Bryce Canyon National Park

Hello everyone and welcome back.

Wow, I apologize for the delay on posts, I am slacking. Bryce Canyon National Park was our next destination and we were super pumped to see the park and spend some time with our friends (Iowa & Colorado friends). Getting reservations at Sunset Campground was a bit hectic since this campground is really popular and I had to literally get a spot 6 months in advanced. I was lucky to get 2 sites since the campgrounds are super small and literally with only enough space for 1 vehicle instead of 2 as stated by the park. The drive to Bryce Canyon was spectacular! Abby’s GPS took us a completely different way. At times it appeared that we were lost but the scenic views were killer and next time we go back to Bryce Canyon we are going to make sure we take that drive again. While growing up in Colorado, Abby and I were spoiled by having such a great view of the mountains every day and now that we live in Iowa we have become accustomed to farmers being around everywhere in our community. Picture this! Farming in the mountains! Yup!! It’s true and it’s a thing and it was super rad to see; free range cattle were everywhere, the scenic views of the mountains were incredible, not to mention that the temperature dropped quite a bit. Our last location (Canyonlands) we encountered 105-degree weather and now my car’s thermostat was reading 64 degrees, I couldn’t believe it but we were for sure gaining elevation since our 5-gallon water containers were shrinking and making popping noise because of the altitude and the wind was brutal. My car was swerving and I had to be super focused because A) the wind was making my car swerve and with the roof top tent and the carrier on the back on my car, things felt worse and B) cows were roaming around all over the mountains and one moment of distraction could end in disaster.

The names of the towns that we drove through were Loa and Koosharem, both towns are small but the view of the mountains sure was majestic. The majority of the houses appeared to be cabins and that was super cool. Abby and I got some ideas since we are turning our house into a large cabin in a Dutch town, we are for sure going to stand out. Not to mention that in the town of Koosharem we saw a pizza joint named Napoleon’s Pizza and the restaurant had a VW bus outside and it was dope! Just like that, we went from mountains and green pastures to flat and sand everywhere and our last 10 miles we kept encountering red hills which to me that’s kind of strange but sah-weet at the same time! When we left Canyonlands to refuel in Moab, our friends Andy and Brenda (Colorado friends) sent us a text message letting us know that they were already waiting for us at Bryce Canyon, shoot man!! We are never late but I guess there is a first time for everything since we were technically 4 hours away.

After an awesome drive we finally reached Bryce Canyon City and my cellphone reception was not great but I managed to call Luke and Corrine (Iowa friends) and left them a voicemail to let them know we had arrived to Bryce Canyon and also letting them know which campsite was theirs. This park had awesome signs indicating where to go (not like Canyonlands National Park) and within 5 minutes of being inside of the park, we had arrived to our campsite. I decided to drive to the other campsite to say hi to Andy & Brenda which was on the opposite side of our campground in loop B. As I drove up, I had to bust a d*ck move and honk at them while they were napping (my bad) and just like that, I woke them up and I drove back to my campsite ha!

I have stayed in lots (and I mean lots) of campgrounds in different parks, states and locations within the U.S. and I have never in my life experienced a stricter campground, even though we followed the rules (we always do, it’s what we do). As we arrived to our site, Abby and I parked in an area where a tent should be and set up our roof top tent. A park ranger came over and told us that we were not to park our car in the grassy area for tents (even though there was no grass there). So I quickly moved and apologized to the park ranger. Once again Abby and I set up our tent and this time we were told that we parked too far to the left and may disturb the other campers since my roof top tent’s ladder was technically in our neighbor’s campsite. I politely asked the park ranger that we were expecting another vehicle and there was hardly any room for a second vehicle (that’s why I parked too far to the left). The park ranger told us that, that wasn’t his problem, we were all adults and he was confident that we could figure it out a way to make our parking issue work or have the other members of our group not camp that night at all. Wow!! Do all Bryce Canyon park rangers treat all of their visitors like this? Apparently the ranger on duty did! I can’t imagine how they treat the visitors that don’t speak English since foreigners are their main income. Throughout our visit, we spoke to our neighbors and other visitors of the campground and out of the 4 families that we spoke to in addition to our friends, they ALL got citations for failure to park within the campsite boundaries. Another family got a citation because they failed to maintain a 10’ perimeter around the campfire (never heard of that rule). Our neighbor got a citation because he set up his tent in dirt (designated tent spot) and apparently that was a green area, that’s why we (Abby and I) got in trouble in the first place. I just couldn’t believe it. Yes! The place is popular; I get it but at least let the visitors enjoy their stay. I can understand if the visitors were slammed (drunk) and making all kinds of noise during the night while leaving their camp fire unattended or trying to ride the local deer or let’s not forget, feeding the overweight chipmunks but getting yelled at for parking too close to my neighbor, really? Either the park ranger was having a bad day or he just has a terrible attitude.

