That's a wrap on Utah


And that's the wrap on our Utah Siblings Trip 2018!

We've always been a close trifecta but these trips are such a great opportunity to reconnect. I remember the magic of last year and wondered if it was a fluke. This trip was different than the last one but the magic was still there. I love the instant inside jokes. The hours spent driving in the car. The constant need for snacks.

We really covered a lot. Here is the rundown of some numbers:
5 National Parks
2 hotels
2 cabins
1061 miles driven
3 gas station trips
2 lunches skipped
2 bags of beef jerky
1 flight delay
3 cats found
1 winery
3 states (Nevada, Arizona, Utah)
3 airports (Boston, Vegas, SLC)
1 Arby's trip

National Parks (Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyonlands)
Hotels (Red Cliffs Lodge, Capitol Reef Resort, Bryce Valley Cabins, Majestic View Lodge)
Towns (Moab, Springdale, Tropic)
Breakfast (Oscar's, Jailhouse, Red Cliff's Lodge, Ruby's)
Dinner (Rim Rock Patio, Bit & Spur, Olive Garden, Red Canyon Lodge)

I'm not sure what our next trip will be but I think we know the secret sauce of what makes it all work. I hope that we can do this every year but I know that might not always be feasible. Just imagine (hopefully) that in future we are all leaving behind spouses and kids for this annual 4 day jaunt. A really special, magical tradition.

We made it to Arches // Day 5


So this is the last day of the trip. It was a real long one. I can never resist a sunrise and when you combine that with lots of driving and a red eye... well that's a long day.

Morning in Moab
When we first got to Red Cliff Lodge the day before, we knew we liked it but were also wistful for something slightly closer to society. Any of that remaining sentiment was erased when I drank coffee and watched the sunrise over the Colorado River. As we were just standing there peacefully taking in sunrise... a beaver swam by. I've never seen a beaver before! Plus, there was some bird/duck watching for Jake to partake in.

After sunrise, we headed into downtown Moab for breakfast. We got several recommendations but ended up at the Jailhouse Cafe. Spoiler alert? It legit used to be a jailhouse. It was also tasty.
Bird Sanctuary
Kerrianne did a lot of the planning for this trip. We made a lot of the decisions together but she did 90% of the research. One of the gems? She found a wildlife preserve perfect for birding in Moab. It took us a bit to actually find the entrance but it was worth it. I think Jake saw 4 new birds.
We didn't get to Arches until nearly noon - which is a lifetime from when we normally show up to parks. The line to get in was probably 30 cars deep - and there were 2 lines. Once we got into the park, we charted a course that would hopefully be a good balance of walking... and just driving. We pretty much stopped at everything but here are some specific callouts
+ Delicate Arch Overlook
+ Salt Valley Overlook
+ Devil's Garden
+ Sand Dune Arch
+ The Windows
+ Balanced Rock

The primary hike we did was the Devil's Garden. It was just the right amount of distance and effort. It would have been amazing to see Delicate Arch but on the last day of our trip, we were a bit worn out. I'd recommend maybe not doing Arches last - or just being more emotionally ready to walk up a bunch of rock :-). Also, Arches is crowded! So, you are never alone on trails. We spent probably about 4 hours bouncing around this park before packing up and heading out.
Bye to Utah
Throughout the entire trip, we have been really lucky with traffic and weather. It rained one morning, but other than that - home run. The streak ended on our 4 hour drive to Salt Lake City. About two hours into the drive, it started to rain ... and did not let up. Certainly made driving four hours in the dark to a red eye flight... less amazing.

Upside of the drive? We can say for certain that there are like no gas stations or rest stops between Moab and Salt Lake City. The original plan was to stop just around 2 hours... but we ended up going more than 3 hours ... because there was nothing. We did see a lot of trains - which Dad certainly appreciated. So we stopped at Olive Garden for dinner and then killed even more time at Petco since our flight got delayed. And I'm not sure if this is a low point or a high point, but we ate the leftover breadsticks on the floor of the airport while waiting for our flight. Either way, we made it the entire trip without any major issues. And I'll absolutely forget how miserable red eyes are when I'm booking my next trip.

We made it to Moab // Day 4


We have now hit 4 National Parks on this trip! Some of them are more highly rated on our list than others, but feeling pretty good about how much we are covering and seeing and enjoying.

Morning Time
I'm always up first in this group - and so I was confident that I would catch sunrise but I was amazed at how pretty it was. The sunrise lights up the red cliffs so intensely it's pretty amazing. We grabbed breakfast at the hotel since they had comp-d it from the mixups the day before. Breakfast was a million times better than dinner would have been. Bacon was a home run - and let's be honest, that's what I really care about.

Capitol Reef
Capitol Reef is gorgeous - but really more of a driving National Park than a hiking one, at least in what we saw. There are a lot of signs warning you about flash floods and where is safe to park - so that was special. Thankfully there weren't any concerns for us. We drove down 50% of the 10 mile scenic road and turned around. The view driving back was so much better. You could see all the difference rock formations in more unique perspective.
Driving through Utah
So this was a slog - a beautiful slog, but seriously a slog. After we left Capitol Reef, we began this longer drive to the Moab area. I would never have been able to do this by myself, the anxiety of being alone in a rental car in the middle of the desert would have been too much. There was zero cell reception. We barely saw any cars for a couple hours. It was only when we got to Rt 70 that we began to see other people. My hypothesis is that they were all doing the reverse of us, leaving Moab for another park.

