Southern Utah *Zion National Park*

Friday, October 3 — We were on a total high when we left Bryce Canyon. Windows rolled down, we were on top of the world when Harry saw signs for homemade jerky. We pulled into the Mt Carmel Junction gas station / curio shop / jerky depot. We pulled away sans really expensive jerky but with a valuable tip on how to find free camping on public land “just down the road”.

A Road Called Ponderosa 

Following directions I’d written on a paper napkin given to us by a certified “local”, we drove west on route 9, turned right at the bend in the road and continued up the really pretty but very windy mountain road. According to my napkin, the turn-off for Ponderosa should have appeared within twenty minutes. Excited to camp off the beaten path we kept driving. When the sun started to set we decided that the directions we received weren’t very accurate and that we might not ever find Ponderosa Road. Feeling discouraged we turned around and went back down the mountain.

Ponderosa Resort Campground

We arrived at the Ponderosa Resort Campground in the dark and discovered that it was crowded and expensive. It didn’t help that it was a Friday night so the weekend crowd was there in full force. We hunkered down for a quick sleep and hit the road first thing in the morning.

Zion National Park

We accessed Zion at the east end of the park which meant we had to descend into the canyon on a narrow, windy, curvy road. If that wasn’t stressful enough we also had to drive through the mile long Zion – Mt. Carmel tunnel. Talk about intense! The tunnel was narrow and dark and a mile never felt so long. Harry was definitely white-knuckled behind the wheel but he did a great job getting us to the bottom on the canyon.

Ideally one would never visit a national park on a beautiful, sunny weekend, and we knew better… yet here we were on a Saturday, surrounded by a bunch of people when all we craved was solitude. At least it was October and not August. We took the required park shuttle into the heart of the canyon and did a few short hikes. Our favorite experience was eating lunch away from the crowds on the bank of the North Fork of the Virgin River, just the two of us.



Zion is an incredibly beautiful and interesting place to visit. If you haven’t already been here I highly recommend this national park!




Southern Utah *Bryce Canyon*

Thursday, October 2, 2014 — We left Cedar Breaks feeling really happy to be in southern Utah. We drove northeast through the mountains and pretty groves of trees, past lakes and clusters of cabins. We stopped in Panguitch to poke around and grab some groceries. We were delighted with this small cowboy town! I tried so hard to find a pair of boots at the cowboy thrift store (it’s everything you’d imagine it to be, and more!) but alias I came up short. Meanwhile Harry was busy making new friends.

Utah, Panguitch Harry + Cowboy

Red Canyon “Campground”

Entering the Red Canyon in the Dixie National Forest en route to Bryce Canyon was amazing. The rock formations were truly beautiful in the light of the late afternoon sun. It’s not every day that the road you’re on goes through a rock arch!

Bryce driving through rock

Believe it or not, it was still light out when we found our “campground” for the night. Well, it wasn’t really a campground, it was actually just a random bit of land right off a Forest Service road. Although this is a totally legit thing to do, I can’t say I was completely comfortable… all I could do was imagine Bigfoot walking around our site after we went to bed. But hey, the site was free and Harry was in his element, so there we stayed.

We were excited to be at our campground so early but once we realized how cold it was the fun factor dropped down a notch. I mean, it was really cold; the kind of cold where your hands are numb and all you want to do was go to bed, but it was too early to go to bed. Because it was still daylight. Had we followed our normal pattern to date, we would have arrived in the dark, just in time to go to bed. Ironic, eh.

Harry cooked us a delicious dinner on the camp stove, gathered firewood and then made a fire while I stood around complaining about being too cold (this is mostly true). Actually I was very busy keeping a look-out for strangers and Yeti.

The night finally grew dark and it got late enough for me to hunker down for the night. I was about to crawl into bed when (wait for it!) Harry asked me to check the bottom of our sleeping bags for SNAKES because, don’t you know, snakes don’t like being cold either. I pretty much flipped out on him for that one.

