I realized recently that I haven’t written about our trip last summer, and since I have more adventures coming up this summer, I really should record it now.
Traveling is one of my most favoritest hobbies. Seeing new scenery, exploring new cultures, savoring new foods, the unexpected pops of beauty when you aren’t expecting it, and the fuzzy warmth of enjoying it with good friends. These are what make it so enjoyable.
Our girl friends group did our first trip together to California in 2019. I wrote about it here: https://writtendownbigblog.wordpress.com/2020/01/20/that-time-we-went-to-california/
I think every girl (and guy) needs an adventure group- a group with a shared love of exploring and traveling. After a few trips, each person’s skills start to get uncovered and utilized. Good trips require good research, navigational ability, a bit of spontaneity and flexibility and everyone contributing good attitudes. Our group covered all the needs and we had a very lovely time.
This trip was supposed to happen in 2020 but we all know what that was like. We spent many agonizing hours on zoom calls between our 3 respective states trying to make plans, only to have something or another come up. When we all met each other at the airport in St. George, the hugs and exclamations and pinching each other were all the more special because we didn’t think it would happen.
Because Jen is a school teacher, summers are our best option for longer trips like this one. Ideally, you wouldn’t be in Utah in July in a heat wave if you could help it but we all wanted to explore some part of the west so we just went with it. We landed in St. George, Utah to 109* temperatures. A combination of the heat, and some altitude change as well as time change had us feeling a bit lethargic for the first few days. We had to push ourselves to do the hikes and see the things in ways that we weren’t quite expecting. We all flew into St. George on Monday, July 16th, and as is becoming our custom, we used the first day to pick up our rental car, get our bearings, grab some groceries, and get more of a detailed game plan for the rest of our trip. We stayed at a lovely little airbnb in Panguitch, which we had chosen for its proximity to Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon. It would’ve been even lovelier if it would’ve had air conditioning, but most of the houses in the area didn’t have it and we just happened to be there in a heat wave. We spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out the coolest parts of the house and moving things around to be more comfortable. The house, called The Pink Polka Dott is a retro-themed house and one of the greatest sources of joy and amusement came from the dictionary-page papered bathroom. “Hey guys, do you know what _________ means?” happened more than once, after someone would untangle themselves from the tiny space.
Because we were so tired (and not sleeping the best 🙂 we opted to not get very early starts on our National Park days. It ended up being both a blessing and a bit of a problem simultaneously. We were told that lines waiting to get into the parks and shuttle stops were extremely long, so by the time we got to the congested places, the crowd had been through and we never had to wait in long lines for anything. The problem was then that we were doing our most active hiking/etc in the hottest part of the day.
Tuesday was our Zion National Park day and what a treat it was! Zion is surprisingly diverse, with the sandy, dry, desert-y topograhy of dunes and arches, but also lush and green in parts, with a winding river and beautiful shaded areas.
Zion has a few really nice hikes, including Angels Landing, which is one of the most dangerous hikes in the US. We chose instead to hike Emerald Trail back to a mostly dried up Emerald Falls. It was an easy hike, which was perfect for the heat of the day. Zion is also nice if you just want to drive through. A favorite group memory was driving down the road and through a tunnel and then this panorama as we emerged. I think we all gasped because it was so unexpectedly beautiful.
We ate a nice sandwich lunch in the shadow of some of the mountains and we enjoyed our views immensely.
We finished up the day with another famous hike- The Narrows. The last shuttle stop in Zion drops you off at the trail head for the Narrows, and it’s a nice, paved walk back to the river, where everyone then gets in the river. You can rent hiking sticks, water boots, etc from the Outfitting Center but we had brought our own water shoes along. We were running out of daylight so we didn’t hike too far back the river. If you go the distance, you get to hike in the coolness of the water, with hundreds of feet of rock towering beside you on both sides, right through the canyons. It was quite a fun experience, and the shade and water felt good after being in the heat.
We finished that day with a dinner out and then headed back to the house for another hot night.
In our research, we had run across Kolob Canyon, located in the northwest corner of Zion National Park. Supposedly it offered similar views with a lot fewer tourists. Wednesday morning we set out to see if indeed it was All That. Turns out, it is. We drove 5 miles up to the top, and then we hiked out on the Timber Creek Overlook trail to a rather breathtaking stone overlook. On really clear days, you are able to see the north rim of the Grand Canyon, located 100 miles away.
