Saturday, May 18, 2013

Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef was our last stop on this little family vacation.  Again, we had been before but had been unable to secure a campsite because the campground is on a first-come, first-served basis, & we arrived too late.  Knowing this, we knew the importance of getting here early, but we also had about a 70 mile drive from Goblin Valley....and we have four kids & one on the way, so we aren't as fabulous at getting out early as we could be  We arrived right around 10 a.m. and secured the final site in the campground.  I think someone was looking out for us though because we got the handicapped spot, a super sweet spot that was plenty big for our big rig.  Another lady explained to me that when the campground fills, the camp host gives the handicapped site to the first one to arrive that he deems is worthy in some way.  Not sure if it was the truckful of kids or the baby on the way that convinced him, but he did indeed give us the spot!! Yay!

Capitol Reef is a great little cool, green oasis that provides a nice contrast to the arid conditions & the red, orange rock formations that are so prevalent in this area of Utah (though you'll find some of this at Capitol Reef, too).  We were here for long enough for the kids to participate in the Junior Ranger program, and since the Ripple Rock Nature Center had just opened, they were able to enjoy that. Jake was enamored with all the animal puppets, and all of them had fun playing around there.  They also got to make plaster of paris casts of deer tracks (even if we did found out later that they weren't "real" deer tracks).  

It took some prodding, but I got my girls to hike with me on the Cohab Canyon Trail.
Capitol Reef is lesser known than all the other Utah national parks, but still spectacular
The boy rode on Dad's back the whole time, mainly to give Mom some peace
The view from one of the overlooks
More amazing rock formations
The campground is in the trees below
Since we were here on the weekend, we also got to participate in the evening Ranger programs, including a storytime where Genna got to be a volunteer (she doesn't seem to mind the spotlight so much unlike her big sisters!) and an astronomy talk.  The campground also had a bin with free firewood in it (never seen that before!), so we actually enjoyed two campfires while we were here!!  There's something about late nights around the fire that brings out the goofy side in our two big girls.  Love that!!

Creeks were made for play
They played in the water for nearly an hour
The sun felt great
Steve took Shanan, Alyssa & Jake on the Cohab Canyon trail.  I dropped them off at the trail, and they hiked the 1-3/4 miles back to the campground, so they wouldn't have hike out & back.  After lunch, we headed back to the Gifford House, which the big girls had fond memories of from our last visit.  Although their ice cream is still yummy, many of the goods they sell are no longer made there but are bought elsewhere & resold, unfortunately.  Nonetheless, we enjoyed ice cream and then spent a beautiful, sunny afternoon playing in the creek & basking in the sun in the soft grass!  We finished our stay with a 3 mile evening hike as a family on the Freemont River trail that ran just behind our campsite.   

After dinner, we enjoyed a 3 mile hike as a family
The view along our hike
The trail continues
There was a nice rewarding view at the end
They all kiss the baby!
This was a truly great family vacation.  You know how usually you come home from vacation, ready to be home again??  Well, we weren't really ready!  The drive back was cold (the temp dropped down to 33 degrees at one point), rainy, & windy.  We even saw a bit of snow!  Crazy!!  But, we made it back, safe & sound, and Steve parked the rig in the niche next to the house in short order!  And, we survived the transition back to "life" as we know it here in Salt Lake City.  Can't wait for the next adventure!  

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Ding and Dang Canyon

(By Steve) A few months before our trip I mentioned to a coworker that I was spending a week in Moab.   Being a Utah native, he had several good suggestions of places to visit.   One of the best places he recommended was Ding and Dang Canyon.  He took his sons there on a Boy Scout trip.   He said that if my daughters were in good shape then they could do it.   I gave them the option and Alyssa quickly accepted.  Alyssa had to prod Shanan, but she did agree to come. There is no way Linda in her current state, or the little kids, could have done it.   

Right away we knew that this was not like Little Wild Horse
The parking area is only about a mile West of the more famous Little Wild Horse Canyon.   These canyons are similar in look to Wild Horse but much, much harder.  This area is part of the San Rafael Swell, a geographically unique part of the world.

The rock walls were all striped
The parking area is one mile from the entrance to the Ding Canyon.   You have the option to go into one and back the other, vice versa, or to go up and back just one canyon.   The entrances to the Canyons are about half to three quarters a mile from each other.  We chose the recommended path of hiking up Ding canyon and back down Dang canyon.  In hindsight, we are VERY glad that went with this plan.   The total hike is 7 miles.  
I nearly fell on my back climbing up this boulder
The hike up Ding was challenging but totally doable.   There were some large boulders that we had to climb over, but nothing that needed ropes.   Dang canyon had some places that were similar to Little Wild Horse with the tight fits through the rock.  Unlike Little Wild Horse, it was steeper.  

