So, the difference between a National Park and a National Monument appears to be that the latter cannot have paved roads of any sort between it and the public who wishes to visit it. Or, so our experience in Vermillion Cliffs would lead me to believe. After a filling jarring 20 or so miles on dirt roads of low quality we arrived at the trailhead. After our experience in Zion, the kid and I were slightly hesitant about another hike in 107° weather, but Jodi had said this was the one thing she felt like she really HAD to do on this trip, so we were all in on this for her.
Sadly, we neither had time nor the ability to do the Wave (Google it, that is a real place), but we were doing the Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch hike.
The marquee part of this hike was the mile or so of the hike that was in a series of slot canyons. Slot canyons are narrow canyons with really tall walls. They are so narrow that you cannot hike them if there are clouds on the sky, because flash floods would be fatal to anyone in the slot canyon.
There is one other part of the hike that was stressing me out: The Obstacle, a 10 foot drop that had to be scrambled up on the return.
Other than an exposed bit that had to be traversed at the start and end of the hike, it was entirely in the slot canyons or shade. The hike was magical. Like waking through an alien world or a landscape painted by Dr. Seuss.
And on the way out we found a 8 mile dirt road, which was gloriously shorter than the way in.
Vermillion was amazing. Though the next day was sounding like it was going to be less impressive, Monument Valley was closed.
I grew up out west and had never been to the Grand Canyon. I jokingly have called it a big hole in the ground. Yeah, I might need to apologize to the Grand Canyon for that, it is an amazing, beautiful, spectacular, giant hole in the ground.
Since, we were in Utah and hitting some more places closer to it, we decided to explore the north rim, which was a brilliant move. The less popular side in normal times, right now it is empty. Not quite The Quiet Earth (most people think Omega Man, but The Quiet Earth is always the movie I think of when I imagine an empty planet), but there were very few people we saw that day.
We hit most of the overlooks and then hiked out to an amazing overlook. An amazing day was had by all.
And now, after Bryce, Zion, and the Grand Canyon we had seen as much verity as the Earth has to show us, I thought as we hiked back from the overlook. SPOILERS: man, was I wrong. Back to the same camp ground as last night and then on to Vermillion Cliffs.
Let me get this out of the way right off about Zion National Park: Zion is pretty, Zion has some amazing hikes, Zion has some of the most interesting highway tunnels I have ever seen. But, in mid-August Zion is hot.
No, I mean hot, real hot. 108° degrees hot. Even in a freakin’ desert, dry as a bone, way too hot, hot. We’re human beings ever really meant to survive in this heat, hot.
Needless to say, babes and I did not deal well with the heat. Jodi did not have as much issues, but even she was willing to admit, it was freakin’ hot.
I feel like a Costco hotdog.The kid, after a hike, when asked how she was doing.
But, we did see some sheep and had a really, honestly, nice hike, but too hot.
Mask wearing was also low, sub-70% I would say. Which really pissed Jodi off. The kid and I were too hot to care much. Did I mention it was hot?
And then we drove on to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
After a less than perfect sleep for me (spoilers, it would take me a couple more nights to sort out how to stuff myself into the bed in some semblance of comfort), we headed out into Bryce Canyon. The plan was to do a hike down into the canyon and then drive out to the end of the park and stop at each spot on the way back, there is one main road at Bryce Canyon and it is a out and back, not a loop.
I do love the linguistic gymnastics the Park Service went through in describing Ebenezer Bryce whose name is on the park. They described him as a “serial homesteader.”
Hoodoos are the main attraction at Bryce, and it delivers. Caused when softer stone protected by layers of harder stone are eroded away, leaving only the harder stone. That harder stone tends to compress the layers below it leaving crazy, amazing looking pillars of stone, many of which are wider at the top then bottom. Bryce is somewhat unique in that the erosion is mostly frost erosion rather than wind or water.
The hike was fantastic. We did the Navajo Trail down into the Canyon and then Wall Street Trail, which passes through a slot canyon, back up from the Canyon floor. The pictures sort of speak for themselves.
This also was our first experience with what happens when the kid gets overheated. Traveling with a 14-year old has been one of the best parts of this trip. Yes, we have had to force her to put away the phone a few times, but she has been a trooper when it comes to the hikes and everything we have been doing. Not only being there, but actually enjoying it and providing some pretty great entertainment. After one of the hikes in 108° she said, “I feel like a Costco hotdog.” But, when she does get over heated she gets very quiet, which is pretty unusual for her. I don’t think we had seen this in her before, other than maybe Kenya, but we have seen it a few time here. I will say that some cold water and a few fruit snacks later, she bounces back. So, for anyone worried about the kid (looking at you grandparents), we are taking really great care of her.
Not super crowded, but we were not alone in the park. I would say mask wearing was about 75% of the hikers we saw, only a few with dirty looks for those of us wearing masks. 100% of the rangers and park employees wear masks, and all the buildings are mask required.
We were supposed to head off to Zion National Park, but then we caught up with one of Jodi’s friends from work who was in the area, and who we enjoyed a socially distant meetup with. She and her boyfriend had just been to Zion and said it was hot and crowded.
So, rather than driving out to Zion, we found a campsite near Bryce and thought we might enjoy sunrise at Bryce.
Getting an early start on the posts for this trip, especially given that tomorrow, the first real travel day, starts early and could be ‘exciting’. We fly, while wearing our KN95 mask (we have been preparing for this trip for some time now), from Boston, MA to Salt Lake City, UT. Then, we pick up our RV—which I will refer to as our hermetically sealed vehicle—and drive to Bryce Canyon National Park.
Well, not that exciting. Though, if your idea of humor is three sleep deprived, brain-dead zombies trying to make dinner in the dark, then you missed some comedy gold.
The flight was uneventful. Leaving Boston there was less chance for a mask related issue or tantrum. With only two thirds of the plane available to be sold, Delta is not booking the middle seats, flight was delightful. Other than the mask. Now, not being a medical professional or adjacent to the medical profession, I have never worn a N95 mask, but I have heard people complain about them. The KN95 mask I wore for the whole flight was annoying and swampy, but no more than any other mask I have been wearing. It was still annoying enough to keep me from sleeping much. I have inherited a mild case of car-colepsy from my mother and cannot avoid nodding off for a bit anytime I am in a moving vehicle.
I did miss one bit of excitement, turns out that during a pandemic at least in the Boston area, you are screwed if you need a Lyft/Uber at 5 am. So, we had to make a mid-course adjustment. We had to drive the car to get to the airport before the cutoff for baggage drop-off, and also figure out where to park the car, as well. Pro-tip: Spot Hero does long term parking.
Between a nap, reading and a Groundhog Day related mini-film fest, Palm Springs (disappointing, but had moments) and Happy Death Day 2 U (much like the first one, more fun than a slasher/Groundhog Day movie should ever be, and actually built on the first one without destroying it), the flight disappeared for me.
Boston Logan Airport was all masks all the time, Salt Lake City Airport was a bit less, but still pretty good. As a bonus, we were able to find a Lyft out to where we were picking up the RV.
Before COVID-19 the idea of traveling around like a snail with its home on its back was a hard sell. But now, sounds like a great idea. Jodi was a wiz with the research and found a RV with a small size so we could park it most anywhere and still had a toilet and fridge, since to avoid most people we would cook a ton and not share facilities where we could avoid it.
And after a thorough orientation we were off. First night was in Bryce Canyon. Though we got there late and re-learned the lesson that you need to start dinner before dark when camping.