17 June – Home at Red Canyon day. First up we tried a bit of the cycle track which looked nice and flat, but looks are deceiving! After going up for a mile or more decided that enough was enough – far too much like hard work in the heat, so turned tail and coasted all the way back to camp. Spent the rest of the day recovering from that little exertion. Later in the afternoon we went hiking instead – took a trail out the back of our site which wound up and up to the top of the hill, but it felt more like a mountain! It was probably about 600 ft above the camp. Were rewarded with glorious views back over the Red Canyon and way beyond into the valley below. Met a nice German couple up at the top; a good excuse to linger and catch second wind before tackling the downhill leg. Lovely sunset followed by a clear starry night.
18 June – Drove the 7 miles or so into Bryce Canyon and parked up at the entrance to board the shuttle into the park. Good idea these shuttles because even though we could have driven in – seeing how full the car parks were we were glad not to have to worry about it. Took the shuttle to the end of the run, to Bryce Point at 8,300ft – wonderful amphitheater with even more different rock formations and colours. Walked the rim trail for 1.5 miles back down to Inspiration Point. Lovely trail with a few ups and downs, but mostly down.
Back on the bus to Sunset Point where we hopped off – had a spot of lunch and then did a little foray down into the Canyon proper. Heeding the rangers’advice, we just went about half way down, sensible in the heat of the day, quite enough to get a feel for what it is like and more than enough to have to come back up again. Colours and formations are spectacular.
One neat thing about the parks throughout the USA is their Junior Ranger programmes – each park has a little book for children where they work through a series of tasks related to that park and things to look for as they go on hikes and explore the area. When they have completed it and pledged the jr oath, they get presented their junior ranger badge from a fully fledged adult ranger. It is great to see these kids racing around getting all the necessary deeds done to get their badge.
Bryce is not as busy as Zion so a lot more enjoyable. Booked to do a 3.5 hour shuttle ride to the far end of the park tomorrow and then we hope to stay in some BLM land just outside of the park. Were able to catch up on emails and news before heading back to Red Canyon for the night.
19 June – Up early (for the Hayton’s anyway!) to drive back into Bryce to catch the free shuttle tour to Rainbow Point. It was a good choice – our driver was full of interesting information about the park, it’s geology and flora. The 3.5 hours was interspersed with stops at view points, with a little talk at each one. Again the limestone formations, Hoodoos as they are known here, were of all shapes and sizes – colourful with iron leaching through the limestone to give them the red colour.
Big vistas which we could have expected were spoilt by a thick haze over the area which had come from wildfires all the way over in San Bernandino, California. With the tour done, we headed for a spot of lunch in the local diner before making our way up to our dispersed campsite – really nice spot in among small trees with nice views out over the meadow. Plenty of sites, with most of them occupied by like minded economy travellers.
20 June – Off towards the east this time – passing by the Bryce turnoff through to the small town of Tropic for supplies and then through to Henrieville, small settlements with a nice backdrop of sandstone cliffs. Took a small detour down to Kodachrome State Park – nine miles down a very ordinary looking valley and then all of a sudden you are into big exposed cliffs of reds and whites – and yet again a change of rock formations. They have pipes and chimneys in the park instead of hoodoos. Took a very hot hike around the valley floor – box canyons, weird rock formations and juniper trees.
How nice this would be to do in cooler weather. The lower elevations are definitely hotter and with a dry wind it is not that pleasant. Continued on to Escalante and into the northern section of the Staircase Monument. Picked up a free camping permit at the visitors centre and just down the road settled on a dispersed site – sadly not a lot of shade, but nice views across the wide valley to mountains beyond, and still stinking hot.
21 June – After finally cooling off in the wee hours of the morning it didn’t take long to feel the morning sun’s heat so we took off bright and early and decided to have breakfast out for a change as there was a specially recommended coffee house nearby (the only one for many many miles). The drive to get there was another surprise – we drove up and through a canyon of slick rocks – such incredible formations – this time sandy coloured. Not far into the canyon was the Kiva Koffeehouse. We actually arrived before they opened at 8.30am, but after a short wait were amply fed with eggs, bacon and oatmeal pancakes with good coffee for the second time this year for Bob. The coffee house building was an architectural wonder – semi-circular with huge ponderosa pines used as the basis for framing and full glass picture windows. Suitably replete, we carried on down through the canyon and up onto the Hogs Back – the name for the road as it travels along the narrow ridge line with nice dramatic drops either side of the road (and a real favourite with motorcyclists) before dropping down into a valley towards Boulder.
