4th of July in Kanab, Utah – Stars & Stripes in the Red Rocks!

July 2019 – One of the great things about traveling in the summertime is being able to enjoy the 4th of July celebrations in a special place. This year we were near the small town of Kanab, Utah, and we eagerly went into town to see the parade.

4th of July parade Kanab Utah-min

Uncle Sam greeted us as we came into town!

We were staying over the border in Arizona, and we’d forgotten that in the summer months Arizona and Utah are in different time zones. Utah is always in Mountain Standard Time while Arizona floats between Mountain and Pacific Standard Time depending on the time of year because they don’t change their clocks for daylight savings.

We’d planned to arrive about a half an hour before the parade started, and as Mark parked the truck he glanced at the clock on the dashboard and was about to say, “Perfect timing, it’s 9:30,” when he noticed our truck’s clock said 10:30.

Oh no!

4th of July parade Kanab Utah Parry Lodge-min

We missed the start of the parade, but what we saw was wonderful.

Luckily, the parade was still going on and we saw some fun things roll by. A bright red fire engine went past and then there were a bunch of RZRs all dolled up in red, white and blue. There were some other interesting contraptions too.

4th of July parade Kanab Utah RZR group-min

A RZR brigade in red, white and blue (hey, what are they passing to each other?!)

4th of July parade Kanab Utah RZR group-min

More RZRs!

Tricycle Kanab Utah 4th of July parade-min

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4th of July celebration in Kanab Utah-min

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A few antique cars beeped as they passed by the historic Parry Lodge where all the Hollywood stars of the Golden Age stayed when they made hundreds of movies in the beautiful red rocks around town.

Parry Lodge 4th of July parade-min

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Antique car 4th of July parade Parry Lodge Kanab Utah-min

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Antique car 4th of July parade Kanab Utah-min

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Smokey Bear made an appearance in the back of a US Forest Service truck. And then one of the Hot Shots standing on a Forest Service fire truck gave us all a big spray.

Kanab is an hour’s drive from any town big enough for a city-sized supermarket, but the grocery store in town, Honey’s Market, keeps everyone’s pantry full. A lady clown from Honey’s Market brought up the rear of the parade, slowly making her way down the street, chatting with friends and neighbors and giving out goodies to the kids.

Kanab was settled in 1864 when Fort Kanab was built, and in 1870 ten Mormon families moved into the fort to establish the town. A huge mural on the side of a building depicts the arrival of a wagon train at Fort Kanab.

Mural Wagon trains arrive at Fort Kanab_-min

The full mural of the wagon train arriving at Fort Kanab

There is lots of detail in this mural — the excited pioneers at the front calling out to the people at the fort, the weary travelers further back in the line, and the folks hanging out at the trading post as the wagons slowly come in.

Mural Kanab or Bust-min

“Kanab or Bust!” – The wagon train was greeted warmly when it arrived.

Mural in Kanab Utah weary wagon train travelers-min

It was a long journey, and some walked much of the way…

Mural in Kanab Utah welcoming party at Fort Kanab-min

Shooting the breeze at the trading post

Back in the glory days of Hollywood, Kanab played host to visiting celebrities making movies, but today it is a tourist town. It isituated conveniently between three of America’s major National Parks: Grand Canyon (North Rim), Zion and Bryce Canyon.

It is also close to Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Cedar Breaks, Lake Powell, Horseshoe Bend and Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.

Kanab Utah is near many national parks-min

Kanab is conveniently located in between many gorgeous places.

Over in the town park the 4th of July festivities were in full swing when we walked up. The lush green grass and the vibrant red rock backdrop were beautiful, and the mood was decidedly festive and upbeat.

4th of July celebration Kanab Utah-min

Kanab has a beautiful town park and the party was well underway when we got up there.

Red, white a blue stencils of all kinds had been spray painted on the grass, and lots of people were decked out in stars and stripes.

4th of July party in the park Kanab Utah-min

An old windmill honors Kanab’s ranching history.

Dressed up for 4th of July-min

Everyone was wearing red, white a blue, and some outfits were really cute!

Tents were set up with all kinds of beautiful arts and crafts for sale, and the food court was humming.

4th of July party in the park Kanab Utah-min

There were arts and crafts and food galore!

4th of July party Kanab Utah-min

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The most fun — and coolest — spot to be was near (or in) the water fountain. The water jets sprayed on and off in all directions, and the kids had a blast.

Playing in the fountain 4th of July-min

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Playing in the fountain 4th of July-min

What a great way to cool off!

Buddy wasn’t sure what to make of the constantly moving streams of water, but he was grateful for a drink from Mark’s helping hand.

Puppy gets a drink-min

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It was a wonderful and hearwarming day and a great way to celebrate the 4th of July. If your travels take you near Kanab, Utah, on Independence Day some year, stop on by. This town puts on a wonderful celebration!

4th of July Celebration Kanab Utah-min (1)

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Mexican Hat, Utah – A Special Hoodoo in the Red Rocks

March 2019 – The Utah red rocks are full of whimsical formations that are easily recognizable. One of the most charming is Mexican Hat, a rock formation that unmistakeably resembles a sombrero.

Mexican Hat Utah RV trip adventure

A Mexican sombrero caps off the landscape in Utah.

We were traveling through southeastern Utah with our RV, and before we arrived at this fantastic stone hat we found some wonderful patterns in the red rocks. We spent a little time doing some wide angle photography, playing with the colorful lines in the sandstone.

Leading lines in wide angle photo in Utah-min

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As the golden hour unfolded before sunset, I was astonished to look down at my feet and see a rainbow of colors!

Wide angle photography in Utah-min

So much color right at my feet!

The red, yellow, orange and gray stripes were beautiful, and we explored these unusual patterns at dusk and again at dawn.

Sunrise with puppy in Utah-min

Buddy watched the sunrise with us.

In some cases we focused our photos on the tiny patterns at our feet, but the size and scale of these immense rock landscapes was mind boggling.

Utah landscape-min

Huge landscapes dwarf Mark and Buddy on a rock outcropping.

In many places the sandstone was solid underfoot, but in other places it gave way to patches of red beach sand and small dunes.

Red rock patterns in Utah-min

Ancient sand dunes turned to stone — lines and patterns everywhere.

Buddy loved lying in the hot sand in the heat of the day and rubbing himself in its toasty warmth.

He also got a kick out of chasing the lizards and birds that live in this exotic land. Of course, the bigger birds just stood their ground when they saw the excited puppy coming.

One crow began to tease him, flying just out of reach and squawking. Buddy took the bait and tore after the crow, running and jumping as the bird swerved and dipped his wings near him.

Suddenly Buddy took a big leap, eyes focused intently on the crow. He misjudged the uneven ground beneath him, lost his footing, and crashed into the sand chest first in a cloud of red dust.

When he stood up and shook himself off he was wearing a pink bib and gloves!

Puppy in red rock sand Utah-min

Buddy sports a peach bib and gloves after taking a flying leap after a bird and crash landing in the sand.

Rivers and waterways are responsible for the fantastic landscapes in this area, and when we drove over a bridge crossing the Colorado River we loved the contrast of the crimson cliffs and snowy mountains in the background.

Colorado River in Utah Glen Canyon-min

Snowy mountains and red rock cliffs.

The landscapes were filled with color and vibrance.

Colorful landscape at the golden hour in Utah-min

Vivid colors at the golden hour.

We crossed the San Juan River at the town of Mexican Hat. After driving over a hundred miles through vast empty landscapes, this village perched above the river was a fun surprise, and we got out to explore a bit.

Colorado River Bridge at Mexican Hat Utah-min

The village of Mexican Hat is perched along one side of the river.

Someone had put a three-legged chair in a spot with a great view of the village on the opposite bank. You never know what you’ll find out here!

Town of Mexican Hat Utah-min

Have a seat — but don’t fall over!

We continued on and the skies clouded over. Storms brewed in the distance while the sun lit portions of the land here and there. What a magical place.

Storm clouds and rain over red rock landscape in Utah-min

Storm clouds and rain drift across the red rock landscape.

Storm and dark clouds in the Utah red rocks-min

The rain never made it to us, but what a wonderfully brooding sky this was!

The village of Mexican Hat is named for the fun rock formation that looks like a Mexican sombrero. It was easy to spot and made us smile. What a perfect name for this formation and the village nearby!

Mexican Hat rock formation under storm clouds in Utah-min

Mexican Hat is impossible to miss!

Buddy decided to try it out and see how it fit.

Sombrero Mexican Hat over puppy-min

Buddy tries the hat on for size.

Catching it from different angles and zooming in, the hat really dose look like a sombrero.

Mexican Hat Utah-min

It’s a true sombrero from this angle!

Just how big is this rock formation? Enormous! There were some hikers standing at its base…

Hikers at Mexican Hat Utah-min

It doesn’t look that big until you notice the hikers!

As the afternoon wore on, the hat cast its shadow across the valley below.

Shadow of Mexican Hat rock formation in Utah-min

In the late afternoon Mexican Hat cast a shadow across the valley.

And as the sun set it became a silhouette against the sky.

Mexican Hat Utah sunset silhouette-min

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And then it grew wings.

Sunset at Mexican Hat Utah-min

With colorful flying clouds!

Continuing on, we saw incredible wavy patterns in the red rocks.

Clouds over red rocks in Utah-min

We noticed vivid patterns in the distant hills.

We hopped in the RZR to drive into the landscape a little further. We rounded a bend and found a couple taking a break from their Jeep ride to enjoy a quiet moment in their camp chairs with a fabulous view.

Polaris RZR ride in Utah red rocks-min

We followed a jeep road into the landscape.

