Road trip – South East Utah
[Salt Lake – Goblin Park – Arches Park – Canyonlands – Park City – Salt Lake]
Salt Lake City
Considering the DN long family history with the vehicle it seemed appropriate that we picked up a white Toyota Corolla rental car, it just felt like the trip was meant to be. As you drive south from the airport you easily become mesmerized by the sheer amount of mountain views around you while trying to negotiate I15 south at 70mph. Having a passenger there with you for the photographs of Wasatch Range is definitely a must if you don’t want this road trip to end before it’s begun..
Once the journey proceeds away from mountain views though it settles into a regular road trip until you travel further south east in the state, we did encounter a few late April end of season snow flurries along the way but nothing really to bother us.
Goblin Valley State Park
Arches National Park
We decided to make Arches an evening visit so that we could catch the sunset at the park so we entered after 4pm. The advantage of entering the park at this time is that it is basically free with no traffic and the main bulk of the tourists are leaving to get their dinner so it is the best time for photographs. Delicate Arch was next on our list of weathered Entrada sandstone features, and given the spring weather the walk to it was very mild and temperate which we can imagine a couple of months later would definitely not have been the case. It was about a mile trek uphill for the most part with a single footpath at the end until you reach the iconic screensaver view of the arch. Once at the Arch it can get a little unnerving walking to it since it has quite a steep gradient drop off so you have to be a little careful with your footing and be especially alert if you take small children.
For the remainder of the time we enjoyed looking at the Petroglyphs which were created between AD 1650 and 1850 by Native American ancestry, these drawings feel well placed for the area and really give you a sense of the history. We also went to Balanced rock and Courthouse towers before heading to Inca Inn which was our motel for the evening.
Canyonlands National Park
The following day we hit the traffic for Canyonlands park that we seemingly successfully avoided the evening before at Arches. The traffic here was very confusing, it seemed like a lot of the RV folks would stop at the booth and hold a 15 minute discussion with the ranger, blissfully not caring that there was a row of traffic behind them also waiting to enter. After the extended chat they would then turn around and head out without entering the park, we had no idea why but just a little strange and frustrating.
Once in Canyonlands you are spoilt for choice of locations to go look at and time is the only real constraint. Since we were trying to fit as much in as possible we pretty much stayed to Mesa Arch which has some breathtaking window views and then Islands in the Sky and Dead Horse Point, again simply astounding views. We then resumed the road trip back to Park City resort east of Salt Lake City.
At this point in our lives we are only really amateur skiers mainly because we seem to have spent our lives pursuing sunshine in lieu of winter snow. With this in mind somewhere like Park City in peak season would honestly be wasted on us so for this road trip we managed to pick up a deal at the Park City Marriott just as the ski season had concluded for about $80 for a suite for the night. This was the perfect ending to this particular stay in Utah as it basically felt like we had the entire resort to ourselves and from here we were able to explore Main Street as well as Wasatch mountain park and time for a bit of shopping at the Tanger outlet village (never miss an opportunity for some boots on the ground checking of our dividend paying companies)
In conclusion an amazing trip taking in what we think is a must-do part of the United States, like we say the only constraint is your time available or finances for the motels in Moab which can become a lot more pricey and heavily booked as the season progresses.
Road Trip – South NV and Northern AZ
[Las Vegas-Page-Lower Antelope Canyon-Monument Valley-Winslow-Las Vegas]
Las Vegas, NV
For us there is something special about flying into Sin City over the Red Rock mountains, we know a lot that won’t agree but we love how different the whole place is to the remainder of the continental USA. For all intents and purposes most people’s reasons for going are not the same as ours though since we don’t gamble and are not really big drinkers since we no have much life stress to escape from. We just like it as a free and easy location to wander about and enjoy the sun. The visit we detail in this post was to celebrate Mrs DN’s birthday as well as being our final extravagant stay at a high level hotel to celebrate FIRE and our independence so we spent a couple of nights at the Four Seasons with a cabana by the pool for a few hours. DN Jr enjoyed a lot of NBA player spotting from the summer league basketball games so was equally happy for other reasons.