Not much going on in Boulder and shortly after, headed up the Burr Trail road and into Long Canyon with red slick rocks and some good drop offs, in search of some BLM land. The sites didn’t pan out so we settled instead for a small forest campground at Deer Creek – just a few sites alongside the small creek but with plenty of trees around to provide a modicum of shade. Made good use of the lovely clear creek to get the laundry done – dry air again dries everything real quick. With the heat of the day up into the high 90’s a good chance to relax and read for the rest of the day. The only drawback was the mossies, which came out in numbers at dusk forcing a retreat back inside.
22 June – After a nice cool quiet night it didn’t take long for the morning sun to take effect so we headed off back towards Boulder to carry on Highway 12 which meandered through a nice green valley before making a very steady slog up nearly 4,000 ft to be back in the forests of ponderosa pines and at around 8,500 ft we hit the quaking aspens. It is nice to be up higher to take advantage of the cooler (well 20 degrees cooler than stinking hot feels cooler!) temperatures. Terrific views from the mountain summit, though marred somewhat by the haze still around from the wildfires over to the West. Stopped off for morning tea at a lovely spot in among the pines and decided to stay in the area, finding another forest service campground with about 6 sites right beside small but swiftly flowing Pleasant Creek. This was once a hosted camp so there was still a facility to dump and fresh water was plentiful, so we took advantage of both to flush and fill the tanks and then settled in for the rest of the day. The pines provide nice shade but the only problem outside are the flies which are really a nuisance.
Got to see real cowboys in action as they herded up some of the cows on the lower green pastures and moved them further up the mountain. No internet for a while now and radio reception has been spotty, so not quite sure what is going on in the world around but I guess it is still there! After a nice relaxing afternoon and dinner it was time for a little wander up the mountain road to enjoy the cool evening air. Got great views out over the valley looking towards Capitol Reef National Park and the red rocks, before doing a bit more exploring along the forest roads. Our peaceful camp has filled up with a few tenters and one other camper. We are amazed at how many people tent camp in the forests in the USA, but I guess because of the ease of access to such neat places it really encourages people to get out and enjoy the great outdoors.
23 June – Down the mountain into the Capitol Reef National Park and yet another day of being absolutely blown away with the Utah scenery. We entered into the park via Torrey and were met with red and white sheer rock walls, more amazing rock formations and the heat!! Stopped off at the visitor centre to see what was worth doing – the scenic drive up to Fruita and 10 miles beyond was the suggestion that we followed. The Fruita Valley was so pretty, green with loads of orchards (originally established by Mormon pioneers) and then beyond that we got right back into the canyon and rocky formations at the end of the road.
I continued on foot on the 4wd road which followed through a very narrow canyon, mostly following the wash, which had recently had a lot of water through it doing a lot of damage to the road surface. That was enough exercise to do in the midday heat, so returned back to the van and back down the valley, stopping off at the historic house which had been turned into a bakery and store. Picked up a peach pie for later and cinnamon rolls to devour immediately, before heading out of the park.
Back along the scenic Highway 12 through to Loa and then onto 72 which took us up and up again, this time into the Fishlake National Forest. A bit different in this mountain range, no trees to speak of but sage bush growing everywhere. At 8,000ft we found a boat launch and free camping area beside the Forsythe Reservoir and made this our stop for the day. With no trees for shade we were lucky that it was a little cooler and with the awning out we got some respite from the sun. A couple of other campers turned up later on taking up little clearings quite a way away from us, so with our lovely view of the little lake and mountains in the background, it was a pleasant end to the day.
24 June – Up and over the mountain and down into yet another world on the other side – the sage covered hills had given way to sandy desert conditions with just the odd bit of greenery. The surrounding cliffs were all sandstone and bare with some sort of mining going on nearby. The only green in the valley floor was from irrigated pastures growing animal feed. The stock range pretty freely around the area, so you have to watch out for them on the road. Followed Highway 10 through Castle Dale then on to Price. The heat down in the valley is unbearable, so we headed indoors to have a look around their dinosaur museum. Utah is an incredible source of dinosaur remains and must be a paleontologist’s heaven.
The mock-up skeletons that they had on display were fascinating. Hard to believe that these monsters ever roamed the earth. We managed to while away a couple of hours before we got thrown out at closing time, so headed for our backstop (as we had come across no camping possibilities on the way through) of Walmart. Finally able to get internet again so caught up on emails and after a bit of investigation booked our flights to leave the US in September. We have got tickets as far as Iceland, where we intend to spend a little bit of time before heading to Europe. The heat finally dissipated very late in the evening.
