grade, and thoroughly enjoyed the Utah State Park. I’ve yet to see another park offer Wifi! What a treat.
Ogden made the list because of the lovely lady in Wyoming who was fishing with her son. She had recommended a river trail, said there’d be nice people, and left it vague like that. Well, after showering and working out (Ogden has 2 Planet Fitness), I discovered the trail she spoke of: 29th Street Trail head. She was entirely right. It was the true start of the fun of this trip.
Since it was set to be hot out, I started the hike at 7:30AM after sleeping at a truck stop for the night. Upon arrival, the parking lot was 2/3 full, and many smiling people were heading towards the trail with their water bottles. I caught up to a couple with a pup-pup, and asked them which trail led to the waterfall, and although they had never been there before, they recommended staying to the left. So that’s what I did. For nearly 2 miles. I reached the top to see a beautiful view, but no water! Meanwhile, several people passed by and said hello. There is a sense of community on some trails, and this one was strong. I asked one person where the water was. She stopped running, and pointed to the other side. “You need to stay to the right.” So I climbed back down, just to climb back up. This trail is much, much, steeper, and everyone is drenched in sweat by the halfway point on the waterfall trail. However, by the halfway point, a creek becomes visible. An hour passed on this trail, I’m sweating, breathing heavy, and about ready to turn around. There is an older couple standing there, the man talking about his ex wife “She wanted to have fun, just not with me!” I giggle, he blushes, and the lady turns to me “You are a lot closer to the top than you think. You have to keep going.” Water now rushing by, fueled by a little attention and connection, I say thanks and continue on. Only, it’s getting rockier. I look around and see a better paved trail and skip that way, only to hear the couple “Check over there and make sure she’s on the right trail, she needs to see the top.” I turn around and wave. This couple actually cared! The first connection of the trip. I make it to the top, and it was such a pay-off. Pictures truly cannot capture the reward of it, or the feeling of accomplishment, or the sense of community that was so strong on that trail, even on the way down.
The couple made it up, offered to take my picture, and we spoke a bit about Utah. This day was the start of my trip. The world slowly looked more like a playground.
Great Salt Lake
The scent of salty ocean yet the feel of fresh water. The Great Salt Lake has an extra pungent scent thanks to the digestion of the Shrimp in the water. Overall, the marina and concert hall are both beautiful! There were several families out and about, a yummy snow cone stand on site, and beach access.
Mystic Hot Springs and a little chaos
The Atlas Obscura has been my friend in finding cool destinations, when word of mouth isn’t available. Suggested was Mystic Hot Springs, a hot springs campground in Monroe, with decked out “hippie” buses available to rent for the night. Ultimately, its a mini escape from reality and feels like walking onto a 70’s commune, with a crystal shop and all. The campground was easy to find, was pretty, felt safe (I actually slept well), and had a community feel. On the way in, my AC decided to stop working. This was on a Saturday evening, and all mechanics are closed on Sundays in Utah (this IS God’s country after all). I couldn’t help but laugh at a memory of cockiness. A market acquaintance had warned “Be sure you have a good AC for driving through the South.” “Of COURSE I have a good AC!” Well, it conked out right before I was to head into Arizona. This left me with a choice: Go to AZ as planned and deal with the heat, or bide time until a mechanic is open. Community at the campground gathered as a couple tried to help me look at the issue, a childhood friend called and tried to walk me through troubleshooting, and family used connections to try and find me a local mechanic. A sense of community told me it was best to stay in beautiful Utah. I was grateful that a broken AC was my biggest problem.
Pando the Trembling Giant, Fish lake National Forest
Lucky for me, Sunday didn’t get past the mid 80’s, so off to other worthwhile destinations!
First was Pando the Trembling Giant. (Warning: If you’re going, don’t type this into GPS, you’ll get stuck on private, flooded roads. Instead, type Fish Lake, it’s 1/2 mile before this). Pando the Trembling Giant is the largest living organism IN THE WORLD. It looks like a forest of Aspen, when really, it is all one Apsen tree just sprouted up in different areas from one root system. It dates back to the last ice age!
Pando is located in Fish lake National Forest, which is loaded with wildlife, rivers, camping, and off-roading ATV trails. It felt like another world driving through it.
Knowing that I wanted to start making way towards Zion National Park, I took the 72 to the 12, which led me through a beautiful historical town called Torrey, and through another vast National Forest: Dixie. The drive got prettier and prettier, and eventually led to a section of the highway that is a cliff on either side. It was unique, scary, and gorgeous, and led me to a place that stole my heart instantly.
Escalante and Panguich
I made my way over the cliff highway, only to find myself surround by beautifully colored-rocks, a highway in a canyon. The sun was getting ready to set, the moon was rising, and the area was beyond gorgeous. I fell in love with it.
A little further down the road was a creek, and a pull out. 7:30pm, I sat there and watched the flow of traffic for a few minutes: Could I safely camp here? The answer was no, so the drive continued on. To the right is the Heritage center for the town of Escalante, so I turned in and walked around. I needed to know the history of this beautiful place. Maybe I ought to rent a room and stay here. It is soooo pretty. The I see it, the sign: “Difficult from beginning to end…excavation began on December 14..” This place of beauty and I shared a birthday! That was is. I pulled out my phone, looked at motels, AirBnB and felt…disappointment. I crawled back in my car. Maybe there would be a camping spot further down. Everything was booked or too out of budget.
On what I thought was my way out of town, I saw a sign for Escalante Yurts and had to follow it. It led down some peaceful roads into a country plot of land where the owners were riding ATVs, setting up another portion of the land. They had one more Yurt available for the night. It was a splurge that was beyond worth it.