The vehicle of choice for this journey was a Nissan Note which we really wouldn’t recommend as a road trip rental since the handling and braking were borderline scary at times. DN Jr also expressed his dislike as the air conditioning never reached the back of the vehicle in the Arizona heat so he felt as though he was sitting in a sauna for most of the journey. Zero fun.
The weather was a thermometer breaking 125 degrees as we reached our first motel at Page, Arizona so merely touching the metallic front door handle nearly saw us at the local A&E for 3rd degree burns. We luckily had a front and back door on the room so simply chose to enter and exit from the least heat affected door, we would definitely recommend taking an oven glove for anyone planning this journey, as strange as it sounds. There are a lot of bucket list items to see from a Page AZ base like our first stop off, on the drive in straight away you take in Lake Powell and Glen Canyon Dam. The lake is a beautiful turquoise color here which sets off really well with the red rocks of the canyon so straight so from the start you get a very tranquil feeling between taking your photographs.
From Glen Canyon we drove to Horseshoe Bend Observation area, the view itself is only about a mile walk from the parking lot but it did feel a little risky considering we didn’t really pay sufficient attention to the level of the water in the bottle we were carrying in the heat. At certain points on the walk we did begin to feel a little like perhaps this was a bad idea and we should definitely have brought more. However when you arrive at the viewpoint it is well worth the experience, even if other viewers around do tend to make you a little nervous when posing way too close to the edge for their Instagram pictures. After admiring the view we trekked back to the parking lot and made a quick beeline to hunt down some much needed water, yes..we are old enough to know better but sometimes you live and learn.
The second day from Page AZ consisted a very early morning visit to Lower Antelope Canyon with Dixie Ellis Tours. We were literally first people in the canyon and it was well worth it when it came to taking the type of photographs of this place which have now become iconic the world over. The real surprise though is how easy is seemed to take those very same iconic photographs without any specific photography skills. As you can see in the photograph with the chrome i-phone setting the canyon literally comes to life with color and the photos pretty much take themselves, you just point the camera. The tour guides here really do earn their money though and spend most of the time coughing from their constant sand exposure. If anything we would recommend taking a little more money on your tour so that you can actually over-tip at the end.
We do understand that it’s not deemed socially acceptable anymore to be patriotic but a visit to Monument Valley definitely makes you feel more like an American than anywhere you will visit. We don’t know if it’s all those old films like Stagecoach and Easy Rider but for us it’s just a very proud location that we were happy to spend time at. The iconic view from the road can be photographed from the Utah side heading south when the sun it setting, however we found the view every bit as awe-inspiring in the middle of the day. You simply sit and stare at it, taking it all in before panoramic photographing to your hearts content like we did. We tried to find the set from the Stagecoach movie but were told it has been moved to a museum somewhere out in the North East, this felt wrong to us, it should really be here for visitors to see along with the John Wayne hut.
Meteor Crater at Winslow
The last leg of this particular journey took us to another one of our bucket list items, the Meteor Crater otherwise know as Barringer Crater located near the town of Winslow. As you drive to the crater it actually looks like a small hill off in the distance before you get closer and realize that you are actually looking at the outer rim of it. The dateline of impact is estimated to have been 50,000 years ago caused by a nickel-iron meteor of about 50 meters diameter creating a crater of 1200 meters in diameter. It looks like the vast majority of the meteor was vaporized on impact so you don’t actually get to see very much of it at the visitors center, over the years we would imagine most of it would also have been taken by trophy hunters. Ironically some of it was actually tracked to someones bedroom at a house in Chicago and was brought back to it’s rightful place at Winslow.
After the crater we made the long trek back to Las Vegas to return to Hoover Dam and on to Red Rock Mountains. Visitors to Las Vegas seem to rarely venture as far as the mountains but they are well worth renting a vehicle to go and take a look, even if it is just to drive the loop and take some photographs. We didn’t really step away from the car air conditioning too much due to the excessive july heat but at milder times of year it would be well worth a return to hike or mountain bike some of the trails.
This was another South West bucket list road trip which we can thoroughly recommend, we have still left some locations on the table for future hopefully slower travel visits such as seeing Sedona and kayaking the rivers and we also still want to enter the lottery to hike “The Wave” at a more temperate time of year but this trip was well worth it for everything we managed to accomplish.