Friday, July 14, 2017

{sabbatical SW trip} Day 3, Utah - Capitol Reef, Escalante, Junction

On Sunday June 18 in Grand Junction, CO, Terry and I got up before the kids, started packing, and baked the breakfast burritos I had made for that exact purpose. Then we got the kids up, packed up their stuff, said goodbye to our hosts, and hit the road just after 8am, eating on the way. Turns out Ezra didn't like the breakfast burrito - grrrreat... 

Like I said before, we had a lot of driving ahead of us that day. Originally we weren't even going to go this route, but again my dad suggested going through Capitol Reef and along Highway 12 which he said or I read somewhere was the most scenic drive in the country.

We took the interstate from Grand Junction to just past Green River (lots of dry desert) and turned south onto Highway 24. It didn't get interesting for about an hour and then when we got into Capitol Reef, wham bam, towering red rock was everywhere and it was beautiful.

Capitol Reef is long and narrow and unfortunately we only crossed the narrow part. I didn't even have time to take pictures except a few that I just stuck my camera out the window for. My friend Brent said how people are impressed by pictures of the southwest, thinking you must be a good photographer. No, he said it just looks that amazing. He's right. I took these two pictures from a moving van!

We stopped by the river where a bunch of people were hiking but there were no parking spots. I hadn't researched this area, thinking we wouldn't stop here, but it was just too beautiful not to. So we stopped at the Visitor Center, talked to a ranger, and made our plan.

 We drove back down the road a little bit and ate lunch by the fruit trees.

Terry was especially "happy" at this point. Ha! It was our first experience not knowing what to do and  getting stressed out about it. Plus, it was very hot at 90 or so...but not as hot as it was going to get in Zion!

I wondered off behind the ranger station and since there were stairs down to the creek, assumed I was allowed down there. I love me some flowing water. 

After we had lunch (we always packed sandwiches the night before or morning of), we got back on Highway 24 and then turned left on Scenic Drive to do this third of a mile little hike called Sun Set Point. It felt like much longer due to the heat. It was our first foray into it and it zapped our energy and thirst for adventure pretty quick. The kids didn't want to go at all. 

But it wasn't far and it did end up being pretty Just lots and lots of red rock in every direction. Very barren and desert like. 

Terry took some of his first cell phone selfies and pictures here. He was even more into the picture taking than I was, surprisingly! Oh, and I got to break out my Target sun hat for the first time. I wore that puppy like every day - we all did likewise to keep from getting sunburned and stay cooler.
Samuel got cut off.

Terry had climbed up this slanted rock and then the kids wanted to also so Terry helped them up. Click click click! 

Zoom in. 

I wanted shade and wandered away. This is behind the rock they were on. 

Oh, and this is the view behind me looking east after Terry took that selfie. 

Now I'm looking for shade. Found some by a bench and lazily took these few photos. 

Terry took like a 360 degree panorama and more... 

Zooming in to the kids on that rock...and the red rocks behind them. 

This was behind me to the west. 

Chimney Rock which we saw from the Visitor Center. 

Once Terry was done and the kids had explored a very little, I set up the camera timer and took a family shot. It was only our second of the whole trip! Early on I had a goal of taking a family photo every single day. I don't think we made that happen or not, but I took more than enough others to make up for it.

We got back on the road and turned south onto Highway 12 soon after. The landscape changed. First it was all wooded mountain land, Dixie Forest I believe, which was a welcome change. The desert is so dry and hot and barren, that it made me a little sad, made me miss growing things. But after the trees came more desert, but the rock was white sandstone of some kind and it was pretty cool. This was the part of the drive in the northern part of Escalante Park was the one my dad had loved and described. Just like he said, you climb the rock and the guardrails on both sides just drop away with cliffs on both sides. It was at this point Terry pretended to lose control of the van and scared the kids half to death and made them so mad. It was funny but they sure didn't think so. We stopped on top and took in the view.

 Very beautiful on the other side of the road too.

I like pictures with people in them, they make it more interesting and prove we were there, even if you get a butt every once in a while. 

We got back on the road and descended the rock mountain - it was a pretty cool drive. I felt I liked the place better when we got to the bottom and there was a little river and trees growing in it and hikes for people to do. The heights are so barren! But again, beautiful and requiring little skill. I snapped this picture looking back from the moving van. 

We stopped again at a road side lookout and took in the landscape we had just climbed up again. During the Depression for FDR's New Deal, CCC built the road (just like some things in the Hills). The work is pretty unimaginable. 

Looking southwest-ish at the road we had just come up.

Looking southeast-ish.  

Zooming into that sandstone rock - it wears so cool. 

Ezra rolled his cars everywhere we went. 

We stopped for gas shortly after this and then drove past Bryce Canyon, which we would be visiting the next day. But our Airbnb destination was an hour north of there in Junction. Driving up the mountain from Tropic though, I thought the terrain looked familiar from the research I'd done on the number one hike I wanted to do. And it turned out I was right and had recognized the place! Made me feel good, like I did my planning well.
Samuel coloring with some of the gifts the church staff generously gave us the night before we left.

So anyway, we got to our place, which turned out to be a single wide trailer - that was news to me! The description hadn't included that... It was super hot when we arrived but I turned on the swamp cooler right away and by bedtime I was too cold. I also turned on the oven for dinner and it started smoking soon after we had everything inside. Terry cleaned the oven for me so we could eat. So that was a pain, but we made the most of it. I found that all the places we stayed didn't look as good as I thought they would from the pictures (just like our new van-why is that?!). They weren't gross (except one the very last night of travel) but they weren't quite as nice as I was hoping. But at around $100 a night for a whole house, it was still a good value. In any case, the kids had some downtime playing games, I got laundry started, there were three bedrooms so we all had a bed, and we had some of my delicious pasta and carrots for dinner! We felt so blessed!