Exotic landscape in Utah-min

A couple relaxes in their camp chairs in the middle of their Jeep ride!

These landscapes just begged us to head off into the red rocks to take photos.

Photographer in Utah red rocks-min

Mark heads out to take some pics.

We were drawn to the swirling patterns on the hillsides and couldn’t stop our cameras from clicking away.

Swirling rock formations in Utah-min

Triangular patterns swirled across the base of the mountains.

Red rock swirl formations in Utah-min

Red rock waves.

Wave patterns in Utah red rocks-min

An undulating landscape.

Just how big are these wavy patterns? I had wandered around on foot exploring and then I looked up and noticed our RZR leaning up against this jaw-dropping landscape. Wow!

Wavy patterns in red rocks with scale shown by Polaris RZR-min

How big are those patterns? Pretty big!

With that in mind, here are a few more images taken as clouds rolled in overhead.

Wavy red rock patterns and swirls in Utah-min

Approaching clouds played with the light.

Utah red rock wavy patterns and swirls-min

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We wanted to stay longer, but it was still quite cold in this part of Utah. Our fingers and toes were tired of being numb! We had been in long pants and jackets for too long and we were ready to get back to central Arizona where the temps were hovering in the high 70s. Ahhhh….!

Fifth wheel trailer RV triple tow-min

What a great area. We’ll be back!!

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Traces of Antiquity and the Not-So-Ancient in Utah!

March 2019 – Over the years we’ve been asked how we plan our travels, and we’ve usually said that we move on or stay put on a whim. But it might be more accurate to say that we generally follow the weather, staying put when it’s nice and moving on when ugly conditions are expected.

This has made for some hasty departures with rain, sleet or snow looming, but until this past week we have never been stuck right where we were because of deep mud!

Utah RV trip

Hitting the road is easier when you don’t have to drive through a foot of mud

The Utah desert is filled with sandstone, sand and silty stuff, and when it is dry it hardens to something like concrete with a soft layer of dust around the edges. But when it rains for 48 hours, as it did while we were camping, the water soaks into the silty sand and makes a very squishy mud.

Factory Butte Utah-min

An immense tower rises out of Utah’s red rocks courtesy of rain, wind and sometimes drippy muddy conditions

As we drove to and from our campsite every other day or so, our truck swam through portions of the road, even in 4×4 low gear at 5 mph. There was no way we could tow our 14k lb. trailer out of there.

So, we stayed put and we waited for the mud to dry!

Utah landscape near-far wide angle image-min

While we were waiting for the mud to dry we practice the near-far composition techniques we’d learned in our photography workshop the week before.

We kept busy practicing the wide angle photo techniques we had just learned. The key to putting some real zing into this kind of photography is having a fabulous sky and a fabulous foreground right at your feet. Finding those things is no small trick, though, even in this wonderfully scenic part of Utah.

Puppy Uah landscape near-far wide angle image-min

The near-far wide angle view is a new way of seeing for us, but we’re starting to get the hang of it!

We spent hours scouring the area looking for engaging backdrops in the distance and fascinating foregrounds at our feet while hoping we’d get a jaw-dropping sunrise or sunset to top it off.

The sky didn’t cooperate, but we did find some lovely places and really enjoyed the search.

Utah red rock landscape-min

Low toadstool hoodoos and softly rounded mountains

Of course, what’s funny about doing this kind of photography with our pooch Buddy along is that he has a habit of photo-bombing our shots. We’d get everything set up just so, and then Buddy would suddenly wander right through the middle of the photo, sniffing around and curious about what we were up to.

Utah red rock landscape with puppy-min

Buddy stops by right in the middle of things to say hello!

While I was crawling around on my hands and knees to try and capture these ground level images, Mark hiked up onto the colorfully striped mounds in the distance and took some stunning pics of the softly rounded shapes from eye level.

Striped hills in Utah-min

Up close, the softly rounded mounds were very beautiful

Colorful hills and mounds in Utah-min

The hills were a wide variety of earth tone colors

Utah striped mounds-min

Natural patterns

Slowly, the mud slowly began to dry everywhere, and it made pretty patterns of cracks as it shrank. Mark noticed the pattern of a tree in one set of cracks.

A tree in the cracked mud in Utah-min

The image of a tree appeared in the cracking mud

With the mud quickly drying, we realized our escape from our campsite had to be timed so that the mud on the road was sufficiently dry but the predicted strong winds hadn’t yet begun whipping dust around. Everyday we surveyed the mud and it seemed like our leave-taking was still a few days away.

But Mother Nature has her own sense of timing and her own schedule.

One day, just as we were returning from a walk down the road and agreeing that we should give it another day or two, the predicted winds suddenly arrived and kicked up some huge clouds of dust.

Yikes!

Dust and high winds in Utah-min

Buddy squints his eyes as he makes his way through a swirling dust cloud.
Wild dust storms are the desert West’s answer to the hot and muggy stickiness of mid-summer in the East!

When the desert becomes enveloped in dust storms you can get white-out conditions, and that thin layer of silt finds its way onto everything in the camper, even with the doors and windows closed. Just one swirl as you open the door and dash inside can be enough to coat the counters and table with grit.

It was time to leave!

Within an hour we were swimming down the muddy section of the road, but we had just enough traction to make it out.

Once the tires hit the pavement we heaved a huge sigh of relief!

We headed south on US-95 which is also known as the Bicentennial Highway because it was completed in 1976. It is one of Utah’s most spectacular scenic drives with occasional pull-outs where you can stop to take a photo or rest a bit. After driving for a while we pulled over to stretch our legs.

Hog Canyon Utah-min

The beautiful scenery on the Bicentennial Highway was a welcome sight after our great escape!

A gorgeous yellow Corvette had stopped too. We’ve often said that if we ever stop traveling by RV we might start traveling by sports car and motel. Wouldn’t that be fun! What better way to see America’s incomparable scenic drives that in a zippy and maneuverable Porsche?! We had the chance to do just that in Colorado a few years ago, and what a blast that was! (Blog post here).

RV and Porsche and side by side-min

There are many ways to travel and they’re all fun!

We wandered through the brush by the side of the road and crossed a narrow stream and found ourselves in a shallow cave. Such wonders. Our spirits soared as we roamed around.

View from cave in Utah-min

Mark takes a pic from the floor of the cave

One of the things I love most with Utah’s red rocks is the “desert varnish” on the surface of many cliff faces. It appears as though the gods have taken cans of paint and spilled them over the edges. Jackson Pollack may have made human drip painting famous, but for me, these paintings made by Mother Nature have him beat.

Desert varnish on red rocks in Utah-min

Nature’s drip paintings on towering red rock cliffs.

Artistic expression fill human history back to prehistoric times, and the ancients who lived in Utah thousands of years ago were no different. Using some kind of method to impregnate the smooth cliff walls with various colors, they created pictographs that remain to this day.

Buddy came across an especially beautiful one.

Puppy finds Moqui Queen pictograph in Utah-min

“Look what I found!”

It was about five feet tall and seemed to depict a person wearing a crown of some kind, along with decorations across the neck and shoulders as well as earrings. The figure appeared to have bird wings with long flight feathers, or perhaps it wore a cape that concealed its arms.

I have no idea what the thing next to this being was. But surely the person who meticulously created this image eons ago knew exactly what it was. If only it were possible to know the origins of the artwork in the context of the culture that created it.

Gazing at this image of a very specific something — human? god? — I remembered my astonishment when we watched a school field trip of young kids visiting the evocative ancient pyramid ruins at Monte Alban near Oxaca in southern Mexico.

As the kids sat attentively listening to a guide teach them about some huge stone carvings the Zapotecs had made, he pointed to various images in the stone sculptures and asked the kids if they recognized who they were.

With each question, a few kids’ hands shot up and they answered eagerly. They had studied the ancient mythology that had its roots right where they were sitting.

Moqui Queen pictograph in Utah-min

This intricately detailed pictograph is about five feet tall and appears to be a person wearing a crown and ornaments around the neck and shoulders, and it seems to have either an elaborate cape or wings.

Not too far from this incredible pictograph we found some more recent petroglyphs. The difference between pictographs and petroglyphs is that the pictographs are made by impregnating pigments into the rock face while petroglyphs are made by pecking out an etching.

It’s not so easy to make images by pecking, and in many places we’ve seen poor modern attempts to scrape the rock alongside the expertly made petroglyphs that are hundreds or thousands of years old. However, in this spot some enterprising people whose petroglyph efforts are now fading into recent history did a pretty good job of making a lasting impression.

These petroglyphs dated back as far as 1941 which was long before the Bicentennial Highway was built in 1976 and also before Glen Canyon was dammed to form Lake Powell in 1963.

In the 1940s there was just a rough 4×4 road that, legend has it, a local miner had built between Hanksville and Hite using a borrowed bulldozer!

Modern petroglyph in Utah-min

“Roy Despain + Madeline II – September 1, 1941”

Roy and Madeline covered some rugged terrain to put their mark on these rocks. I wonder if they are still around and if they ever return to see their names on the cliff wall.

Nearby Brig Larsen left his or her name and listed the town of Moab, Utah (his/her hometown?) and the full date of May 21, 1947.

Modern petroglyph in Utah-min

“Brig Larsen – Moab Utah – 1947”

In 1946, a year prior to Brig pecking out his petroglyph, a geological survey described the concept of a future road going between the mining town of Hite (now submerged under Lake Powell) and the Mormon farming town of Hanksville. A quote from that geological survey says:

“Plans are being considered for a road across the Colorado River at Hite and eastward… At the present time (1946) the road follows the bottom of North Wash and a cable-barge ferry is maintained for crossing the river. In time, no doubt, an improved road will be built that avoids the canyon bottom and crosses the river by bridge, probably near the mouth of the Dirty Devil river. Such a road would be one of the most scenic highway in America.”

