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. 

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