**Flashback-I’m attempting to finish out catching up on our US road trip heading back to Seattle. **
For the next two nights, Rob and I based ourselves out of the Lazy Lizard Hostel in Moab, UT. For just under $18 we could camp and have access to a kitchen, bathroom, laundry (small extra fee) and showers. When we pulled into the hostel parking lot for the first time (it’s behind a storage unit complex), we were both pretty uncertain about the place. A corner of the parking lot had a number of tarps haphazardly stretched over an eclectic assortment of old furniture (indoor and outdoor). Rob looked around the camping and compared it to Nickelsville, a homeless encampment in Seattle. With this first impression, we drove back to another camping place in town, however, they wanted $40 a night for a site, so we were back and checking into the hostel not long after leaving. It turned out to have some really nice folks; many of whom are living there for the season as this place is the cheapest housing in town. Laundry was another couple bucks per load.
The night we arrived turned out to be Halloween. Rob helped me set up camp, scarfed dinner then prepared himself a Capital Reef (it’s another Utah National Park named because settlers with a marine background called the obstacle a reef) diver costume to go out bar hopping with the other hostel denizens. It was nice for him to let loose and for me to have a quiet evening doing laundry, hanging out watching old Halloween movies and catching up on the internet.
The next day we continued our explorations of Arches National Park. The previous day we hiked the Devils Garden and Balanced Rock before going to the hostel, so we wanted to explore some of the other areas.
On this day, we rented a off-roading jeep since one of the shops had a November discount (yay November 1st). This shop also happened to be one of the only places in town that would rent you jeeps to take on a course called Hell’s Revenge (although there’s a whole list of obstacles, including the Hot tubs, Escalator, Hell’s Gate and Potato Salad Hill, that are excluded). We began using some of the 4×4 roads in Arches National Park to go out to see the Tower Arch. Since I’ve never been off-roading, starting on something easier seemed like a good idea, especially after Rob’s story about a family vacation where the Smiths rented a jeep and Bob drove the hardest road. Our first road turned out to be more than just a beginner road. At times, we were so sideways that I had to hold myself in the seat and Rob was watching to make sure we didn’t hit the mirror on the roadside embankment. We also went down a steep decent with 2+ foot rock drops the entire way down. After surviving all of that, Sand Flat National Recreation area, home of Hell’s Revenge, was the next stop. The course is 6.5 miles of driving that’s suppose to take 2-3 hours.We called it quits part way through opting for the shortcut since it was getting dark. It still took us a couple hours for the 3 miles we did. I was so thankful we made it back to the pavement in one piece. Only then did Rob tell me how freaked out he had been and was afraid he had almost tipped us.
The next morning, we set out from Canyonlands Island in the Sky section. Unfortunately, we got a later start due to cooking some good breakfast and returning the jeep, so we missed sunrise at Mesa Arch. Just as we got into the park, we saw this really neat road (Schafer Road), so we decided to go for a drive before exploring the rest of the park. It was pretty narrow in spots and there were a few rocks in the road, but overall not too bad a drive. Luckily, we only passed one car on the way out (but of course it was during the 2 minutes I decided to change shirts in the car. Grrr.). After our scenic detour, Rob and I did the obligatory hikes – Mesa Arch, Upheaval Dome and the Grand View Point.
Looking for a free place to camp between Canyonlands Island in the Sky and Goblin Valley State Park, I found the San Rafael Swell, a popular off-roading area and neat geological formation. We drove through a canyon like area and discovered a number of boondocking sites in a wider section. We parked to car to do better scouting on foot and after seeing no one for awhile, another car pulled in and parked right next to us. As we looked for campsites, they went to examine the large pictographs on the canyon wall that we hadn’t noticed, but just happened to park right next to.
We started the next day at Goblin Valley State Park ($10 entrance fee), which is right next to San Rafael Swell and made a great stop between Moab and Capitol Reef. This was a fun couple hour detour, although you could get lost in the Goblin Valleys (there are 3) for much longer. With the surreal landscape, we felt like we were on another planet-mushrooms and drip castles galore. They let you climb on whatever, so it’s a fun place to scramble around.
The winds were howling as we drove into Capitol Reef National Park. Once again, we ate lunch in the car to escape the ferocious gusts. Afterwards, we hiked the Grand Wash and did the scenic drive. The Grand Wash is neat as you’re following one of the water paths through the Capitol Reef. These are really the only ways through the formation (the Waterpocket fold). Initially, there’s a road, but eventually you park and start walking in the wash itself (normally dry, but you need to watch for flash floods). There’s a section about a mile in, where the walls are quite high and the passage narrows to several feet wide.
On recommendation of one of the rangers, we also hiked up to another canyon, Cohab canyon, and viewpoint. Finally, we camped at one of the free primitive campgrounds in the National Park, Cedar Mesa. Located in the southern park section, we had to drive back east through the park before heading south along a mostly dirt road. The rain began as we hit the dirt road, but luckily it was only off and on, so we had a chance to rig up a dining tarp when we got to camp (The only other folks there were staying in their Unimog. Rob and I were amazed at the number of these crazy vehicles we saw on the trip.). The last time it rained on us camping, our tent vents were open and Rob got rained on. After some futzing with the fly and vents, we managed to get it sealed up this time and stay dry.