Spectacular Starry Sky 

There weren’t any clouds in the sky, which made it even colder, but Harry was excited about seeing some amazing stars in the middle of the night. At first I told him not to wake me up (because I love to sleep, and I love to be warm, and I can be incredibly lazy at times), but I couldn’t stand the idea of missing out on something so spectacular. We slid out of our warm bags at 3:00 in the morning and stood holding hands as we gazed in awe up at the Milky Way and a gazillion stars.

I woke up when Harry started the van to turn the heat on. Imagine waking up with your fleece hat pulled down over your face for warmth and frost on the windows, knowing that heat was on its way. That’s love! I asked Harry if he would drive me to a heated restroom but he pretended not to hear me.

Bryce campfireBryce Campground

Bryce Canyon

The frosted ground gave way to blue skies as the sun rose. With much anticipation we drove into the National Park, paid a quick visit to the visitor’s center and prepared to hike in the canyon.

The first view of Bryce took my breath away! The layers of red rocks were stunning and even more spectacular by the cloudless sky above. Bryce is distinctive due to geological phallic-shaped structures called hoodoos. We hiked three miles in the canyon via the Navajo Loop and Queen’s Garden. Every step was incredible! Our trek was slow because we stopped to take so many pictures.

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I really loved Bryce and it will forever remain one of my favorite places. I highly recommend visiting this special park!



Southern Utah * Cedar Breaks National Monument *

Wednesday, October 1, 2014 — We said good-bye to sunny Nevada and Route 50 (the Loneliest Road in America), picked up highway 21 (another very lonely road), and drove into southern Utah via Garrison. Driving through the Great Basin region of Nevada provided many amazing views of both mountains and wide open valleys. I’ll always remember driving on the two-lane road with the windows down, singing at the top of my lungs to Madonna’s Immaculate Collection tape (yes, I said tape) with Harry rocking out next to me. Hellllooo Utah!

Utah Madonna KR DrivingUtah Madonna

We were both really excited to be in Utah and couldn’t wait to see what this geographically-diverse state had in store for us. We drove along for a few hours hoping to come across a campground even though our trusty Gazeteer wasn’t showing any campgrounds on the map. Since our trip is all about us following our noses we didn’t have a real plan. We knew that if we hit Cedar City it would be late and we’d need to get a hotel room for the night.


I was kind of excited about the prospect of staying in a hotel. We’d been on the road for five days already and we hadn’t showered once (soaking in the hot springs only counted a little bit). While I really don’t mind not showering for days on end, my hair had the “dirty itches” — you know, when your hair is so greasy the grease throws itself a party. Without stating the obvious, Harry had no idea what I was talking about.

Cheating on Moby 

With that said, it was with mixed feelings that we pulled into Cedar City at 8:00 pm (I know, I know, we’re not supposed to drive in the dark) to find a hotel room. We were both hoping that we’d be able to spend at least a week straight sleeping in the van, but truth be told we’d had five great nights with Moby, so what’s wrong with getting a room? Plus, it got down into the low 30s that night, so in the end we were both happy to have been inside a heated room. Additionally, we were able to wash some clothes in the sink and we both took a few long, hot showers so we left Cedar City feeling clean and refreshed – and not a tad bit guilty for the indulgence.

Cedar Breaks National Monument

My friend Kristin (the former National Park ranger) had told us that Cedar Breaks was definitely worth the visit, so we drove up the mountain eager to see something amazing… although we weren’t exactly sure what we’d see. We parked Moby in the near empty parking lot and still couldn’t see anything (no wonder the lot wasn’t full!) Were we wasting our time?

Wow, were we surprised! What an amazing place! Cedar Breaks is a natural rock amphitheater, stretching 3 miles across and a half mile down; a mini Bryce Canyon. The red rocks against the blue sky were stunning! We loved every minute of the two mile hike to Spectra Point lookout. We took our time walking along the narrow path, taking it all in. I will always fondly remember Cedar Breaks as my “first” red rock canyon.