How right they were as they looked 30 years into the future!

Nearby a Mr. (or Ms.) S. Allan also made a petroglyph with the date “41.” Was he (or she) traveling with Roy and Madeline in 1941? Maybe they all reached this spot together and decided to put their names on the rock much as the Mormon pioneers had done at the Mormon register which is now inside Capitol Reef National Park.

Ironically, someone named Lockyer visited to the same spot in 1978 after the Bicentennial Highway was fully built and paved with asphalt. I wonder if he intended to write over S. Allan’s date or if he realized only after he got going with his rock pecking that he hadn’t allowed enough room for his name.

Modern petroglyph in Utah-min

“S. Allan 41” and “Lockyer 78”

Either way, I’m just assuming that the numbers “41” and “78” refer to years these people were here in the 1900s. But who knows, they could be their birth years or they could be numbers from their high school varsity sports jerseys!

So it goes with the masterful guesswork of archaeology, whether studying the artistic footprints left 80 years ago or 800 years ago or more.

One thing we’ve noticed in the shifting sands of time here in southeastern Utah is that it is not so easy to leave an indelible footprint. We’ve been here only two weeks, yet the footprints and tire tracks we first put down two weeks ago have almost disappeared. The rain and wind have all but erased them from ever being.

Even the muddy tracks on the dirt road had already begun to flatten out.

Photography in Utah landscapes-min

Happy times in Utah.

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Map of the Bicentennial highway

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SE Utah – A Mars Colony, Wide-Angle Photography & Snowy Mountains!

March 2019 – We arrived in southeastern Utah just as snow flurries were abating. It was unseasonably cold, but at twilight the Henry Mountains were utterly radiant, a visual gift that was a happy exchange for having to run around in hats and mittens in mid-March!

Henry Mountains Utah at dusk-min

Henry Mountains at dusk

We snuck out at the first light of dawn and found the red rocks were glowing with an inner beauty.

Utah Red rocks glow in early morning light-min

Radiant red rocks at dawn

When a thick blanket of clouds filled the sky and chased the sun away for a few days, we could see the myriad of colors that are hidden in many of the exotic rock formations.

Colorful rocks in Utah-min

Lots of earth tone colors in the rocks

Off in the distance the classic desert mesas led the way to the horizon in receding layers.

Layered mesas in Utah-min

Mesas on the horizon

An excursion to the Dirty Devil River revealed an immense canyon reminiscent of tributaries within the Grand Canyon.

Dirty Devil River and canyon-min

Dirty Devil River and Canyon

We got a few sunny days, and with the ground still damp from the recent rains, we enjoyed some dust-free rides on our Polaris RZR.

Polaris RZR and puppy with driver in Utah-min

“Are we going for a ride? Yippee!”

Puppy and Polaris RZR in Utah-min

“I want to run alongside for a while.”

These UTV rides took us into the back country of Southeastern Utah where we went from one jaw dropping landscape to another. In some places the desert was flat and wide with immense jagged boulders balancing on the soft soil here and there.

Rock formations in Utah-min

It’s easy to get lost in these rocks!

In other places vividly striped mounds formed a gently rolling landscape.

Puppy explores striped red rock dunes-min

Buddy checks out the rounded mounds of purple, pink and deep brown rocks

Snow capped mountains and purple striped red rocks in Utah-min

Moonscape

“It feels like we’re on another planet!” We kept saying to each other!

This land is so photogenic it’s hard not to take a photo with every step. And it is so whimsical and cheery you just have to strike a pose in a lot of shots too!

Rock formations in Utah-min

Buddy watches Mark pose praising the heavens under a jagged spire.

Utah’s breathtaking and otherworldly landscapes are beloved worldwide, and lots of folks from all over the place come to visit in large numbers between Spring and Fall.

Purple striped red rocks in Utah-min

A huge labyrinth of a layer cake.

When we arrived in Hanksville, a massive and sweeping public land bill had just become Federal law with enthusiastic support from almost everyone in Congress.

We hadn’t known anything about it, but as we talked with the locals we soon discovered they weren’t too pleased. They were frustrated that motorized and mechanized vehicle access to some of the most popular places nearby will be prohibited because they’ll be designated “Wilderness” areas. Also, the locals hadn’t been notified of the bill until three days before it was voted on, so their views were never heard.

With those conversations still ringing in our ears, we were astonished to take our RZR around a corner on a well trodden road on the Bureau of Land Management’s vast square miles of open public land and suddenly see a sign planted in the ground that said:

“The Mars Society. Private Property. No Entry Please.”

Mars Desert Research Station Utah-min

Mars…or BLM land in Utah?

We stood by the sign and stared at the buildings lined up against the striped red rock mounds in the distance. There was a collection of what can only be described as Mars Pods along with a large solar panel array installed on the ground nearby.

We looked at each other in amazement. What in the world was this?

Mars Desert Research Station Utah-min

A Mars colony

We heard voices yelling in the distance and saw the door of the main pod opening and closing repeatedly as young, energetic people ran in and out the door. The yelling didn’t sound like English.

I cupped my hand to my ear to see if I could figure out the language they were speaking, but I couldn’t tell. My first guess was Spanish, and then I thought I heard some French.

Main Pod Mars Desert Research Station Utah-min

There was lots of commotion in a foreign language.

Suddenly, a side-by-side four wheeler came driving out from the pods towards us. There was no engine noise. It looked to be a Polaris Ranger UTV that had been converted to run on an electric engine.

Then two more Mars Rover side-by-sides appeared behind it.

The three vehicles zoomed passed us in a flash and disappeared down the road. One had the word “Opportunity” across the front hood, and they all had a pair of young folks in the seats.

Mars colonizers at Mars Desert Research Station Utah-min

Three UTVs converted to electric engines zipped by

We decided to head into the compound and see if we could learn a little more about what this place was. Driving a short distance, we arrived at the main pod and were greeted by a friendly dog and a young man.

“What is this place?” I asked him.

“Private property.” He said with a strong accent.

“I thought this was BLM land. Public land.” I said.

“We’re borrowing it.” He told me.

Mars Desert Research Station-min

Mars Desert Research Station

I asked if he meant they were leasing the land from the BLM, rather than borrowing it, and he nodded, and then I asked where he and his friends were from, and he said Peru.

He went on to explain that international groups of kids visit this place on two week rotations to live in the Utah desert and drive around in electric UTVs so they can get the feeling of what it would be like to land in a desolate landscape on Mars and establish a human colony.

We later learned that one of their current tasks is to fly teams of 8 drones at a time over the Utah landscape to make digital image maps.

We also learned from some Utah Capitol Reef area tourist literature that describes this Mars colony that whenever the kids step out of the pods into the Utah landscape they are supposed to be wearing space suits just as they would on Mars.

Curiously, we did not see a single space suit on any of the kids going in and out of the pods or driving the UTVs across the desert. They were in street clothes and they looked no different than any other ATV/UTV owners who like to cruise around on dirt roads and go exploring.

Mars colony rovers in Utah-min

Future Mars colonists drive off into the desert in their UTVs to map the desert by flying teams of 8 drones at a time! Despite claims they wear space suits, they actually wore street clothes and looked no different than any other ATV/UTV group playing in the desert.

When we left, we saw a large sign on one of the building pods that said, “All funding by private donations. The Musk Foundation.”

The Musk Foundation-min

Major Sponsors (all funding via private donations)
The Musk Foundation

As I’ve said many times before, the public land debate is immense and complex and there is a lot more to it than meets the eye.

We continued on our own little safari at a modest 18 mph down the dirt road, lost in our own thoughts.

Suddenly, a huge SUV came up behind us from the direction of the Mars colony at about 40 mph and swerved around us, narrowly missing the left side of our little open air buggy. The driver hadn’t beeped to let us know he was coming, and we were left in a cloud of dust.

Dust flies off fast car on Utah desert road-min

Yikes! That was close!

We had come Utah very early this spring to attend a photography workshop with Ian Plant that soon got underway. It was focused on how to take wide angle images that emphasize near-far contrasts.

This was fascinating to study, and we had some outstanding experiences both in the classroom and out in the field.

It will take us a while for us to master the techniques we learned, but we had a lot of fun starting to retrain our eyes to look for interesting patterns at our feet and combine them with interesting things in the distance.

Near-Far wide angle perspective-min

We practiced near-far compositions that go from the shapes at your feet to shapes on the horizon

Morning glow on Utah red rocks-min

More practice with some red rock hoodoos at dawn.

Utah pinnacle at sunrise-min

Early morning light envelops a distant pinnacle.

There are quite a few slot canyons in the area, and these proved to be wonderful for wide angle photography and playing with the shapes created by shafts of light.

Leprechaun Slot Canyon Utah-min

Beautiful light inside Leprechaun Canyon

At one point our instructor, Ian, walked towards Mark as he was taking a photo. The light hit Ian perfectly and suddenly he looked like he was receiving a message from God or being beamed up to the USS Enterprise!

Ghost in the light in a Utah slot canyon-min

The ghost of our instructor

Mark also got a fantastic selfie at a slot canyon opening.

Slot canyon in Utah-min

Mark took a selfie.

There are sand dunes in the area too. Talk about an other-worldy landscape!

Sand dunes in Utah-min

Maybe this really is Mars

After the workshop was over, the rain and snow returned. We watched in awe as banks of black clouds came in.

Incoming storm in Utah red rocks-min

An approaching storm

The snow-covered Henry Mountains were suddenly surrounded by swirls of clouds that changed shape with every passing minute.