The yurts felt like a mini apartment, were spacious, and accommodations offered a yummy breakfast each day. Beyond that, the owners were once again that sense of community. The husband was the son of the man who actually began the heritage sight, and the wife gave me a list of hiking trails. Even better: they had a name of a trustworthy mechanic to share! Needless to say, I stayed there two nights, visited them a few times and the biggest bonus was getting to pet their lovey kitty, Smokey.
Escalante is one of the most beautiful places I have seen. Had my AC been working just fine, there’s a strong chance I wouldn’t have landed here. If you need a vacation, go here. Stay in the Yurts. You will leave refreshed, happy, yet sad that it has to end!
Panguich was the town of the mechanic, roughly an hour West of Escalante. The town has a western feel, with brick houses, teenagers working the registers of the eateries, and quaint little shops featuring work of Native Americans. I bought myself a knife here made by a Navajo man named Ed. It felt like it was my Dad calling to me (his name was Ed). The lady who owned the shop it was in was kind, and was about the only person I met happy to talk about California (she herself was raised in CA farmland). Many places look down upon Californians because we’re the ones raising rental and property rates in other places by jumping states. But really who could blame us? I’ve been having some meaningful political conversations about rent and population.
Devils Garden/Peekaboo Canyon/Bryce Canyon
These are the hiking trails that Jan from Escalante Yurts recommended.
Bryce Canyon is a National Park, but for sake of time, I stopped by a short trail: Mossy Cave. It is connected to a waterfall/dam that still serves as a fresh water source for the citizens of Tropic. It’s also a family swim spot. People of all ages (young to 70+) can be found enjoying this spot.
Both the Devil’s Garden and Peekaboo Canyon require a 12-26 mile drive on a grated dirt road called “Hole in the Rock Road.” Driving into either feels like adventure in itself..I kept humming the Indiana Jones’ theme as I drove in!
Devil’s Garden is serene, peaceful, silent, yet powerful. It appears to be sculptures made of rock, but is actually nature’s handiwork of erosion. These sculptures are called Hoodoos. I felt mesmerized and honored to be close to such magnificent works of art. I sat in awe with my hand on one, looking at the smoothness of the rock. Long after we are gone, this garden will still be here, mesmerizing another human. If I wasn’t so close to Peekaboo, with the promise of slot canyon hiking, I would have sat with the Hoodoos for hours.
14 miles further, or 45 minutes further, I got to Peekaboo canyon. Only, there was only one other car. I stepped out, and something did not feel right. This was to be a lesson on trusting intuition.
I begin on the trail with my water, phone, keys, knife, and forget my map. A step out. A sign warning about rattlesnakes. A step further, a tumbleweed and some cacti. A few steps further, the “stairs” that are part of this trail (rock formations, really). A few steps further and a sign that says “The desert is not your friend, look for landmarks, bring a compass.” This is a trail though! How is the desert not my friend? A few steps further and I see a stubby tree and the first glimpse of the canyon: Is this why it’s called peekaboo? Because you can only SOMETIMES see the canyon? The wind picks up and I feel strange. I decide this isn’t a good idea, that I should come back with a more experienced hiker. I turn around. The trail is gone. I breath. The trail cannot be gone. I began to walk back where I know I just came from. It’s only been about 7 minutes of walking (this is accurate, I looked at the time). Stay Calm. Panicking will not help you. I keep walking, only now nothing is looking familiar. I don’t see the stairs, I don’t see the canyon, or the tree, or the signs. I start thinking about a hike I did in college with friends, where I took a wrong turn and took the steepest way up to the top, but made it. I see a hill and climb. The higher I can get, the more likely I am to see the parking lot. Fail. I see nothing. So I walk in the direction I believe the car should be. I’m walking in circles, looking for higher ground to see. An hour passes. My water is down to about half. That’s ok. You have water, you are ok. Meanwhile, it’s 94 degrees out. I get to a high point and see dust. That car from the parking lot is leaving, and I can see the road! I walk briskly towards it, only to lose site of it when the dust settled. Snap. I look up. I see a road sign in the distance. That cannot fade. I keep my eyes on it, all the while trying to avoid getting more cactus needles in my toes. I’m wearing my hiking sandals. I get to the sign, to the road, and walk a half mile to my car. All is safe and I am humbled. If something doesn’t feel right, do not do it. I won’t always get so lucky. The desert is NOT your friend. It will always be more powerful.
Zion National Park
This place is beauitful, and now I understand how the government is able to borrow against itself and its land–State parks are magnanimous and beyond valuable. The roads are paved perfectly, the staff is organized, and people from all over the world pull over to take that perfect photo to show friends and social media. So glad to have my National Parks pass. I drove through Zion twice, so the pass just about paid for itself already!
Note: I stopped in Kanab, with no photos. John Wayne did lots of filming here, so I intentionally passed through to revive some pleasant memories of my late Step Grandpa Keith, who loved John Wayne.
I’m sad to say my time in Utah is done for this round, but I’ve been entirely blessed to spend so much time there! I will definitely be back–there is so much to do and see, Utah is one giant playground that demanded my attention and frolic. Thank you universe for breaking my AC so that I was forced to slow down, connect with others, and see some of God’s creations. I’d like to keep it on this fun, historical, connected note, without the added cost of car work, of course.
As always, thank you for following my blog. I promise to try to keep them shorter in the future! If there is anything you particularly enjoyed or are curious about, please leave a comment or send a message. I want this to be interesting for you, too.