This year, our summer trip began a bit unconventionally. We left our house for the last time, walking room-by-room to recount a few of the memories. Then, we locked up and headed northwest – primary destinations being Utah, Oregon, Washington and Idaho.
The route will likely be our longest-ever in terms of total miles. To maximize time, we did something uncharacteristic and decided to drive until evening and find a hotel room. I’m normally too much of a penny pincher to stay in a hotel, but we figured it was worth it to get further up the road, plus save time by not having to setup camp in the dark or tear down the next morning.
Day 1 – The Drive
Our first day put us 12 hours up the road at a Springfield Suites by Marriott in Gallup, NM. It was a nice, clean room with 2 queen beds and a pull-out sofa bed. We were mindful to exercise basic precautions in case Rona visited previous guests.
Day 2 – More Driving
The next morning, we pulled out early with priorities in mind – good coffee. Typically I make my own with a hand grinder and metal pour-over filter. But, since we didn’t stay in the camper, I didn’t have those handy.
We happened upon a small joint called Gallup Coffee. I’ve had a number of disappointing cups of coffee on our many adventures, but this one was a pleasant surprise. Their in-house roast was flavorful and just the right amount of fruity. It left me wishing I’d ordered more than a double cortado.
Then, up the road we went toward our first campground, Kodachrome Basin State Park in Utah.
I don’t think I could have picked a more remote destination. The campground brochure seems to relish in the fact that there is zero cell reception. Thus the reason you’re reading this post days into our journey.
In total, we logged almost 1,300 miles in the first 2 days. Sadly, we thought our campsite had water and electric. But, it did not. Thankfully the June daytime temperatures were moderate. And at night – boy howdy did it get cold.
Setting up on the first night took a little longer than normal. Mostly because of a few repairs and upgrades we needed to make this season.
We added Velcro to our pop-up gizmos to make setup a cinch. We figured this was a must to protect the bunk ends from the Utah sun.
Plus, we put in a new faucet at the sink, and I replaced the fuse holder in the overhead vent, which had been inoperable since we bought the camper.
The first night, I woke up in the middle of the night shivering and had to add my long camping clothes. LaShera says these are the only times I like to cuddle.
Day 3 – Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
Then, the next morning we opted for Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument as our adventure of the day.
First off, we decided to drive Hell’s Backbone. An unfinished park road that rattles your bones.
We took a number of misadventures along the way. That included me doing what men supposedly don’t do – I found a boondocker and asked if they could point us the right direction, because the turns on Hell’s Backbone aren’t well marked.
Of course, there are happy accidents. We stopped to have lunch beside a freezing stream.
And our misadventures did lead us up to some impressive stands of white birch trees. Ghostly, beautiful soldiers on the top of a mountain. For me, these trees rival redwoods and sequoias, simply because of the stark beauty of the colors against the skies.
Finally, we found an opening in the trees and the view of the back expanse of Escalante. Best enjoyed from a small bridge (Hell’s Backbone) looking straight down on both sides. Apparently the original bridge was created by some adventurous souls who felled two pines, and then a brave man who decided he could drive a bulldozer across them with a rope around his waist for safety. Today, the bridge is far more sturdy.
The girls were a bit freaked out by the vision of their lives flashing before their eyes.
After nearly 4 hours on Hell’s Backbone, we emerged on the scenic Loop 12. And I don’t think we’ve seen anything as awesome as the front expanse of Escalante.
Ridges of mountains. All different shapes, colors and formations.
After a long day, we returned toward camp. But, not without one last highlight to the day.
There is a song I sometimes play that the girls hate. It’s called Sunday Drive by Hello Dearie. As we were fueling, the song was playing. A car pulled up next to me with a couple from Colorado. In his tattooed glory, he commented on how epic the song was. (It isn’t, and he was being ironic.) Then, he asked the artist and song so he could torture his significant other. She also rolled down her window to ask if we were crossword puzzlers. The answer she was looking for – “a 3-letter word for fish eggs.”
And then, back to camp we went.
Day 4 – Bryce Canyon National Park
I don’t have the words. Honestly, I didn’t expect much from Bryce Canyon. You tend to hear more about places like Zion National Park. And, we chose Bryce Canyon for Father’s Day, because we figured it would be the least trafficked and the shortest of our park visits.
We were right regarding it not being busy.
But, we did not expect the beauty of that first span from Sunset Point to Sunrise Point. It was one of the most glorious views I have ever seen. It ranks up there with the upper peaks in Yosemite.
To make it better, we had opted for a lengthy hike around the upper rim and then down into Queen’s Garden below. The girls were troopers through the first 90% of the hike.
But, what goes down, must come up. And that journey back to the rim of the canyon about did everyone in.
Since the crew were solid sports, we stopped off in Bryce Canyon for some ice cream as a treat afterward.
And then, back to camp.
What’s up for Day 5? Time to visit Zion National Park and see how it stacks up.