Henry Mountains with snow panorama Utah-min

Clouds surrounded the Henry Mountains

Clouds over snow capped Henry Mountains in Utah-min

Late afternoon light on the clouds and snow on the Henries

Henry Mountains with snow and red rocks Utah-min

Snow-capped peaks above and red rocks below – Magic!

Snow and clouds on Henry Mountains in Utah-min

The mountain was whisked away by the clouds…!

Snow on Henry Mountains Utah-min

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There is so much to see in southeastern Utah that we feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface despite several return visits. We think we’re headed back south to Arizona now to finish up a few things there, but the lure of these exotic red rocks and spectacular vistas will probably keep us here a little while longer!

RV Camping in the Utah Red Rocks-min

Southeastern Utah is a beautiful area.

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Bryce Canyon in Winter – Snow and Lace on the Red Rock Spires!

January 2019 – When we dashed out of Phoenix and headed north towards a blizzard that was raging at Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park, the weather forecast was for an even bigger snow storm at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah!

Bryce Canyon has been among our favorite National Parks since we first saw it while tent camping nearly fifteen years ago, and we have visited many times since we started traveling full-time in an RV. But we had never seen it with snow. What a fabulous opportunity this was!

Bryce Canyon National Park in winter with snow

Bryce Canyon is spectacular when blanketed with snow!

Since we were dressed for cold weather and ready to romp in the snow, this was the perfect time to trek another 285 miles from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon around the east end of that great chasm and then northwards to Bryce Canyon National Park.

Happy camper and puppy in snow-min

Buddy loves the snow — and so do I (in small doses in scenic places!)

Of course, the problem with blizzards is that things tend to shut down due to the snow.

So, we were totally shocked (but shouldn’t have been) when we started heading east on AZ Route 64 on the way to Bryce Canyon and found that it was closed!! Argh!! Now the only way to get to Bryce was to go SOUTH back down to Flagstaff and then north on US-89, adding about 80 miles to our trip.

Well, ya gotta do what ya gotta do when chasing beautiful scenery in unique conditions. So off we went to Bryce via Flagstaff!

And how worthwhile this trip turned out to be. When we arrived, we went straight to the rim of Bryce Canyon National Park at Inspiration Point and were blown away by what we saw.

Bryce Canyon National Park view with pine tree and snow-min

Bryce Canyon is stunning all year long, but what a place it is when laced with fresh snow!

Snow at Bryce Canyon National Park-min

Snow and red rock pinnacles right to the horizon!!

The only overlooks that were officially open were Sunrise Point and Sunset Point (interestingly, both of those overlooks face east, so the names don’t really relate to sunrises or sunsets!).

Luckily for us, the parking area at Inspiration Point had been plowed too, and eager visitors had trampled a narrow trail through the deep snow to the incomparable views along the rim there.

Inspiration Point view with snow at Bryce Canyon National Park-min

The view at Inspiration Point

Bryce Canyon National Park is a fairy tale land of charming red rock turrets and castles nestled into a vast amphitheater that makes for jaw dropping images at any time of year. Now, in mid-January, the red rock spires peeked out from under a blanket of fresh snow.

Looking down into the snow at Bryce Canyon National Park-min

Looking down into the depths between the spires.

Trail with snow at Bryce Canyon National Park-min

A magical walk along the rim!

The views at Sunset Point were spectacular as the sun began to cast deep shadows across the landscape.

Limber Pine at Bryce Canyon National Park-min

A limber pine looks out at the Canyon at Sunset Point.

All three overlooks — Inspiration Point, Sunrise Point and Sunset Point — were connected by a narrow trail that had been made by boots in the snow. We wandered between the overlooks, snapping photos with almost every step.

Deep Snow at Bryce Canyon National Park Sunset Point-min

Late afternoon shadows at Sunset Point.

Snow at Bryce Canyon National Park with snow Sunset Point-min

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Blanket of Snow Bryce Canyon National Park-min

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Sunset Point View Bryce Canyon National Park with snow-min

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Over the years, Rubys Inn, located 3 miles from the Park entrance, has grown from a small hotel and restaurant to a sprawling complex that now includes several motel buildings, a huge restaurant, a massive RV park, an expansive gift shop, a grocery store and a tiny US Post Office.

In the past we’ve stopped at Rubys Inn to relax in its beautiful hotel lobby, explore the gift shop and grocery store and do laundry at the laundromat, but on this trip we stayed in the Lakeside motel building which is pet friendly.

Icicles at Rubys Inn Bryce Canyon City Utah-min

Icicles hang from the roof at Rubys Inn.

Buddy was absolutely loving the snow, and each morning we went for a fast paced run in the powder out behind Rubys Inn between the snowed-in RV campsites.

Puppy in snow at Bryce Canyon-min

Buddy loved sprinting through the snow and then eating it!

All the trees in the woods around Bryce Canyon and Rubys Inn were heavily laden with snow, and the air was so crisp it felt brittle and harsh on our cheeks.

Snow on trees at Bryce Canyon National Park-min

The trails around Rubys Inn were delightful. Some folks rented snowshoes.

Rubys Inn had a few big pull-through RV campsites in the center of the complex that were open to campers even now, but we saw only one pair of hardy souls camping in this bitter cold. They were in a truck camper, and they explained to us that Rubys Inn has full hookups in the summertime but at this time of year there are only electric hookups so no one has to worry about freezing pipes.

There is a shower building with hot showers, and of course the restaurant offers a full buffet breakfast everyday that is so filling you won’t need lunch and might even want to skip dinner!

Truck camper in snow Rubys Inn Bryce Canyon National Park-min

Campsites were available at Rubys Inn (electric only) and they even had some very hardy customers!

In the National Park one loop of the North Campground was open for dry camping too. We were impressed to see a van, but were frankly quite shocked to see two guys setting up a tent and then to see another tent already set up and waiting for its owners to return from their hike!

Tent camping in snow North Campground Bryce Canyon National Park-min

The nights were in the single digits…!

Out on the trails the days warmed up to 33 degrees each day we were there.

Deep Snow at Bryce Canyon National Park-min

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And the snow was deep!!

Deep snow at Bryce Canyon National Park in Winter-min

Buddy isn’t very tall, but still, this is deep snow!!

And each time we walked out on the rim our jaws dropped yet again. Bryce Canyon is such a unique and special landscape. To see it with snow is a divine treat!

Inspiration Point with snow at Bryce Canyon National Park-min

These were the views we had driven all those miles to see.

Stunning Bryce Canyon National Park view with snow-min

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Snow at Bryce Canyon National Park-min

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Several of the trails that go down into the Bryce Canyon amphitheater had been cleared by the boots of eager hikers.

Navajo Loop Trail Hikers at Bryce Canyon National Park with snow-min

Hiking the trails was a lot of fun!

Hikers at Inspiration Point Bryce Canyon National Park with snow-min

Hikers on the trails below us showed the scale of this place!!

The white snow made the perfect backdrop to show the diminutive size of the hikers in comparison to the red rock spires that surrounded them in the Canyon.

Hikers at Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter-min

Two hikers approach an overlook on Queen’s Garden Trail below Sunrise Point.

Navajo Loop Trail with snow Bryce Canyon National Park-min

Hikers on the Navajo Loop Trail.

We walked down the Navajo Loop Trail a ways. It was steep in places, and we were grateful for the railings at the beginning of the trail because it was pretty slippery on the ice there!

Hiking in the snow Bryce Canyon National Park-min

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Overlook at Bryce Canyon National Park with snow-min

What a view!

Selfie shot at Bryce Canyon National Park with snow-min

A moment to remember!

Hikers were having fun getting selfies, but not every spot was a great place to stand!

We noticed that the Park Service had posted a few signs warning the most daring selfie-takers not to venture out on the puffy snow in places where there might not be much support underneath!

Do Not Enter sign at Bryce Canyon National Park with snow-min

“Do not enter!”

As we progressed down the Navajo Loop Trail we felt that familiar sense of inspiration and awe that always envelops us as the red rock spires rise up around us at Bryce.

Drifts of snow Bryce Canyon National Park-min

Hikers on an upper switchback.

Navajo Loop Trail Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter-min

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Snowy trails Bryce Canyon National Park-min

The turrets rose around us as we descended.

Bryce Canyon National Park snow on Navajo Loop Trail-min

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Hiking Navajo Loop Trail Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter-min

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The soft white snow, red rocks and blue sky were a perfect complement to each other in every view.

Hiking at Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter-min

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As we ventured out on the rim and wandered down the trails we were so glad we had made the long drive from Phoenix via the Grand Canyon to see Bryce Canyon dressed in the white lace of winter.

Fresh snow Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter-min

A blanket of fresh snow…

Tree at snowy overlook Bryce Canyon National Park Utah-min

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View into Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter-min

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Bryce Canyon National Park with snow-min

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Bryce Canyon National Park is a knockout at any time of year — definitely one of the most spectacular places in North America — but how special it was to see it blanketed with snow on these bright and sunny January days!

Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter at overlook-min

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During our stay, the moon rose bright and full over the canyon. I made a point to be at the Canyon rim for moonrise late one afternoon. I had visions in my head of photographing a huge round moon rising up from behind the distant mountains and glowing across the canyon.

I got to Sunrise Point fifteen minutes before moonrise and stood there full of hope for the next hour. But the moon didn’t make it to her appointment!

I finally left, totally discouraged and frozen to the bone. Dejected, I took Buddy for a walk in the woods behind Rubys Inn just after sunset. As we rounded a corner I suddenly saw the moon’s bright white face between the trees.

What the heck?! When did it rise? How did I miss it?

Peaks of snow Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter at overlook-min

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I kicked myself all that night and into the next morning, thinking that I had missed the most beautiful imagineable moonrise over Bryce Canyon because I had given up too easily and left too soon.

