Utah: Scenery and a celebrity RV

I’m not sure why I decided that the convenience store in Moab, Utah was going to be the place for me to try Apple Pay, but for whatever reason, I did. Moab may also be the last time I ever try to pay for something with my phone.

All I wanted was to buy a tallboy can of Wild Cherry Pepsi. I walked up with my phone in hand and the app open ready to make this happen. She scanned my drink and I asked if I could do Apple Pay. She said yes and I held my phone up to the keypad … and nothing happened. I tapped my phone to the front of the swipey machine and still nothing. I tried it again touching the screen this time. Nothing. I then tried combinations of moving my phone close and far from the reader, rubbing my phone on the front and sides of the machine and then repeating it all again. I felt like I was doing this for six or seven minutes, but it couldn’t have been that long.

“It works fine if you know what you’re doing,” the lady behind the desk said.

I took her not-subtle hint, reached into my wallet, got a credit card and got my caffeine fix. I wonder if the Oregon Trail pioneers had troubles like this when they went through Utah?

Many of these posts have doubled up and covered more than one state. But not Utah. Utah gets its own post.

Snow Canyon State Park

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From Nevada, we rolled into Snow Canyon State Park, which looked like Mars. The pink-red-orange sand was really odd and beautiful. The floorboard beneath Braden’s seat began to look like sand art with white sand from New Mexico, tan sand from the Pacific coast and red sand from Utah.

At one of the trails in Snow Canyon, you can hike to a spot and see where wagon-train pioneers wrote their names in the rocks with axle grease. On the north end of the park, the history goes even farther back and you can walk down into the cone of an extinct volcano.

While it’s not one of the famous national parks in Utah, Snow Canyon is definitely worth a visit.

Capitol Reef National Park

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Utah talks about its Mighty 5 National Parks. Since Jess and I had already been to Zion and Bryce Canyon two years earlier, we decided to spend time at Capitol Reef, Canyonlands and Arches National Park as we crawled east toward a conference in Minneapolis.

Of those three, Capitol Reef is the least famous, but we’re so glad we stopped. We camped just outside the park at Sand Creek RV Park where the owners Harry and Leslie had just bought the park two months before our stay. They were super nice folks and seem to really be putting effort into making the park a nice place.

IMG_0551We were parked next to another camper with two boys and one evening, Braden and I played the Oregon Trail card game with the boys. In the game, they both died almost immediately of a rattlesnake bite and dysentery, but we allowed them to keep playing under different names as hitchhikers we picked up later. The four of us had a great time playing on the picnic table next to the fire.

Like Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Capitol Reef is hugely underrated. They have great hikes through canyons, orchards started by Mormon pioneers, ancient petroglyphs left on the canyon walls by the first inhabitants and spectacular views at the “Goosenecks.” The petroglyphs and the Goosenecks really made this stop worthwhile, and while I’m not saying I would pick it over Arches, Zion or Canyonlands, it’s not to be missed.

On March 12, Capitol Reef started a pretty special part of the trip where we went to seven National Park units in seven days.

Moab, Utah

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Mountain bikers talk about Moab the way conquistadors wrote about mythical golden cities. It’s a town known as an outdoor Mecca and we were excited to check it out. One big reason for its fame is being right between two big boy National Parks: Canyonlands and Arches.

IMG_0893These two parks are some of the most beautiful, picturesque places we’ve ever been.

Arches is famous for it’s crazy rock formations, and while Canyonlands is not as accessible, it’s also awe-inspiring. We picked Moab and Archview RV Resort as a basecamp for checking out the two parks, and were happy to be able to some of the arches from the campground.

What you don’t always get when you see the arches in a book or on a poster is the size and scale of these things. We thought the famous Delicate Arch was 15 or 20 feet high. Nope — it’s actually 65 feet tall!

“It looks like a map,” Braden said when he looked out over a rugged canyon that seemed to drop into nothingness in the middle of a flat plane. At the visitor centers, Braden learned the difference between a mesa, butte, canyon and spires. We also learned about the grasshopper rat which makes possibly the most horribly annoying noise of anyone in the animal kingdom. So of course, Braden loved it.

It’s tough to know where to start, but Moab itself was a pretty cool little town. As you would expect, it had way more outdoor outfitters than most towns its size. The bicycle shop we passed twice had a big mural  of a giant spider chasing cyclists out of the desert.

IMG_0931At Arches, we had our first celebrity RV sighting. We pulled up and saw a big diesel RV with Shaquille O’Neal’s picture all over it parked by a trailhead. It was there when we arrived, with a “Wilt C” license plate (for Wilt Chamberlin?), and there when we finished our hike and left. I asked a ranger who I saw if Shaq was hiking somewhere and he said cryptically “Everyone comes to Arches some time.”

Beyond Shaq and the Delicate Arch, we enjoyed “The Windows” and the Landscape Arch. Over in Canyonlands — where we had to stop on the way home twice to let cows cross the road in the dark — we hiked along a canyon that really should have had some railing and saw the mule deer with their great big ears. On the way out, Jess wanted to stop and see Mesa Arch, but Braden and I had seen enough. She talked us into it and it wound up being possibly the coolest one of them all. Looking through the arch you have a stunning view of a canyon and snow-capped mountains. Gorgeous! She was right about that one.

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Leaving Canyonlands, we even got a beautiful moonrise over the snowcapped Rockies.

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We’re posting an unusual number of photos with this blog just because of the unbelievable scenery in the Beehive State. I hope you enjoy it like we did!

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As we headed east into Colorado, I began preparing for our trip into Canada later in the summer by downloading and listening to a book that is supposed to teach us French. It’s going to be tough, but we do have plenty of time in the car to listen. Au revoir!

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