Greetings from Las Vegas. It’s probably not too common to come to Vegas and not be doing the strip but I can’t even imagine it in these times. We’re using it as a good place to get mail, do some projects, restock and literally take a breather from being on the go for several weeks now. We’ve seen so many beautiful things, hiked countless miles and hung out with some special people.
First off, we spent a few days at Capitol Reef NP. A rather long, slender park, it showcases a wrinkle or fold in the earth that forms a mountain chain of beautiful red & pink formations. Erosion I think has caused many waterpockets sprinkled through the center of this chain. In the heart of the park is an old orchard & historic settlement of something like 2400 trees, established by the Mormons years ago. It makes for a pretty setting and there were lots of deer. It would be prettier in any other season I think.
Jon arranged a meet-up with a couple Jennifer and Jonathon that he had been corresponding with on Expedition Portal forum. They drove from Arkansas to meet up. We did some hikes together and ended up traveling with them on & off for these past few weeks. They have a Sprinter van and have shipped it to Australia & NZ before. It was nice to hear about their experiences.
We also met up with Mary, Dean, Sydney and Reilly for a couple of days at Capitol Reef to do some- what else- hiking! We did a slot canyon and felt like monkeys. It was great to hang out again although it was cold. We tried sitting in this hot tub but it didn’t work.
Then Mark & Anne returned and we started really ticking off the spots in southern Utah. We did several slot canyons including Peek-A-Boo and Spooky which are in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument about 25 miles down an incredibly bad washboard road. Even with our new suspension we still disliked that road! But it was worth it because the peachy colors, the narrowness and the winding curves of the slot canyon were like nothing we’ve seen before. Cricket, their 5 month old poodle, loves to hike and we could literally watch her grow. She became more agile and stronger over the weeks we were together and she would crack us up with her personality. She was full of sand and dust all the time but at least it was red so matched her coat!
Jon & I remembered Kodachrome State park from our trip through this area in 2011 and since its so close to Bryce, we stopped in for a night. We tried to keep clean minds looking at the towers around us but I guess we’re too suggestible.
Bryce was the usual crazy odd beauty of hoodoos. Several of the trails were closed for winter along with of course the visitor centers but the main amphitheater was as good as ever and we did the scenic drive. I found myself obsessed with the thought of orange sherbet the whole time I was at Bryce, looking out at those orange formations. I haven’t mentioned that it had been quite cold around that time and that night at Bryce we were the coldest yet at -3 degrees. Fortunately, the days generally warm up to be comfortable but you’d better be getting inside or bundled up in time in the afternoon because the temps plummet fast. Inside the truck, we don’t notice the cold temps except that any condensation on the edges of the aluminum framed windows behind the shades will freeze. And we have to be very careful with our gray water because the tank is outside the truck. A heating blanket or similar is on the list of projects.
From there, we headed off to Paria Canyon at Vermillion Cliffs national monument. We did this area several months ago but it was so nice we wanted to show Mark & Anne. It is a wider, much longer canyon but still with lots of pink hues and towering walls. Problem is, this time of year the sun never reaches the bottom of the canyon so we froze our butts off hiking it. And the day before, we’d tried so hard to get a walk-in lottery permit to be able to do the famous Wave at Coyote Buttes North but even though there were 30 slots, there were far more people there, probably 75 parties of hikers vying for those 30 spaces and we weren’t chosen Its amazing that rock formations can cause this much attention but people from all over the world come to see and photograph these striped rocks.
One thing about this area of Utah is there are few towns and most have few amenities like groceries. People say they drive over 2 hours to get to a decent grocery store. Its been hard to stop thinking like a cruiser where the motto is if you see it buy it because you can’t count on finding it again, so you feel like you’re always stocking up. But I had been breaking myself of the habit. Well brother! We were down to drinking powdered milk and had run out of a bunch of stuff because there was nowhere to buy it. No sherbet either.
When we weren’t staying in the parks we would often stay on BLM land. One night we stopped at a less than stellar physical spot outside of the town of Escalante but it was on a reservoir with a great bike path that circled it, full of wintering birds. We were right by the water so all that night I could hear the ducks quacking away which reminded me of all the years wintering aboard Evergreen in Boston harbor. We had quite a flotilla of them there. We got Mexican take-out that night and topped it off with ice cream.
Zion was the next logical park in our path. A different feel than summer with the leaves off the trees and the Virgin River too cold to walk up the Narrows, it was still beautiful but not quite as. On this and another day, we hiked to a lookout and it was warm enough for short sleeves.
We shared lots of great dinners together in each other’s trucks and had a couple of campfires. When we were doing the scenic drives in the parks we often rode together in Mark & Anne’s van.
With Mark & Anne’s time nearing an end, we moved to Red Rock Canyon just above the smog of Las Vegas to spend our last night together for now. I don’t know how we got this idea to come but I think it was because we were originally planning to go to Death Valley together but then California has pretty much shut down. After all we’d seen in Utah, it felt rather anti- climactic. Plus, having to drive through the city on our way over was very disturbing because the trash everywhere rivals many of the worst developing nations we’ve been to and is quite sickening actually.
So with the end of this traveling together, Covid raging, the anniversary of the loss of Jon’s dad, the holidays coming and our plans feeling uncertain it felt sort of bleak for a couple of days. So we stopped to regroup and are feeling better. We ‘re getting caught up on stuff, have made some plans and are working out some of the truck projects we still want to get done. Jon finally installed the engine preheat today, phase 1 of it anyway, whereby now we can preheat the truck’s engine when its cold out using our heating system. Could have used this at Bryce but we didn’t want to stop for a project day! In the next phase, we will also heat the inside of the habitat while we’re driving, along with being able to make hot water using the heat from the main engine. We plan to do more things over the next couple days and cross some things off our list.
Before Mark & Anne left, we swapped bikes. They left us with their mountain bikes to use and they took our Dahons back to McCall to store for now. We’d been wanting to switch over to mountain bikes, possibly folding ones but with Covid and decreased production, there haven’t been any to buy. Of course on that day that we managed to get them stashed into the gear area of our truck (they actually fit pretty well!), we got an email from Montague saying they now had stock. We’re not sure the Montagues are the right bikes. So, we’re excited to find some good spots to mountain bike in the coming weeks and see how it all works out. We’ve felt very limited out here and now I think we’ll be able to bike over most anything.
Our holidays will be quiet because we can’t very well fly home and risk exposing anyone. The Baha is a big question mark at this point as is Alaska and S. America for this coming year but who knows? I keep wondering what the history books will say about this time we’re living in. In the meantime, we plan to see Death Valley in whatever manner we can and the Grand Canyon after that since it was closed last Spring when we passed through. Maybe we’ll be able to get a permit to get to the bottom!
In the meantime, we’re thankful for the life we have and the things we’re doing and the people we share it with, both near & far.