The next morning Mark and I were both up at oh-dark-thirty to catch the sunrise over Bryce Canyon. It was a mere 12 degrees Fahrenheit as we hiked out to find our own spots at Sunset Point. As I got set up, I chatted with another photographer who was walking by me about how sad I was to have missed the moonrise the night before.

“Oh! You didn’t miss anything. The moon was covered by clouds at the horizon when it was rising!” he told me. He’d been out on Queen’s Garden Trail and hadn’t seen it between the spires until an hour after it’s rising time either.

Phew!! That made sense! What a relief that I hadn’t blown a once in a lifetime opportunity after all. The moon had simply decided not to show up at the appointed time and instead hid behind a bank of hazy blueish-grayish clouds for an hour!

Mark and I headed to two different spots along Sunset Point for the sunrise. As the moment got closer, more and more cars showed up in the parking lot. I looked out along the rim and noticed several other eager photographers standing faithfully behind their tripods waiting for Nature to unleash her wonders.

Morning light Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter-min

The snow glowed pink and orange at dawn.

We all wanted that magical moment of a sunny starburst spreading rays of sunshine across the Canyon. And we all worried it was going to be a dud as the horizon got brighter and brighter yet nothing happened. After missing out on the moon, I began to prepare myself to be heartbroken for missing out on the sunrise starburst too.

But suddenly as I stared at the image on the back of my camera I saw the faint rays of a starburst beginning. I clicked the shutter repeatedly, and with immense satisfaction I watched the starburst grow and grow.

Sunrise at Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter-min

Sunrise!

A few hundred yards away Mark was having the same experience. After it seemed like nothing would happen, the sun suddenly reached across the canyon while the calls of ravens in the distance welcomed a new day. How beautiful.

Sunrise at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah winter visit with snow-min

Good morning!!

What a blessing to be alive and to be out here at this moment!

As we hiked back to the truck, we compared notes with other photographers who were walking back too. One fellow told us he’d been hiking with a guy the day before who had been coming to Bryce Canyon National Park every winter for the last 40 years, and he’d said he had never seen the snow as deep and thick as it was this year.

Blessing upon blessing!

We had rushed out of the Sonoran Desert on a wing and a prayer because we’d seen three days of snow predicted for Canyon Country. Little did we know that we would be hitting Bryce Canyon when it had more snow than it had seen in many years!

If you have a chance to get to Bryce Canyon during or after a snowstorm, jump on the opportunity. Even if the moon or sun plays games with you, you won’t be disappointed!!

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Goblin Valley State Park Utah – One Gigantic Playground!

April 2018 – Goblin Valley State Park in Utah is a filled with exotic red rock formations known as “hoodoos” that look for all the world like little people, martians and goblins, and it is a favorite with kids and families because it is one gigantic playground.

RV camping Goblin Valley State Park Utah-min

Goblin Valley is a great place for a family camping trip!

We visited Goblin Valley during our first year of full-time RVing eleven years ago and absolutely loved it. The campground is nestled into a huge rock formation that has cathedral-like buttresses, and tents and RVs tuck into these alcoves for a snug night’s sleep.

RV camping Goblin Valley State Park Utah-min

11 years ago we visited Goblin Valley State Park as new full-timers in our 27′ travel trailer and loved it!

It is located a little away from the concentration of red rock beauty in southern Utah but is an easy detour from I-70 when you’re heading east-west between Utah and Colorado. However, our travels hadn’t taken us in that direction since our first visit in 2007 (blog post here). When we pulled into the area we stopped and let our new pup Buddy out, and we all soaked in the dramatic scenery — just gorgeous!

Goblin Valley State Park Utah Puppy's view-min

Buddy checks out the fabulous scenery.

There are wonderful trails to hike or bike on.

Mountain biking Goblin Valley State Park Utah-min

What a place to ride!

The most famous and iconic part of Goblin Valley State Park is the Valley of the Goblins amphitheater where all the hoodoos stand in a tight huddle, but we decided to do the Goblin’s Lair hike before venturing into the valley of hoodoos.

Welcoming Committee Three Sisters Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

The Greeters welcomed us to Goblin Valley State Park.
They are also known as the Three Judges, the Three Kings or the Three Sisters!

The Goblin’s Lair hike shares a trail with the Carmel Canyon hike until the two trails fork and the path to Goblin’s Lair takes a right to go around the outside of the hoodoo amphitheater. Here the land is wide open and vast, carved by the massive earth moving forces of Nature, wind and water.

A 24-hour hair whipping wind storm had just swept through Goblin Valley, and the dust had been swirling so thickly in the air we had to stay inside for an entire day while our trailer got sandblasted.

When we finally ventured out on the Goblin’s Lair hike the next day, the air was so heavy with dust you could taste it on your tongue and feel it on your lips.

So, we didn’t have the iconic bright blue sky and crisp colors that set off the red rocks in famously dramatic fashion, but the whole atmosphere was wonderfully ghostly and ghoulish.

Beginning Carmel Canyon  and Goblin's Lair Hike Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

With dust providing a ghoulish haze, hikers head out on the hike to Goblin’s Lair.

The trail has several promontories that are fun to walk out on.

Carmel Canyon  and Goblin's Lair Trail Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

The scenery dwarfs us.

Carmel Canyon Trail Hike Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

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The best way to see Goblin Valley is with kids. Since we didn’t have any kids or grandkids with us, we were delighted to find ourselves sharing the trail with a bunch of families both ahead of us and behind us.

It was Spring Break for the local Utah schools and all of Goblin Valley was teeming with kids. As we started down the trail we heard them excitedly running around and calling out to each other. “Sand, wonderful sand!” one boy said as he scooped up a huge handful of soft pink sand worthy of the best tropical beach and let it fly.

Hiking to Goblin's Lair on Carmel Canyon Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

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Solitary boulders stood here and there.

Carmel Canyon and Goblin's Lair Hike views Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip

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We stopped to trade selfies with some other hikers and then began the ascent up towards Goblin’s Lair.

Selfie Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

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Goblin's Lair Hike Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

Hiking up to Goblin’s Lair

There is a bit of a scramble in the last part of the climb to Goblin’s Lair, but all the grandmas and grandpas made it while their grandkids cheered them on from the top.

Goblin's Lair Hike Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

Looking down at hikers scrambling up to Goblin’s Lair

The lair itself is a big cave, and smart hikers who have read the literature before they start hiking bring flashlights with them. Those of us who just saw the sign “Goblin’s Lair” in the parking lot and started hiking right away ’cause it sounded cool arrived at the cave without one!

The crowd at the cave entrance was sizeable. More people kept scrambling up the trail behind us, and we all kept shifting positions perched on the craggy rocks at the top to make room for the new arrivals. Mark and Buddy slithered to the front and took a peek in the cave and said “Wow!” and then we started back down to make room for others coming up.

We took our time hiking back and saw people peering down at us from the towering red rock cliffs. They had climbed up on the cliffs from the crowd of hoodoos on the other side in the Valley of the Goblins.

Carmel Canyon Hike Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

A hiker on the edge of the Valley of the Goblins looks down at us.

Snow and solitude Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

Solitude in the red rocks with snow in the distance.

The hike is three miles round trip, and even though the sun was filtered through the dust in the air, it was getting warm. So, one of us found a bit of cool shade under a rock and took a break.

Resting during Goblin's Lair Hike Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

Buddy takes a load off in the shade.

Carmel Canyon hike Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

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The Valley of the Goblins is the main attraction at Goblin Valley State Park, and you can look down into it from many overlooks at the parking lot before you head on in.

Valley of the Goblins hike Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

Valley of the Goblins with snowy peaks in the distance.

Valley of the Goblins amphitheater Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

Hoodoos stand cheek-by-jowel in the Valley of the Goblins inviting kids of all ages to climb on them.

There is no real hiking trail, just a million goblins standing together waiting for kids to come and play on them.

Valley of the Goblins Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

There’s no specific trail in Valley of he Goblins — you can just run anywhere have a ball!

Kids giant playground Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

Goblin Valley is a fabulous natural playground.

The shrieks of excitement from the kids as they climbed up to the tops and yelled to their friends and parents down below was infectious.

Valley of the Goblins playground Goblin Valley State Park

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Goblin Valley State Park Utah Giant Playground for kids-min

There were kids all over the rocks — how fun!

Even kids of the canine variety were having fun climbing the hoodoos in Goblin Valley!

Dog's giant playground Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

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The last time we were here we hunted for recognizable shapes among the hoodoos and found space ships and martians and turtles and ducks. That’s the fun of this place. It’s a natural playground for kids of all ages. Your imagination is set free and you can run and climb as much as you want.

Or, you can just take photos, and we got a kick out of that too.

Valley of the Goblins at Goblin Valley State Park-min

Out in the middle of it all a hiker captures the scene on his cell phone.

Families hike Valley of the Goblins Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

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Photography playground Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

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Goblin Valley is a very fun place to get creative with a camera.

Triangle window Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

A triangular window.

Chess pieces Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV Trip-min

Chess pieces.

Goblin Valley State Park is a Utah treasure that would easily be declared a National Park if it were located in a less scenic state, and we’ll definitely be back again.

RV camping Goblin Valley State Park Utah-min

Coming back to Goblin Valley after all these years was a blast!

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Utah Scenic Byway 24 RV Trip – Capitol Reef National Park

April 2018 – Utah Scenic Byway 24 between the towns of Loa and Hanksville goes through Capitol Reef National Park and is one of the most spectacular scenic drives in America. We have been fortunate to drive it several times in each direction, and every single time our jaws have hung open for the entire 64 miles as we’ve been utterly blown away by the dramatic scenery and wild rock formations passing by our windows.