Enough of the negativity, we didn’t travel this far to focus on a moody park ranger. We drove to Bryce Canyon to enjoy the beauty of the park and we quickly gathered our gear and headed to see the hoodoos. Bryce Canyon was AMAZING! I looked at the hoodoos and I told myself, “I can’t believe these types of formations exist!”. But sure enough they do and I couldn’t wait to go on a hike with my family and friends and see the hoodoos up close and personal. That afternoon we decided to take it easy and save our energy for the following morning and headed back to camp for dinner. That afternoon, we met a cool couple (Larry & Barbara Clark), who were interested in our rooftop tent and that conversation went on for an hour or so since we talked about our travels and their travels. The conversation turned to Route 66 and now Abby and I are pumped to do a 4-week road trip to Route 66 (hopefully soon!). I know my work will throw a fit about it but, life is to be enjoyed not to be wasted sitting in front of a computer screen the whole day. That being said, I am truly considering giving my 2 weeks after we go over some finances and see if we can make it happen or we get a random sponsor, which I wouldn’t be opposed to I guess ha! 4 weeks of adventure, man that sounds sweet. Anyway, moving on from a dream. We ate dinner and Andy and Brenda mentioned a nice and easy hike near Bryce Canyon called Mossy Cave. We didn’t waste a minute longer and Andy did us a solid and drove all of us to see and enjoy Mossy Cave. It was probably a 15-minute drive from our campsite because this place is technically outside of the park.

Once we got to Mossy Cave, I realized I had forgotten my camera and my cellphone, I was running blind, and I couldn’t take any pictures. What was I going to do? Well…The Bryce Canyon Gods sent me a Mossy Cave angel since Andy offered to let me borrow his super amazing and heavy camera (which he treasures like his baby) and I felt powerful with it. But it was so heavy that I was scared of dropping it. Truth is, I was so nervous that I’d drop it that I’m surprised I even was able to snap some photos. I tried to post some pictures but for some reason my system didn’t allowed me to but if you guys have a chance to checkout Mossy Cave, please do because it was awesome and to Andy (thanks buddy!).

Mossy Cave was a super easy trail, Eyra walked the whole way to an amazing waterfall and to a mossy cave (maybe 0.8 miles maybe less), I was tempted to walk along the river and get down to the waterfall and snap some pictures but then again, I was carrying a camera that was not mine so I couldn’t expose myself to stupid choices so yes! I played it safe. Our friends from Iowa (Luke and Corrine) did not make it in that night and I was worried, had something happened to them on their way to Bryce Canyon? Did they get a flat tire? Or perhaps hit an animal on their way here or maybe they took the wrong turn and ended somewhere else? I left yet another voicemail to determine if they were OK but I couldn’t get a decent signal so I was a bit worried and stressed so I drank the worries away with some awesome hot chocolate. And since I couldn’t do anything else, I decided to do the one thing I could do. I ate about 6 marshmallows! Abby, for the record, makes some killer s’mores, I don’t know what technique she uses but hers turn out better than mine do. The following morning, we all ate a quick snack, packed our bags, refilled our water bottles, got our trekking poles and all jumped in Brenda’s car and to the hoodoos we went.

That morning was nice and cool and the wind had died down from the night before, that was a good sign for our hike to come. We began our trail at Queen’s Garden and in a blink of an eye the bright orange color of the hoodoos smacked my face and told me “Here we are, admire us, love us and take some pictures”, so I obeyed and took a sh*t ton of pictures. One of the cool things I loved about Bryce Canyon was that every hour the hoodoos looked different depending on the location of the sun. During the morning, the hoodoos looked bright red and other times more orange, as the sun continued its rotation the hoodoos looked white and sometimes yellow. It was awesome! Everywhere we looked the view was rad and since we started our hike early that morning, the trail was all ours.

