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Friday, July 27: Arches and Canyonlands / Island in the Sky

Sunday, July 29: Bryce to Zion

Saturday, July 28: Moab to Goblin Valley to Bryce

We should have listened to the GPS

We screwed up the planning for today. We tried to fit too much in.

Because Mike was up late watching the Olympic opening ceremony with us, we slept in some. Amy got up at the normal time, however, and did the laundry while Mike and I slept in.

When Mike awoke, he wanted to eat breakfast at Zax for a change, so we ate there (they had a good breakfast). The net result was that by the time we left, it was almost noon.

As we drove, we made (via the cell phone) lodge reservations for one night at Bryce and the following night at Zion.

We drove over to Goblin Valley State Park, which took I think roughly 1-1/2 hours. This is a valley with hundreds of hoodoos, which are small pillars or mushrooms of sandstone. The main point from Mike’s point of view is that you can climb around them to your heart’s content--you don’t need to stay on fixed paths.

Hoodoos or Goblins

We had a sandwich lunch at the picnic area, and Michael did some climbing around, but it was really hot and sunny. We figured that it would make more sense to visit the nearby Little Wild Horse Canyon, and then return to the goblins.

I’ll describe the canyon as we experienced it.

We parked and started down a somewhat narrow canyon, along the side of a dry wash. It was not very remarkable. Maybe a quarter mile in, we hit the “obstruction”. At this point, the canyon narrowed to a few feet, and there was about a five foot high overhang. Tough guys climbed it. We found it easier to climb up the sides and go around.

The “Obstruction”

A short ways further there is a trail junction, and we took a right to Little Wild Horse. You can do a loop where you go straight through the mesa on Little Wild Horse, hike over to the next canyon, and return that way, but that was too long and would have taken too much time.

At this point, the canyon is maybe ten feet wide. Michael decided that he didn’t want to go any further, so we left him in a shady spot with some water, and then Amy and I continued.

Start of Little Wild Horse Canyon

I felt bad for Mike as he did the uninteresting and hot part, but didn’t do the fun part.

A couple of hundred yards further, the canyon narrows and the fun begins. The floor is mostly gravel and rather level. The width varies from roughly two to four feet, with the sides rising steeply or vertically for a hundred feet or more.

The Canyon Narrows

We came to one wide section and continued (taking many pictures) on to the next. Unfortunately, the lighting wasn’t the best, but this was when we were there.

Little Wild Horse Canyon
Twisty Canyon

Following that open space, the slot canyon closes in again, perhaps even tighter than the first section. At one point, the canyon consisted of a series of linked S-curves so that you were changing direction every two or three steps, and you couldn’t see any distance at all. At another point there was a large rock wedged that formed the roof of a tunnel maybe 5-10 feet long.

Large Rock “Tunnel”

All together, it was super-neat and one of the highlights of the trip. It was a real shame that Michael missed it. It wasn’t quite as good as I’ve heard that Antelope canyon is, but it was close.

Narrow Canyon

Eventually, we turned back, because the day was getting late. We found Mike, played around a bit throwing rocks at the wall, then hiked out. Getting down past the “obstruction” was much easier than going up.

We then drove back to the goblins and spent some time climbing around them. Michael found this large conical hill and spent some time climbing up and sort of sliding down.

Michael Climbing on Goblins
Amy “Riding” a Goblin

Over the previous several hours, the sky had clouded up, and there were some angry dark clouds over the mesa. The wind picked up, and it started blowing sand at us. It ended up in my eyes and my teeth.

We took that as a sign that we should depart the valley of the goblins. Another sign was that it was after 5, we had a long drive ahead of us, and we wanted dinner).

Sand Blowing Across Road

Leaving the park, we headed south and in about a half hour reached Hanksville, where we found a small RV park and restaurant that was still open. Amazingly, the food wasn’t that bad.

After dinner, we continued about an hour and a half to Capitol Reef National park. We got there around 8 to 9-ish, just as the sun was setting. We drove through the campground, which brought back fond memories (lots of grass, nice camp sites), but we didn’t have any time to linger. There was a waterfall nearby, but stopping to take pictures was definitely out of the question.

Sunset near Capitol Reef

We gave Michael his evening pills, and he settled into the back seat to take a nap, as we continued on to Bryce. According to the GPS, we would get in around a quarter to midnight.

Just as we were heading out, the thunderstorm caught us and it started to rain. We had rain off and on for the rest of the drive.

The bad planning that I alluded to earlier was that we should have planned to stay in Capitol Reef area and pushed back Bryce by another day. There was really too much between the driving and the time spent at Goblin Valley for one day, with it ending at Bryce.

We drove west on 24, gassed up in Torrey, and then headed south on 12. The GPS wanted us to continue further on 24, but the sign indicated that Bryce was south on 12, so we followed the sign.

What the sign *didn’t* tell us was that 12 went up and over some big freaking mountains, with the high pass being at 9,600 feet (almost 10,000). Nor did it mention the narrow, steep, twisty mountain roads (made worse in the rain). Neither did it mention the deer and elk along the side of the road and on a few occasions *in* the road.

With a thick overcast (when it wasn’t actually raining), it was pitch dark. We could see literally nothing than what was in the headlights. The temperature dropped by almost half--from maybe 95 during the day to about 52.

It was a wild drive through the mountains, about 2-1/2 hours, with the scene occasionally lit up by lightning like a giant flash bulb. Michael slept through it all.

I was a bit worried that the lodge registration desk might close before we got there, but when we eventually did reach Bryce and found the registration, they were still open and we got the keys to the cabin.

We moved in with minimal stuff, and quickly crashed. It was a very nice cabin, one of the better rooms we had been in. It even featured two wash rooms (one with a shower/bath and toilet, and one with just a sink) along with a natural gas fireplace.

Up to West Trip 2012 main page

Friday, July 27: Arches and Canyonlands / Island in the Sky

Sunday, July 29: Bryce to Zion