Here’s a series of photos showing how it looked from the passenger seat of our truck as we towed our trailer across the magical wonderland of Capitol Reef Country from west to east.

It started with a lovely view of red rocks as we rounded a bend.

Utah Byway 24 Capitol Reef National Park Scenic Drive-min

Our first big red rocks view begins to take shape on Utah’s Scenic Byway 24

Then our eyes popped open as the contours and texture of the land grew bigger and more complex.

Utah Highway 24 Capitol Reef National Park Scenic Drive RV trip-min

Wow!

Suddenly, we started down a hill and the view exploded in front of us and became knock-your-socks-off stunning!

Utah 24 Capitol Reef National Park Scenic Drive-min

Wow, Wow, WOW!

A group of horses and cows live in this view all day every day, so they weren’t quite as impressed.

Horses on Utah Scenic Byway 24 Capitol Reef National Park RV trip-min

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But we were loving every minute as we drove head on into that view.

Utah Byway 24 Capitol Reef National Park Scenic Drive RV trip-min

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Views on Capitol Reef National Park Utah Highway 24 Scenic Drive-min

View out the side window.

Utah Byway 24 is easily driven in an RV, even though there are lots of twists and turns and climbs and descents, and we saw plenty of RVs on the road.

RV on Capitol Reef National Park Utah Scenic Byway 24 Scenic Drive-min

There are lots of RVs on this route.

Capitol Reef National Park Utah Byway 24 Scenic Drive RV trip-min

The road curves, climbs and descends, but it’s easy driving.
Just don’t get too distracted by the sensational views and drive off the road!

Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive RV trip-min

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RV on Utah Route 24 Capitol Reef National Park Scenic Drive-min

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The red rock views just kept coming and coming and coming.

Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive RV trip-min

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Red rocks Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive-min

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Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive Red rocks RV trip-min

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Exotic rock formations Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive-min

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The heart of Capitol Reef National Park is an old Mormon farming community called Fruita. As we drove past the village on Utah Highway 24, we noticed that the trees were still showing off their nakedness for winter. However, on other spring and summer visits, we’ve seen these trees lit up in brilliant shades of green that are the perfect visual contrast to the red rocks and blue sky.

Trees and red rocks Fruita Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip-min

These trees turn vivid green in spring!

Trees and red rocks Fruita Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip-min

Trees line the road near Fruita.

Fruita is a beautiful and tranquil little community, and there are camping options, a fantastic scenic drive into the depths of the red rocks, and some terrific hikes to historic Mormon sites. We have a detailed blog post about some of the highlights of Capitol Reef National Park and the town of Fruita from our visit a few years back (blog post here).

However, on this trip we were just driving through on Utah Highway 24. So, on we went, reminiscing when we passed some favorite spots and then quickly becoming immersed in the majestic scenery of Utah Scenic Byway 24 once again.

We had left red rock country behind and were now driving between rock walls that Mother Nature had painted in lighter shades.

Rock canyon Utah Byway 24 Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip_-min

We’d left the red rocks but were still surrounded by dramatic canyon walls.

Pinnacles Scenic

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Views Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip-min

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Sheer walls Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route Scenic Byway 24 RV truo

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There were still some hints of red rocks here and there, and we were mesmerized as we drove. A UPS truck went by in the opposite direction and we had to laugh. Surely, that driver has the best UPS route in the country!

Canyon walls Capitol Reef National Park RV trip Utah Highway 24 Scenic Drive-min

Not bad scenery for the few lucky folks who have to drive this route for work every day!

Canyon walls Capitol Reef National Park RV trip Utah Byway 24 Scenic Drive-min

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Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip Utah Scenic Byway 24

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Gradually, the soaring rock walls on either side of us receded, and the land opened up, punctuated by occasional towers of stone.

Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip Utah Route 24-min

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RV Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24-min

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Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip Utah Route 24-min

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Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip Utah Route 24-min

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Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip Utah Route 24-min

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RV Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park Utah Byway 24-min

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Then the rock formations changed shape and the rock walls were filled with steep and angular channels that were carved with Nature’s sharpest chisels.

Exotic landscape Capitol Reef National Park Utah Scenic Highway 24 RV trip-min

Fine chisel work…

We were no longer in Capitol Reef National Park, but the landscapes in Utah pay no attention to such artificial boundaries. Utah Scenic Byway 24 was still giving us a magic carpet ride through some of the most exotic scenery America has to offer.

Desert landscape Capitol Reef National Park Utah Scenic Byway 24 RV trip-min

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Rock uplift Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive by RV-min

Massive rock uplifts make faces.

The chiseled walls returned, but the cows grazing underneath didn’t notice.

Spectacular landscape Capitol Reef National Park Utah Highway 24 Scenic Drive by RV

Dinner with a view!

Flowering tree Capitol Reef National Park Utah Highway 24 Scenic Drive by RV-min

A pink tree shows off its springtime finest.

Farm field Capitol Reef National Park Utah Scenic Byway 24 by RV-min

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As we neared the hamlet of Hanksville, the road took a few final sweeping turns past some walls of stone.

Stone canyon Capitol Reef National Park Utah Highway 24 Scenic Drive by RV-min

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Towering rock formation Capitol Reef National Park Utah Scenic Byway 24-min

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And then, in a final burst of glory, we passed a “mitten” rock formation that seemed to be advertising some of the other wonders of America’s southwest. “If you liked this road, you should check out Monument Valley!” it seemed to be saying.

Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24 Monument Valley lookalike-min

A mitten formation reminds us of Monument Valley.

What a glorious drive that was! I looked over at Mark to exchange happy glances and did a double take. Hey, who was doing the driving?

Puppy drives the truck and trailer

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We will never tire of driving the many wondrous scenic drives in Utah, and Utah Scenic Byway 24 is well worth experiencing many times in both directions. It attaches to Scenic Byway 12 and the fabulous Bicentennial Highway and is close to the little known Burr Trail too.

Even if your itinerary doesn’t include visiting Capitol Reef National Park for its hikes and camping, if you happen to be in southern Utah, treat yourself to an east-west detour and spend a few hours driving Utah Scenic Byway 24!

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Zion National Park’s Hidden Jewels – Off the Beaten Path in an RV!

December 2017 – Last year we took our RV to Zion National Park during the incredible fall foliage season in late October, and we were blown away by the beauty. We had visited Zion National Park several times before, but never when the leaves were turning.

We published two posts with pics and stories of our travel adventures at the time (here and here), and I had photos all ready to go for a third post, but by the time I was able to sit down and turn those photos into a blog post, it was January and our other more recent travel adventures were taking precedence.

Scenic Drive Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah-min

The scenic drives in and around Zion National Park are spectacular!

But I’ve got a window of time now, so here are our photos from “Hidden Zion,” the back roads that wander through the lesser known parts of Zion National Park and the surrounding area.

Zion Canyon National Park Kolob Canyons-min

We will never tire of visiting Zion National Park. It is one of America’s best!

The “front side” of Zion National Park is accessible from the village of Springdale and is visited by massive numbers of tourists every year. 4.3 million people jammed themselves into Zion Canyon in 2016, a 50% increase over 2014 which had been the busiest year until then. 2017 is surpassing that record by another 5%!!

Zion Canyon — the major canyon in Zion National Park — is without doubt the most dramatic part of the Park, but isn’t all there is to see…

Zion Canyon National Park Kolob Canyons view-min

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Kolob-Canyons-Road-Scenic-Drive-Zion-National-Park-Utah-min

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As I noted a few weeks back, just stopping the car along Route 9 on the east side of Zion National Park and walking 100 yards in from the highway can be a fabulous experience (blog post here).

View on Zion National Park Utah Kolob Canyons-min

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Cattle grazing Zion National Park Utah Kolob Canyons-min

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Over on the west side of the Zion National Park lies “Kolob Canyon,” a wonderful area full of towering red rocks and home to a few excellent (and little traveled) hiking trails.

Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah-min

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Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah-min

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There are roads leading towards the Park from several directions, and we poked our truck’s nose down a few to see what we’d find. After climbing for a long way, we were suddenly in the middle of an aspen grove.

Golden aspen Zion National Park Utah Kolob Canyons-min

Aspen trees light up in fall!

The yellow trees were shedding their leaves in showers of gold, and we walked down a small road deep into the heart of the aspen grove, bewitched by the leaves swirling in the autumn breezes around us.

Yellow Aspen lane Zion National Park Utah Kolob Canyons-min

An inviting road for a golden stroll…

We love aspen trees. There’s something about the way the leaves shimmer on the branches and the the way the white trunks grow in thick crowds, many adorned with little eyes, that we find very endearing.

Aspen Trees Zion National Park Utah Kolob Canyons-min

White aspen tree trunks.

What better time for a selfie?!

Aspen Zion National Park Utah Kolob Canyons-min

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We roamed around some more and came across an unexpected pond. The sky was alive with fantastic patterns of clouds high above.

Kolob Reservoir Zion National Park Utah-min

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We started back down again and were enchanted by the golden glow of the fields of gently swaying grass.

Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah-min

Kolob Canyon at Zion National Park

Kolob Canyons View Zion National Park Utah-min

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We passed a rancher on horseback moving among his cattle. What a place to graze your herd!!

Cattle Drive Zion National Park Utah-min

Just another day at the office for this cowboy!

In the late afternoon light, the Kolob Canyon views were truly jaw dropping. I was very busy in the passenger’s seat snapping pics!

Kolob Canyons Road Zion National Park Utah-min

Kolob Canyon is knock-your-socks-off gorgeous!

Scenic Drive Kolob Canyons Road Zion National Park Utah-min

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Every bend in the road yielded another stunning image.

