After 11 nights–some very cold and snowy nights I might add–of sleeping in a tent, we are wrapping up our mini (1850 miles) road trip with a few overdue showers and electricity (other than our solar power device). It’s good practice for the next 4 months, I suppose.
Our return trip from the Grand Canyon to Denver included a few more of southern Utah’s national parks and monuments. We haven’t quite hit all of them; we have Canyonlands left–weather was not conducive to scrambling among rocks.
Here’s the recurring theme in southern Utah (besides 3 percent beer). For centuries, water has been the area’s natural sculptor, creating a landscape of colorful cliffs, sandy arches, towering spires and deep canyons. But as my dad has pointed out, “All the pictures are starting to look the same. Are you sure you aren’t using the same ones over and over again?” I promise I am not. Here’s a fun game for anyone who is bored. Look through the following pictures and try to find the differences. Go.
We started this leg of the trip by driving the curvy and scenic Highway 12 through the almost 2 million acres of unspoiled wilderness making up Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
We didn’t do any hiking here, just mainly stopping and seeing (and eating a cold picnic lunch). Besides the sandstone cliffs and deep canyons, 2 other cool things struck me about this area.
1) This area marks the last to be discovered and mapped in the late 1800s. Reminder, late 1800s is recent for America.
2) Though it is mostly desert, there was so much diversity in the plant life that we hadn’t seen in southern Utah. We saw everything from cacti to juniper to aspens.
Next up, we spent 1 day in Capitol Reef NP, hiking about 13.5 miles. This park was more than just rock art–although there was plenty of that–but also about the history from early indigenous peoples to Mormon pioneers. The Indians left some cool petroglyphs, while the Mormon settlers left their schoolhouse (and other buildings), as well as many fruit orchards that are still there. The Mormans lived and schooled here until 1941!
Our last stop was Natural Bridges National Monument. This is when the weather turned less than desirable and the rocks were very slick, so we did minimal hiking and just saw three of the bridges. There were also some very preserved cliff dwellings. Good enough to call it a day.
We are just FIVE sleeps (or in my case, 5 insomniac nights) from our flight to New Zealand and it’s time to return to frantic packing and planning.