Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Utah: so much more than the Mighty Five!

So yes, we did hit the "Mighty Five" (Canyonlands, Arches, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Parks) while we were in Utah. But there is so much more to the Beehive State than just national parks!

For example, there's Moab. You can do just about anything in Moab - ATV, zipline, river raft, tube, paddleboard, kayak, canoe, mountain bike, rock climb, horseback ride, take a hot air balloon ride...

YOU can do any or all of those things. WE chose to skip them all and just visit Moab Brewery. Twice.

6/10 sampled

While in Moab we stayed at the Lazy Lizard International Hostel for one night, where for less than $40 we enjoyed a quiet, spacious room with shades over the windows, air conditioning, and wifi.

That was all we enjoyed about the Lazy Lizard. If you're 23 and looking for a job leading river tours for the summer, this is your place. If you're us, you move on to the craptastic RV park up the road for a few nights so that you can take in Arches and Canyonlands' Island in the Sky without having to deal with a dozen 23-year-olds looking for jobs leading river tours for the summer (and without having to pay Moab's ridiculous hotel prices).

After Moab and those surrounding national parks, Patrick found something called "Goblin Valley State Park" on the way to Capitol Reef National Park. A valley covered with sandstone "goblins" that's often compared to the surface of Mars? Sounded intriguing so we checked it out.

the only campsite available was a pretty good campsite

goblin way taller than Patrick
(not pictured: Patrick)

another goblin way taller than me
(not pictured: me)

a whole valley of goblins taller than both of us!

The "goblins" (giant hoodoos that looked like aliens) were pretty amazing and we spent a good hour or so in the midday heat exploring the valley. We also took a walk along the Curtis Bench Trail that evening. If the valley was like Mars, this trail was a bit like the Moon.

Henry Mountains in the distance

Dinner was udon noodles, tofu and veggies. As the sun went down the group of kids next door went down to the valley to play flashlight tag in the hoodoos, and we enjoyed a quiet evening under the desert stars.

simple and tasty

We probably wouldn't recommend the campground unless you're traveling on a budget but the park itself is definitely worth a few hours.

do we look like goblins?

From there we headed down to Capitol Reef National Park, checking out the sights along the way...

like this one
("and vote yes 4 Sanders!"
surely, that's what they meant to add?)

And after Capitol Reef we headed to Kodachrome Basin State Park, chosen specifically because of that Paul Simon song. (I sang that song for days after our visit. I'll probably sing that song for days after writing this post.)

When you think "kodachrome" what kinds of images come to mind?

something like this, perhaps? ...

... or something like this?

Those were taken from the Panorama Trail. It was pretty overcast while we were hiking and I'm honestly not sure if that helped or hurt the pictures. I actually think it's pretty hard to take a bad picture in this state park.

Our first campsite at Kodachrome Basin was fine. Pretty basic, close to the pit toilets and water pump (but just a short drive to showers), nice view of the park...

campsite #8 for the "A-OK"

madly cooking in prep for the storm

the storm
(slowly passing us by, we didn't even get rained on)

(yeah, the view of the park from our campsite was alright)

Kodachrome Basin was just a 30-minute drive from Bryce Canyon National Park, so on our second day we headed over to Bryce Canyon but got back in time to hike the Angels Palace Trail.

worth the extra effort after 7 miles around Bryce Canyon

We'd had to switch campsites that morning because #8 was reserved, but that was just fine - our second campsite proved to be even better than our first. And it was just across the road from our original campsite so we literally picked up the tent and walked it over to the other campsite. Easiest move ever!

campsite #10 for the win

Dinner was another tasty but uneventful salad but the ginormous bottle of Woodbridge wine made up for it. (Don't judge - it was Utah after all, we were just looking for anything over 4% at that point.)

(and also, we are very, very cheap)

The sunset over the basin that night was absolutely gorgeous.

Kodachrome colors of a totally different sort...

We owe our stay at this park to Paul Simon. We seriously did pick it because of the name ("how could it not be awesome?" we wondered). It was totally worth it and we are so glad we stopped here. Thank you, sir.

mama don't take my kodachrome away

After Kodachrome Basin and Bryce Canyon, and our failed attempt at camping at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, we decided to stop in Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park for a night. It was close enough to Zion that we could get an early start, and who doesn't love sand dunes? One night at this park quickly turned into two, though - we got in pretty late that first night, the park hosts were so friendly and the park itself was pretty spectacular so we decided to stay an extra night and check out the surrounding area.

site #17 to start

grilled tofu, grilled veggies, rainstorm held out (thank you!)

Maryland sand representing in their sand display

sand dunes nature trail sunshine

meandering around the sand dunes

We had to switch campsites the next morning. This was a bit more of a move than our Kodachrome Basin move, so we enlisted the help of the Subaru.

reason #349 to love this car

The park hosts recommended that we check out Moccasin Mountain Tracksite, home to at least six different kinds of preserved footprints from dinosaurs in the Early Jurassic time period. The map of the footprints was definitely not to scale but eventually we found one, and then eventually many, footprint fossils.


We took a bit of a cultural detour after Moccasin Mountain and hit up Kanab's Little Hollywood Museum, Gift Shop, Restaurant and Photography Studio. We only partook of the free museum part of the program but it was really interesting to see clips and photos from some of the old westerns shot in Kanab back in the day. Film buffs would really love this place - and the museum is free!

name that movie

the guy on the far left is actually a tree

After our little Kanab adventure we headed back to camp and enjoyed some words with campsite and a delicious dinner.

inquiring minds want to know -
what word would you make with these letters?

cheddar jalapeno burgers
on the most amazing buttermilk biscuits in the SW
(thanks, Honey's Marketplace in Kanab!)

and thanks, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park!

So many more pictures here... Utah's state parks were almost as memorable as the national parks, and all we really did was hike and camp. Sorry, 23-year-olds looking for river jobs - we are not your target market but we did love this state!