Kolob Canyons Drive Zion National Park Utah-min

These views kept my shutter finger very busy!!

Scenic Drive Kolob Canyons Road Zion National Park Utah-min

Breathtaking!


Scenic Drive Kolob Canyons Road Zion National Park Utah-min

Talk about a scenic drive!

Zion National Park is one of those places that offers layer upon layer of wonder and is worthy of much leisurely wandering.

Hiking Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah-min

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We thought we’d “been there and done that” years ago on a tent camping trip when we zipped through Zion on our way from Grand Canyon to Bryce Canyon. On our next visit during our first year of full-timing we saw just a little bit more. Finally, on our RV trip to Zion last year, we hung around the area long enough to start exploring the nooks and crannies in depth.

Yet we still haven’t done any of the iconic hikes that make Zion National Park so famous, so it is still rock solid in its position at the top of our bucket list of “must see” places!!

Zion National Park Kolob Canyons RV Trip-min

Zion National Park is worthy of many return RV trips!

When I was in Paris a few months ago, a new friend asked me if we still find new places to go even after ten years of traveling around North America full-time. I had to laugh because we still feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface of seeing anything.

What a beautiful life we are blessed to be living that we can go back to a place like Zion National Park again and again and still find ourselves awe-struck by the scenery and curious to find out what lies around the next bend.

Full moon Zion National Park Utah RV trip-min

A nearly full moon rises at Zion National Park.

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Sand Hollow Side-by-Side UTV/ATV Adventure Rally – Test Drives in the Dunes!

November 2017 – During our stay at Sand Hollow State Park in Utah, we woke up one morning to the sound of rolling thunder. We peeked out the windows just in time to see a super souped up truck go flying by. In a split second all we could see was the cloud of dust he left behind.

Bilstein Shock photo shoot Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

A roaring truck engine woke us up.

A few minutes later, the truck circled back, idled for a while behind some bushes and then roared to life once again and zoomed through the sand, leaving another wake of cloudy dust behind.

What the heck?

We grabbed our cameras and ran outside to see what was going on.

Bilstein Shock photo shoot Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

This little souped up truck was thundering through the sand dunes.

Suddenly a really exotic looking Baja style dune buggy appeared right in front of us, its engine idling loudly like a growling beast ready to pounce.

UTV with Bilstein Shock photo shoot Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Hear me roar!

As we stood there taking pics of this crazy scene, another RVer showed up, and then a drone pulled into view just above us and settled in the air hovering and waiting. All eyes were on this wild dune buggy as the driver revved up the engine.

Photographing the Bilstein Shock photo shoot Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

A drone hovers with its red light on waiting to catch the shot too!

And then, with a huge spray of sand flying off the spinning tires, the dune buggy was off. Holy smokes! The noise was so intense I instinctively wanted to cover my ears, but I wanted to get pics too and didn’t have enough hands to do both!!

Bilstein Shock photo shoot UTV at Sand Hollow State Park Utah 1-min

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Bilstein Shock photo shoot UTV at Sand Hollow State Park Utah 2-min

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Bilstein Shock photo shoot UTV at Sand Hollow State Park Utah 3-min

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Bilstein Shock photo shoot UTV at Sand Hollow State Park Utah 4-min

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Bilstein Shock photo shoot UTV at Sand Hollow State Park Utah 5-min

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The truck and Baja buggy circled around again, rumbling loudly as they passed us, and they took their positions once again. What was going on?

As the dune buggy sat there growling and roaring, Mark walked over and leaned his head in towards the driver and asked him if this was a photo shoot. Yup!! Who for? Bilstein shocks!

How cool is that?

I have no idea where the video and still shots from this photo shoot might appear, but keep an eye out for a Bilstein Shocks ad with this truck and Baja buggy at Sand Hollow!!

We had come to Sand Hollow State Park to participate in a side-by-side Jamboree that was open to the public. Even though we’d never ridden in a side-by-side (or any kind of ATV) before, we’ve seen them all over the place in our travels and we were darn curious about them.

Soon, the rally participants began to show up at Sand Hollow, filling the campgrounds and zooming all over the sand trails surrounding the reservoir.

Polaris RZR 4-seater UTV with RV camping at Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

The rally participants began to swarm around us!

We had seen tons of side-by-sides in Buffalo, Wyoming, and Custer, South Dakota, over the summer, and we had been looking into renting a side-by-side somewhere to see what they’re like. In the course of looking for a place to rent one, Mark came across the Sand Hollow SxS Adventure Rally.

This is a marketing event for the industry and the local power sports dealerships, and several of the major vendors of side-by-sides would be showing off their products and leading rally participants on the trails surrounding and criss-crossing the park.

Toy hauler fifth wheel and Polaris RZR UTV RV camping-min

A sand storm indeed!

The previously quiet Sand Hollow State Park suddenly swelled with campers, and the whine of side-by-sides filled the air.

Buggies of every possible description were parked all over the place, and toy haulers, big utility trailers and flat bed trailers were strewn everywhere.

Sand Hollow Jamboree Side by Side UTV test drives-min

Side-by-sides line up for the trail rides.
The flags make them visible even when they dip into the valleys of the dunes.

Local power sports dealer Moto Zoo from nearby St. George, Utah, joined the manufacturers in the rally and invited the public to do test rides.

We were the first ones at the Moto Zoo booth to sign up for morning test drives on their Polaris models. This was gonna be fun!

Polaris General test ride Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

We suited up with helmets to take our first test drive.

There were three Polaris models available for test drives: the RZR 570, the General, and the RZR 1000.

We hopped into the RZR 570 and were given a quick run-down from our guide on how the thing worked, which buttons did what, and how to drive it.

Polaris RZR 570 Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Our first test drive was on a Polaris RZR 570, the smallest of the lineup.

And then we were off!

We were suited up with helmets, so it was a little awkward to see each other or talk a whole lot, but I could tell Mark was grinning from ear to ear and having a ball behind the wheel.

Test drive Polaris RZR 570 Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Happy driver!

As we climbed up into the sand dunes to a perch high on the top, all I could think was, “Wow, you sure get to see a lot of back country stuff when you ride in one of these things!”

There was no way our mountain bikes could have handled that deep sand, and the trails were off-limits to trucks.

And what a view we had on the way down!

Polaris RZR 570 test drive Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Sand Hollow State Park is a great place for test drives!

Our next test drive was on the new Polaris General that debuted in 2016. This side-by-side is a cross between the racy joy riding RZR series and the more utilitarian ranch and farm oriented Ranger series of Polaris side-by-sides. It’s got great shocks like the RZR but also has a nice big storage area in the back for hauling stuff like the Ranger.

When we’d been camping near Kanab, Utah, a few days earlier, we’d seen lots of people using their side-by-sides to go hunting. One big group in particular had bought both a big four seater Polaris RZR 1000 and a four seater Polaris General.

We were intrigued that they chose to use the General every single day while the RZR stayed parked when they went out hunting. We asked them why, and they said, “Because it rides like a Cadillac!”

Hmmm….

Polaris General at Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

“Rides like a Cadillac.”
Our second test drive was on the Polaris General, a new model that is sporty yet practical at the same time.

Sure enough, our first ride on the small Polaris RZR 570 was a jaw rattler compared to our second ride on the Polaris General. The stutter bumps in the washboard areas on the trail were much less noticeable in the General than they had been in the RZR 570.

And being a much fancier model, the dashboard on the General had all kinds of goodies too, including a complete navigation system. For folks who ride in groups, their cell phones can be tied into the navigation system so each side-by-side can keep track of where all the others are. Pretty slick!

Polaris General side by side test drive Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

The Polaris General had a fancy navigation display and other goodies on the dashboard.

We followed the same loop as before and climbed up the soft orange sand dunes to a beautiful grove of red rock formations at the top of the hill and then drove back down towards the lake.

I was completely hooked, and Mark’s grin was even bigger than before!

Driving Polaris side-by-side buggies at Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Back down the hill to the staging area. Can’t get enough of this view!

As expected, on our next test drive we found that the Polaris RZR 1000 was similar to the Polaris General, but was slightly more powerful (both are 1000 cc engines). But there was something about the practicality and smooth ride of the General that kept singing in the backs of our minds.

We were getting a huge kick out of doing these test rides, so when we were finished with Polaris we wandered over to the Yamaha booth to check out what they had on offer for test drives.

Polaris General and Yamaha sales booth at Sand Hollow Jamboree in Utah-min

The Polaris General slips by the Yamaha booth.

They had brought a fleet of Yamaha Wolverine X4 four seaters. These were more of a utility side-by-side than the Polaris RZR series, but didn’t have the sex appeal of the Polaris General.

After a very elaborate safety briefing, we climbed into a Wolverine X4 four seater and joined a line of other test drivers who were sandwiched between our leader in the front and a sweeper guy at the back.

Unfortunately for Yamaha — whose portable gas generator we absolutely love — the Wolverine X4 in front of us promptly got stuck in the sand. The two leaders got out a tow strap and hooked it to the lead side-by-side and pulled it out.

Yamaha Wolverine side by side test drive Sand Hollow Jamboree Utah-min

Out on the trail with the Yamaha Wolverine X4, the one in front of us got stuck.

If there was one feature that really stood out about the Wolverine X4, it was that everything on it rattled so much we were waiting for the buggy to fall apart right there on the trail. This seems odd for a Yamaha product, but so it goes.

Yamaha Wolverine X4 side by side test drive Utah Sand Hollow State Park-min

Yamaha Wolverine X4

Yamaha Wolverine X4 side by side test drive Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Taking a break — This test driving stuff is hard work! (…just kidding…it’s a blast!)