I've never seen the Grand Canyon but I can imagine how impressive it is. After seeing Canyonlands, it must be wild. Canyonlands absolutely seems like a place for people who love adventure sports. Every car seems to have mountain bikes on the back of it - thankfully, we are walking people.
+ Island in the Sky // perfect stop to stretch your legs before driving.... a lot more...
+ Upheaval Dome // we only walked to the first viewpoint - but absolutely worth it. Maybe even walk to the second one.
+ Green River Overlook // Quick stop unless you want to hike for 45 hours
+ Mesa Arch // Really cool. It's not quite Arches of course but you get really close and it offers so interesting photography options. Also, a million people.
Hotel & Dinner
Tonight we are staying at the Red Cliffs Lodge in Moab. Saying "in Moab" feels like a lie considering this hotel is about 13 miles inside a canyon along a river bed. I nearly died when the GPS told us - but it is beautiful. Another oasis after a long day of driving. When you pull up you just see these huge red cliffs (duh), big moving river, and tons of horses. Kerrianne nearly leapt out of her seat over the combination of horses and a winery. Plus at check-in they give you a double chocolate cookie.

We decompressed from the day by settling into our room, saying hi to the horses, and gazing at the river. Jake wasn't allowed in the winery (dumb), so we just hung out along the river before dinner. The view from dinner was amazing. We closed out the day by playing Uno on our back patio next to a creek and watching The Office in bed.
Tomorrow? Arches! ... and a very late red-eye flight home

We made it to Capitol Reef // Day 3


Another day, another national park. Right now we have hit up 2 and I think by the end we will be at 4? Pretty proud of that fact. Today was a lot of driving - but also a lot of killer views. Bryce is like nothing else in the world - and has to be seen.

Wakeup & Breakfast
When we woke up this morning there was this thick frosty layer of ice on everything - including the car. But it was gorgeous to wake up in Bryce Valley. The sun rising over the mountains was so majestic. Plus, Kerrianne cat friend came back to say hello - and try to get into the cabin. We ended up back at Ruby's Inn again for breakfast because.... nothing is open :).

I can't imagine coming to Bryce and not going for even a little hike. Even just like a couple hundred yards. It is amazing the difference in perspective when you are standing amongst the hoodoos versus above them. Really breathtaking and  incredible. We made a couple stops in Bryce before heading onto another park. As we were leaving the park around 1pm, the line to get in was pretty long.... not sure why these slow pokes don't get up earlier.

(1) Sunrise Point hike - The minute we started on this trail I felt the same muscles that we had used the day before on Hidden Canyon in Zion. There are a lot of switchbacks to get down to the bottom but so incredibly worth it. Immediately you are impressed by the colors, size, and shape of the earth. My new favorite tree is the limber pine which grows in the park. It manages to grow in this space with super neat roots.

We tacked on a little extra hike here but were unable to do "Wall Street" because it was closed. None the less, I'll say it again - this place is so impressive.

(2) Rainbow Point  - This is the furthest point in the park. The park does a great job including mile markers at all the reference points which is super helpful. Rainbow Point is the very end... mile 18. It would be a much further drive with high-season (or even midday) traffic. By the time you get to this elevation there is a lot more snow - which prevented us from tacking on another short hike. We had just done 3+ miles so there was no reason to get super wet and snowy.
(3) Natural Bridge - So we really conclude that this is "neat" and absolutely worth stopping at, if nothing else that for watching other people try to take pictures of themselves with the arch. BUT - we are headed to arches so we know that it is going to get a lot better than this. Sorry Natural Bridge.
Drive to Capitol Reef
After Bryce we really just hit the road for Capitol Reef, while I knew it was a two hour drive... it was absolutely one of the curviest drives ever. Not quite like when I made my own self car sick in California, but I would never have been able to do it as a passenger. Ever. We made a pit stop in Escalante for lunch at this place called Nemo's. Love Nemo's. Fun part? I thought Kerrianne was saying "Mimaw's" for a couple hours and so I was really into stopping because of the name.

I texted my friend John who used to live in Escalante and he was like "wait till you see the road to Boulder tho". I just thought that meant it had great views - which of course it did. But it was a two hour slog up and down canyons. There was this part where you were just driving on the ridge line and it was a cliff to the left and a cliff to the right. No thanks.
Our Hotel & Dinner
We had booked our hotel pretty early on after pretty much falling in love with pictures of colorful teepees. Well, it's apparently too early for teepee season but this place was still an oasis after the long drive. There were some mixups with the room that had me channeling my yoga breathing. At first it wasn't cleaned, and we waited 50 minutes for that to happen. Then, we realized there was only one bed in the newly cleaned room. So we were upgraded to a larger lofted cabin. Cabin is pretty much a elegant way of saying "this place bought a ton of tiny houses and let's tourists stay in them".

We decompressed from the day with walks around the property and saying hi to the llamas. We even sat down at the restaurant for dinner before abandoning ship a few minutes later. It was this fun game of chicken where nobody was quite willing to admit this was going to be terrible. Thankfully we found another oasis across the street - Rim Rock Patio. There was music, horse shoes and delicious pizza.

We closed out the night with a little fire pit time and watching the last episode (and then the first episode) of The Office all huddled on the king size bed. Home run of a day.

Tomorrow? Capitol Reef Park ... then the long drive to Moab.
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