What a fun place to hike
It gets pretty tight
Towards the end of Dang canyon it widens out to an area with deep muddy pools.   There was one place in this section where it was just too risky to get through so we had to backtrack and climb up the sides, and then work our way back down to the 'trail'.   The canyon walls are other worldly with round shapes carved in them. At the end of Dang canyon it completely opens up and the trail follows an ATV trail.    There is a about 1.25 miles of walking in the open desert until the North entrance to Dang canyon.  The trails are not really marked so it takes some basic navigation skills to not get lost.  Between the canyons is strange shaped Ding Dang rock; it is not hard to miss finding this strange rock 

Deep potholes in the rocks
Mosquito breeding grounds
We had to go up and over the canyon walls to get around one dangerous spot
The rock walls were other worldly
The Ding Dang rock
The entrance to Dang Canyon begins innocently enough, but soon gets technical.   There is one spot where you can attach ropes if you have them and rappel down.   We easily scaled the grooved walls and got around the obstacle.   The canyon continued to be difficult in a fun way.   The girls were challenged and surprised themselves with what they could do.  There was at least one place where I had to drop about 2 feet farther than I was comfortable with.   One rock had ropes that someone had left for climbing up and down.  Dang Canyon is steeper and wider than Ding canyon.   It would be much harder to be going up Dang than down it.

The top of a large drop at the beginning of Dang canyon
We went down the grooved walls to get around a big drop
The big drop that we went around from the bottom
The whole time we had hiked, we hadn't seen a single soul.   However, about 2/3 of the was back through Dang, we came upon two groups of people.   The first group was about 5-6 younger people with gear going up Dang canyon.  They were nice enough to help us down a particularly steep section.   The other group was a couple in their 60's who were going the same direction as us.   They were having a rough go of it and  clearly were regretting their decision to hike these canyons. 

This was a fun challenge
I would rather be here than Disney World
We would have managed, but it was nice for someone to have left this rope
I had to jump down here, so I could help the girls down
The last hard section was a narrow that was full of three feet of water.   I was carrying a camera and video camera that I really needed to keep dry.  One from the group of younger people advised that if I wanted, I could stem across the whole water-filled section.   I decided to try it, and it was far easier than I expected.  I didn't get wet at all.   The girls however were too short to do that, and they had to wade through it carrying their shoes.

The people we met took our photo
I stemmed across the sides of this wet section, but the girls had to wade.
After we made it through that, it opened up, and we had about a mile and half to hike back to our car.  It was an amazing experience, and I can't wait to do it again!!  

We conquered Dang canyon, but my shorts were ripped in three places.  Thus, the demise of another pair of shorts!  See the result of having a desk job after fulltiming for over a year.
I thought this gnarly tree was beautiful.  Being in the middle of a canyon, this tree has been subject to many flash floods and survived.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Little Wild Horse Canyon

This picture is a bit deceiving; I had to have Steve lift me up on this rock.  There was simply no way I could get my leg high enough to hoist myself up!  And...on the way back, he had to lift me down.  I felt kind of ridiculous, but we managed!  
We couldn't not go to Little Wild Horse Canyon again.  It was at the top of everybody's favorites from our last vacation to Utah four years ago.  This was our first slot canyon (okay, my only one), and it is really just so much fun & do-able, even with young kids!

It was admittedly a bit challenging for me at times, but it never got too narrow for me to squeeze through, and the rock in the photo above is the only one I simply couldn't get up or down by my pregnant self.  There was less water in the canyon this time, so we were able to go further before choosing to head back.  Many choose to go up Bell & down Little Wild Horse for a loop instead of an in & out, but that's a longer hike than we wanted to tackle with the littles.

You can choose to hike back down Bell Canyon but we didn't.
It get progressively more narrow as you go
She was a baby on my back the last time we were here
Getting narrower
Pictures don't do this justice how cool it is to be there.
Linda was worried that she would fit in her pregnant condition
Nooks and Crannies
The girls like to go ahead and hide and try to scare us
Trying not to bump Jake's head
Starting to open up again
The sun doesn't make it down the canyon but for a few minutes a day
Made it to the other side to play in the sand of course
Heading back the way we came
Of course, the pictures don't do it justice, but this is really a delightful hike!  If you go to Goblin Valley State Park, you must check out Little Wild Horse Canyon.  Your kids will have a blast, & you will, too!