On our way down, we passed one of the many SxS Rally trail rides that was heading out for a day of fun on in the sand and red rocks. The rally was offering rides of various levels, from beginner to intermediate to advanced. So, if you wanted just to see the scenery or preferred to tackle some insanely challenging rock climbs, there were guided trails ride for you!

Sand Hollow Jamboree of side-by-side UTV models-min

Rally-goers round the bed on their way out on a trail ride.

But the rally goers were all happy UTV owners, while we were total newbies, so we were busy doing test drives. And this test driving thing was proving to be a blast!

Once we’d finished our Yamaha ride and were back at the staging area with all the vendor booths, we walked over to Can-Am to check out the Can-Am Maverick X3.

By now the jamboree was in full swing and there were lots of people milling around signing up to test drive the side-by-sides.

A long line of Can-Am Maverick X3 buggies snaked past their booth, and we joined an excited crowd to get a quick safety briefing and overview of the various Maverick X3 models we would be testing before we each chose a model to begin our ride.

We started in a four seater. Oh my, what a smooth ride!! We blasted over some badly washboarded sections of trail and barely felt a thing. That long wheel base makes a massive difference going over rugged terrain!

Can-Am Maverick X3 side by side UTV Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

The Can-Am Maverick X3 is a rocket ship, and the test drive was done at lightning speed!

Unlike the other manufacturers’ test drives, the Can-Am test drive was a totally testosterone filled speed fest.

We were at the back of the line, and within minutes after the start, we were left trailing far behind. The guys up front were going full bore, but we held back to stay out of their dust and to keep life and limb intact! Mark struggled to keep the next guy in line within sight!!

At a rest stop we swapped to a two seater Can-Am Maverick X3, and when the group got away from us once again, Mark floored it to catch back up. I hung on for dear life as we tore through the dunes at a breakneck speed.

Wow. Those things are rocket ships!!

They are powered by 3 inline cylinders, as compared to the Polaris RZR V-twin, and they are turbo charged too. So even though the Can-Am Mavericks are 900 cc engines as compared to the Polaris RZR 1000 cc engine, they have a faster top end.

However, at slow speeds the Polaris has more torque, so like everything, it all comes down to what you want to do with your side-by-side — climb rocks or fly on a rocket or just tool around and enjoy the views!

Can-Am Maverick X3 side by side UTV Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

I was so busy hanging onto the rails on this test drive that I took only a few pics.
In finally got a shot at the end of the ride as we were heading back to the staging area!

When I climbed out of the Can-Am Maverick X3 I shaking from that crazy wild ride. What a rush!

Eventually I calmed down and was ready for another test drive. By now our sweet ride in the Polaris General was a faint memory, but we were both pretty sure it was our favorite.

Luckily, the line for it wasn’t long at all, so we signed up to take it for another spin. How fun! This time we were given a private guided tour that showed how well it performed in rocky, challenging terrain.

Ready for a test drive at Sand Hollow Jamboree in Polaris General UTV-min

Back in the Polaris General, our favorite of the group.

Our guide was in a four seater Polaris RZR 1000, and he took us over all kinds of craggy stuff.

Rough terrain RZR 1000 4-seater UTV in Utah-min

We tested the Polaris General following a Polaris RZR 1000 4-seater over some rough terrain.

Rugged rock climber Polaris RZR 1000 4-seater-min

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At one point the trail took a turn and we were suddenly staring up at a steep rock climb. I hung on tight as Mark followed the guide up the hill. Yikes!!

Polaris RZR 1000 4-seater climbing rocks-min

Rock climbing.

We were both amazed at how easy it was.

Then we drove over a few big rocks. No problem!!

Polaris RZR 1000 4-seater on sand trail-min

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Polaris RZR 1000 4-seater climbs rocks-min

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All too soon the test drive was over, and we were heading back down the sandy hillside. What a total blast this had been.

Sand Hollow Jamboree UTV side by side test drives-min

Our last trip down towards the lake. What a fabulous day this was!

There were other vendors at the rally selling all kinds of goodies for side-by-sides, from after market shocks to special lighting systems to unusual tow strap lines and even extra rugged mobile device charging systems.

The problem with going to any big marketing trade show type of event is that you can easily fall in love with whatever it is they’re hawking. We were ready to pick up a shiny new Polaris General right there on the spot! But we don’t exactly have an appropriate place to store it between awesome rides in the back country.

Sand Hollow State Park RV camping on the beach-min

We aren’t set up for a side-by-side just yet, but this fun day of test drives sure got our minds turning!

What a super fun eye opener this was into a hobby we know nothing about. Some of the vendors told us there are jamborees like this one all over the country. How cool — we’ll be there!

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Sand Hollow State Park, Utah – An Oasis in the Desert!

November 2017 – Sand Hollow State Park is another jewel in southwestern Utah‘s stunningly beautiful crown of red rock scenery. Situated just 30 miles from Zion National Park, it is a newer state park that opened in 2003, and it boasts a beautiful blue reservoir, vivid orange beaches and a spectacular mountain backdrop.

RV camping Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Sand Hollow State Park in Utah

Just like nearby Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Sand Hollow is a lesser known gem in an area that is overflowing with beautiful National Parks.

As we noted in our post about Kanab, Utah, with Zion, Bryce and the Grand Canyon so close by, many RVers and other travelers have no idea there is even more to see in the area.

Boating at Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

A beautiful reservoir is at the heart of Sand Hollow State Park.

The man-made lake is bordered at one end by a dam which captures the flow of the Virgin River. At the other end there’s an inviting collection of red rocks. The beaches surrounding the reservoir are filled with vivid orange sand. The overall effect of blue sky, blue water, red rocks and sand is very dramatic and makes for a fun time wandering around with a camera.

Photography at Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Bright orange beaches and rocks – a great spot for photography!

The lake at Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

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The reservoir at Sand Hollow State Park is beloved by people who like to play outside in nature. Out on the water in the distance, we saw some folks in a canoe making their way from shore to shore. The mountains rose behind them in awesome colors as the sun played hide and seek, casting shadows across the hilly contours.

Kayaking Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

What a backdrop for canoeing!

We no longer have our inflatable Hobie kayak, but being here on the water’s edge watching kayakers out on the reservoir got our minds turning. It sure looked like fun out there!

Kayaking Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

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Down at our feet, the water was extremely clear. Tiny wavelets lapped the shore, and we could see every detail of the rocks under the water.

Clear water Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

The water is extremely clear.

Sunlight in water Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

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There are several RV campgrounds and camping options within Sand Hollow State Park. Westside Campground has full hookups, paved loops, big sites and wonderful views.

RV camping Westside Campground Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Westside Campground.

RV camping Westside Campground Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

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What we loved, though, was being down by the water where the reeds grow thick and tall.

Dramatic light Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Tall reeds hug the lake along the shore.

Wonderfully dark storm clouds hung over the mountains late one afternoon, but just as the sun started its final descent into the horizon behind us, it lit up the red rocks on the far shore as if pointing them out with a spot light.

Reeds and light at dusk Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

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Light and shadow Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

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At dawn pastel pinks filled the sky and water.

Pink reflections Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Soft light at dawn.

The orange sand beaches set aside for day use and picnics are endless. Deep soft sand dunes run down to the lake, and big groups of seagulls pierce the air with their haunting calls.

In one spot I caught a reflection of the distant mountains in a mirror-like pool in front of me.

Dramatic Light Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Reflections.

We were blessed to have been able to live on the water in our sailboat for a few years, and I’ve been lucky enough to live on the water in other boats and in a beach house for a few years in previous lives before that.

There is something about a large expanse of water filling a landscape that makes it come alive. It is ever changing, going from placid to fierce, from white to dark blue, and at Sand Hollow it even turns shades of pink, red and orange by the shore.

Rippling waves at RV campsite Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Small waves ripple across the reservoir’s red sand bottom.

Sand Hollow State Park has a second campground with paved loops, gravel campsites and hookup options ranging from dry camping to water/electric. There’s also a spiffy toilet and shower building. It’s called Sand Pit Campground, which is a little unfair, because it isn’t a pit and it isn’t any sandier than anywhere else in the park.

I mean, if you go to Sand Hollow, you go to play in the sand and on the beach, right?!

There is also open boondocking (“primitive camping”) too, but you’ve got to scout it out very carefully and evaluate whether your RV can make it down and back on the soft sand trails that lead there. We gave it a shot with our buggy and were glad we have our new truck with its limited slip differential and rock solid four wheel drive.

RV campsite Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Home Sweet Home.

The view out our door was breathtaking. And what we loved was the way the view was constantly changing.

View out RV door Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

A beautiful sunny view right out our door.

View out RV door Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

A beautiful cloudy view right out the door!

Claude Monet is famous for his series of impressionist paintings of haystacks. Each painting is unique, and the series shows how the light playing on the haystacks totally changed their look and feel, morning, noon and night.

For the same reasons, we became enraptured by the picnic table at our campsite.

Following Monet’s infinite simplicity in choosing the name “Haystacks,” we call our series of photos “Picnic Table.”

RV campsite Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

A photo series called “Picnic Table” 🙂

RV campsite Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

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RV campsite Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

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RV campsite Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

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During our stay, not only did the sun and clouds chase each other around the sky, leaving a continuous trail of beautiful artwork behind, but the moon played her part too. During sunset one evening, we caught her silent ascent as she peeked between the clouds and winked at us over the mountains.

Full moon rising Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

A rising full moon smiles down on Sand Hollow State Park.

If your RV travels take you to the southwestern part of Utah, drop by Sand Hollow State Park and dig your toes in the sand!

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The beach and sand are wonderful to play in at Sand Hollow, but we did see notices posted about what to do if you go swimming and end up with “Swimmer’s Itch.” Read up a bit on this before you jump in for a dip!

Other blog posts from Utah’s Red Rock Country:

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