After cleanup we went for a walk around the tiny town of Junction. This old courthouse was lovely, and it had signs out front advertising it for family reunions. I think that was all it's used for because we saw a large family unloading and hanging around. We were in Mormon country!!

We found a little park perfect for the kids to unwind after a long day of driving. 

We were high up in elevation and there wasn't that much vegetation so the sun through these trees looked beautiful. 

The kids took turns jumping down from the top. 

Terry spun them forever it seemed like. He is so giving. I would have given up after one or two rounds.

Around sunset we walked back "home" and got ready for bed - showers for everyone and clean laundry afterward. That was another advantage to not staying in a hotel. 

Time for bed and a very big day tomorrow when we finally started exploring some parks. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

{Sabbatical SW trip} Day 1 & 2, Wyoming and Colorado

 I haven't posted for a solid month due to all the traveling we've done and then the paralysis that came with the enormity of photos I took, but I'm finally ready to tackle the 1,500 pictures (but don't worry, I won't post all of them - Ha!). Like I said in my last post, Terry has a ten week sabbatical this 2017 summer and we planned a large two week trip to Utah and California. There was a great deal of planning and cooking and cleaning that went into our trip (because we rented our house twice) so for the first two weeks of sabbatical, we were nonstop busy preparing. But finally, the day came, Friday June 16, 2017, and we loaded up the new van.

After gassing up and stopping at the bank to deposit all the kids' money, we were finally on the road. I think I posted "adventure awaits!" 

It wasn't but a couple hours into our trip south through South Dakota and west into Wyoming when Ezra fell asleep. He only recently turned four on May 31, so though he's old enough to skip a nap, given the opportunity he will fall asleep. I have photos of him doing this practically every day on the road, something I was thankful for!

Our first overnight stop was only five hours away in Wyoming at Table in the Wilderness, where we have visited and taken students many, many times. We all love it there. Best of all was a free meal with the campers, plus catching up with Dan and Sandra. The boys played box hockey and foosball. 

It was pretty adorable how Samuel joined this group of high schoolers. 

Evie spent her evening playing with Dan and Sandra's youngest, Julia. They attended Kids Camp together last summer and had no problem picking up where they left off. 

Terry and Noah played cards, the Littles ran around, and Evie and Julia played. 

They thought they got into some poison ivy so they washed their legs with dishsoap. 

Around sunset Terry drove the kids to the cabin to get ready for bed. There goes our new van! I stayed back to take few photos because I love this view of Sheep Mountain but wish I hadn't stayed - I dropped my phone on the gravel and cracked the bottom of the screen. :( 

Walked by the chilly and mosquito infested pond on my way to the cabin brooding about my phone the whole time.

All ready for bed! After light's out Julia got homesick and wanted to go back to the lodge. Everyone but Evie slept terrible that night. The Littles were up a couple times to go to the bathroom, the beds squeaked, we got hot, etc. Evie bounced awake and pronounced, "I slept so great!" while the rest of us were still growling. At least we got that first bad night out of the way. We all slept much better the rest of the trip.

When we were originally planning this trip, we were just going to take interstate 80 over the Wyoming mountains until Salt Lake and go south from there since that's the fastest way. However, my day, who has taken many motorcycle trips throughout the mountains of Colorado, suggested a much more scenic route. We went south from Laramie and crossed into Colorado on Highway 230 towards Walden.

It was beautiful. We drove through the forests and trees and wound around big curving roads, far superior to interstate driving. 
The back of Sheep Mountain.

Past Walden we had mountains to the west and the east and everything was so green and lush. I loved this part of the drive. This whole day was gorgeous.

Then we took Highway 14 and 40 south to Kemmling. From there we turned southwest and started on this questionable gravel road which turned out to be the mother-load. It was amazing. It was called CO Hwy/Rd 1/Trough Road and it ran along the Colorado River going through this gorge with mountains on both sides. We stopped halfway down and took a picture.

Looking south over the edge of the guardrail.

And north where the river was coming from. That railroad would be so fun to ride. 

When we got to the bottom of the mountain road and were even with the river, I had one of those experiences I've had in the past in Colorado. The mountains do something spiritual to me where I'm just over-awed and dumbstruck and humbled and by the enormity of the Lord God and my spirit just bowed low in worship. Man, He is a big, good, perfect God. 

We stopped a couple more times along the river to watch some of the white water rafters go by. 

This was my favorite part of the whole two week drive. We saw some beautiful sights but I guess I am partial to mountains. Ezra fell asleep. Ha!

Finally we got down to Walcott and Interstate 70. We beat all the construction and came out right next to the Colorado River as it courses down the mountains with high cliffs on either side of it. This part of the drive was also amazing. I wish interstate driving was always like that. But when we came down on the other side of the mountains it became more desert like and the temperatures soared to 100. We drove into Grand Junction for our very first Airbnb experience in a basement apartment. Our hosts Pat and Susan came down to greet us and were very friendly. The next morning she even took our photo.

That night was the first time we had to completely unload the van, something we would become quite adept at on this trip. We had to bring in two coolers filled with my food and put it all in the freezer and fridge, along with all the luggage. We watched the new movie mom had got Ezra as a late birthday present, The Lego Batman movie. It was hilarious. Not as good as The Lego Movie, but still very good. Then we ate a delicious homemade chicken pot pie. Not a bad night! Most places, except the following night, had only two beds and Noah and Evie would share one. 

The Littles would be left to bunk on the floor. Not bad for our first and second days of travel.