We all really enjoyed the quietness of this place, and we drove the 5 mile winding road more than once, with stopping frequently at the overlooks to enjoy the views. We attempted another hike, but a thunderstorm chased us out and we drove as fast as we could to the top again, to experience it up high.
I would definitely recommend Kolob if you have a few free hours, but Zion still is the prize jewel of the area.
Thursday was our day for exploring Bryce Canyon. Bryce is situated at an elevation of 7,664′ so it was definitely cooler. We decided to watch the sun rise over the canyon, and whoa, what a treat that was! Our first glimpse down into the vastness of hoodos was in the warm, glowy sunlight of early dawn. It was like God turned a light on and it made getting up at 4:26 totally worth it. It was the first and probably only time on the trip we were cold, and I think temps were in the 50’s. We had worn all of our warm layers but it was still chilly.
We opted to find some warmth and coffee so we left and enjoyed thawing out at a coffee shop. Our first hike at Bryce was the Mossy Cave Trail, which is an easy hike with some pretty incredible views. We ate our packed breakfast of avocado and egg sandwiches along this river, and thought life just couldn’t get much better.
Each trip has those little pleasures and bits of wonder that you can’t plan for, and this hike and the views was one of them for me. After we finished this hike, we headed back to the main part of Bryce for our hike down into the canyons. We chose the Queens/Navajo Combination Loop, which was 2.9 miles long and had an elevation change of 600 feet. Our most major concern was whether we had enough water along and we rationed it so carefully that we actually had more than enough.
Another wow moment was walking through Wall Street- slot canyon style hoodoos towering hundreds of feet beside us. It was probably 10 degrees cooler in that part and it was the best part of the trail.
That little bit of beauty and coolness was going to be the last fun part of the trail because immediately after that, the trail started winding back up to the top, switchback style. It was very steep, and every 20 feet or so we’d stop and rest, and rehydrate.
It was an amazing, unforgettable hike and I can’t recommend it highly enough if you visit Bryce. We rode around the area for awhile, and then realized that the overlooks weren’t quite having their previous effect and we concluded that we were canyoned out, so we headed back into Panguitch early. Turns out that we weren’t exactly over the canyons, because our route back took us right through the Red Canyons, and we promptly fell in love all over again 🙂 Maybe we just needed a little space 🙂
We ended a wonderful day with a delicious bbq dinner in Panguitch and then watched “Pygmalion” together and turned in early because of our early start.
Friday was a travel day, and we headed north up into northern Utah. It was just as cheap to fly out of Salt Lake City so we decided to spend some time exploring the larger Salt Lake area. The Bonneville Salt flats were out of our way by about an hour and a half, but we decided it was worth it to go see that. It was my second time there so I knew what to expect, but it is the strangest thing to experience what your eyes tell you should be snow, but it is still in fact, 100 degrees and all your other senses are telling you otherwise.
Because it is so flat and the white sand does a number on your eyes, it is really hard to judge distance and depth perception. The mountains behind us are much further away than they appear.
We had to go down to the next exit to get on the eastbound road back to SLC and it just so happens that the exit is in Nevada, and a few of the group was excited to cross that state off their lists, even though all we saw was a kind of junk yard, I think 🙂
Its quite an interesting drive back to SLC, as speed limits are 85 and there is quite literally nothing but desert and the salt lake for many, many miles. We got back rather late, and Sarah and Kelly made a quick dash to Panda Express for food. We spent the next morning wandering some of the historic areas of SLC including Temple Square. We saw where the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings and enjoyed the beautiful flowers and grounds around the temple. The Mormon missionary ladies were very friendly and happy to answer our questions about their religion. We finished our morning and our final meal at the amazing food court in the mall right there. After that, we loaded up for the last time in our car, and headed for the airport- the ending of a most wonderful trip. We dispersed in all different directions. Everyone else went home- I needed to go west yet further. And that trip is coming up next.
And now for a few post-scripts:
*If you do a trip like this, plan for lots of driving time. Everything is so much more spread out in the west than what we’re used to back east, so if you want to see multiple places, it will have to involve lots of driving. We really didn’t mind, as we had lots to talk about and subjects to discuss, and you know, we’re girls and we like to talk 🙂
*the pictures on this post were taken by various ones in the group with the exception of the ones of the Red Canyons. The especially nice ones probably were taken by Kelly who is the photographer of the group