25 June – Haircut was the first thing on the agenda for me – Wallies $10 cut is just the right price for me! Bob checked out the local Ford agent to book a transmission flush for tomorrow and then we made for the hills. About half an hour out of Price we took a BLM road up to the Price Recreation area. What a road – up hill for 3 miles on a very narrow winding road before we finally came up into the trees and a small campground with about 10 sites but only a couple flat enough for us to park. Chose our site and with water available I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get the washing done – with 12% humidity it is dry almost the moment it is pegged on the line. With that done, then settled down to blob until it cooled off and we could do a walk to the local viewpoint followed by an interesting chat with a touring family from Wichita.
26 June– Off we go again – not very far just down the hill into Price – transmission service done and then out to Helper for a stop off in their historic part of town. Not much of interest, but a very good coffee shop which satisfied Bob’s cravings for a while. It was then off on Highway 191 up a long climbing valley until we entered the Ashley National Forest. We had hoped to find a nice little possy along the way but the roads into any of the likely ones were just too rough to attempt, so had to settle for a little layby right at the very end of the forest border. No shade – still really hot but cooler than lower down and we had a cattle stop right beside us. Truck after truck carrying tanks of crude oil rattling over the grating didn’t make for a very peaceful sojourn, but at least the frequency finally became less as the evening wore on.
27 June – On through to Duchesne and onto Highway 40 westward passing through Fruitland. Not much of interest along the way – quite desolate in this region but we know why there are so many oil tankers as there were loads of nodding donkey pumps at small oil wells all up this valley. Climbed up again, this time into the Uinta NF and took advantage of a roomy Forest Service campground on Strawberry Reservoir. Of the 60 odd sites we managed to get the one with the best amount of shade, with aspens on both sides of us. Some really cute little furry critters are in abundance around here – about the size of a small rat but they are a cross between a gopher and a ground squirrel – the locals call them pot-guts.
They have just recently had babies so the little ones are scampering about all over – they live underground but come up to feed. We have to be careful that we keep our screen door closed as they are not a bit afraid of us and very curious. Another treat was a mule deer walking by us – they have a lovely ginger-brown coat and a beautiful face, with large mule like ears.
28,29 June – Stayed put as we have finally got a good internet signal and need to get the next leg of our odyssey sorted. Spent all day just getting Iceland sorted – we are hiring a car and driving around the island for 9 days staying at guesthouses along the way. From there we are booked to Oslo and plan to use the train down through Sweden to Denmark, visiting friends along the way. In mid-October we hope to pick up a Peugeot Eurolease car in Amsterdam to travel south, which will take us through to mid-December when we plan a side trip to Malta, before heading to England for Christmas. And then I suppose we will have to think about heading home.
30 June – Down the valley into the magnificent setting and nicely laid out town of Heber City, like an amphitheater in a large flat basin with towering mountains on all sides. On into another range of mountains through Kamas and up into the Wasatch National Forest – heaps of forest campgrounds but also loads of dispersed campsite possibilities as well. Stopped for the night at one of these near Yellow Pine but unfortunately the best shaded sites were already taken so decided that this would just be a one night stay here.
01 July – Moved another 15 or so miles higher up the valley into a more wooded area before settling on Shady Dell Campground and with the long Independence Day weekend coming, decided to secure a spot here until the 5th when we head back down to the heat of Salt Lake City to meet up with our friends from Annapolis.
03 July – Drove back into Kamas for a few hours so we could pick up emails and with the confirmation of our Eurolease car, were able to make the necessary bookings to get us back to England for Christmas with Bob’s sister Margaret – we will fly there from Malta on RyanAir’s ever so reasonably priced flights. Kamas was a hive of activity – it is the crossroads for routes up into various mountain regions and with the holiday weekend looming it seems that everyone is heading out early. Stopped off for a pub lunch on the way back and then settled back into our lovely shady campsite again.
04 July – The campground is humming with people celebrating the 4th of July. Being a forest area no fireworks are allowed, but I guess later on there will be some merriment. We finally figured out why so many people stop on the road outside of the camp and walk through to the forest on the other side of us – it is a Fairy Forest and must be well known as hundreds of families have come up over the years and built and decorated little fairy rings of painted river stones and tree hangings, and made all sorts of stone lined tracks through the forest – quite magical indeed! We have been very appreciative of the cooler weather that these mountains afford and also astounded by the natural beauty of this region.