We decided to take a different trail that ended up giving us some extra miles on our hike but we didn’t mind since we had nowhere else to go that day but to hike that trail alone. We came to a resting area were we noticed a few super overweight squirrels and we even saw a foreigner pet a chipmunk? These animals are so tame that it is even sad to see, not even the squirrels that live on my trees outside my house are this trusting. We rested and continued our hike towards Wall Street. Abby started the hike with Eyra on her back and went 3.5 miles before we decided to switch and I was to finish the rest of the hike with Eyra. My mule skills were tested on the switchbacks that this trail had to offer and even a few people provided a few words of encouragement.

The switch backs were rough with a baby on my back but together we managed and to the top we went. I stopped on every switch back to get a breather but hey! We made it to the top and Tylenol never looked so good as my entire body was aching. I consider myself to be in OK shape but these parks were sure kicking my butt but Eyra, Abby and I never gave up. I can say that my mule skills were getting better every day and I figure since I could hike Delicate Arch with no shade and in a 109-degree weather environment, I could knock out this bad boy with no issues. We hiked 7 miles and we all went straight to the campsite and took a nap, Abby and I were the unlucky ones since Eyra took a nap during the hike. Eyra was wired on top of the tent and we didn’t get to have a power nap.

Here are a few pictures of our hike!

I love this place!

Even more rad pictures.

Let’s do a few more.

I decided to go to the bathroom and while I was gone Abby took 47 pictures of a deer, I guess when you have a digital camera, the amount of pictures taken isn’t really a concern but she did a good job. Our whole afternoon was based on food and catching up with Andy and Brenda and by some miracle my phone had a moment of service and I noticed that Luke and Corrine were near since they sent me a text message. We welcomed the night with a fire and lots of more s’mores and all of a sudden we noticed a massive bus in the distance! Well that was no bus, that was Luke and Corrine’s massive Mercedes Benz Sprinter. If I thought my brother’s truck was big, this puppy tops it. We all said hi to Luke and Corrine and they went to get situated for the night. A few minutes later, Luke Corrine and their daughter Charlotte joined us for marshmallows and to have a good time by the fire and that’s how we ended our night.

The following morning Andy and Benda took off to the hoodoos to see the sunrise, I really wanted to go but my body said (not today) and I decided to sleep in. Sleeping in with a 22-month old means up by 7:00am if not earlier so Abby and I took our chances and we slept in. Andy and Brenda came back to the campsite satisfied from their early visit to the hoodoos and got some sick shots of the sunrise. It was unfortunate that Andy and Brenda could only visit us for such a small period of time but the point is that they made it and we had a blast with them. Just like that our dearest friends went back home to Colorado.

Luke, Corrine & Charlotte wanted to hike early that morning so we all prepped up and drove to the Bryce Canyon Lodge and once we parked and chatted for a bit we all parted ways momentarily. The Wyma’s (Luke, Corrine and Charlotte’s last name) went for a hike while we got breakfast at the lodge since we had hiked the hoodoos the day before. Unfortunately, Abby, Eyra and I arrived to the restaurant 3 minutes late since the lodge’s restaurant stopped serving breakfast at 10:00am and lunch was not available until 11:30am, so here we were trying to kill some time. Well… We visited the mules and Eyra had a blast, Abby enjoyed being a dork while playing lava with the median in the bike trail, we payed a visit to the store at the lodge, got a few souvenirs and went back to the car to drop off all of the stuff we bought and headed once again back to the rim and looked into the amazing view the hoodoos had to offer.

Killing time at Bryce Canyon was not hard at all and in a blink of an eye, Abby, Eyra and I were sitting at the dining table at the restaurant waiting for our food. Eyra was passed out until the we got our food served. Her ninja smelling skills kicked in and we enjoyed some awesome lunch. 45 minutes later we met with the Wyma’s and headed to our next destination that we did not plan to go to in the first place but since it was on the way we decided to give it a go. They really had to twist our arms for us to go. On our way to this mystery location we saw a killer VW bus with an amazing Harley Davidson bike. I have to say, we saw the craziest vehicles on this trip, some cars had to improvise the way packing was done and others relied on the owner’s wallet with million-dollar RV’s.  What was our next destination?

Please check the picture below for details and leave a comment if you know the location.

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To be continued…

 

 

Canyonlands National Park and an unexpected goodbye.

Hello again and welcome back everyone, let me do a quick recap of our trip so far. We have camped at Camp Dick and in Saddlehorn campgrounds which both are located in Colorado and we had just finished visiting Arches National Park and chilled momentarily in Moab to get some grub and change some poopy diapers (yes, 2 poopy diapers). Our next Stop was Canyonlands National Park, Needles District and I couldn’t have been more excited about this place since our campground seemed super cool from the brochure and also because I had never stayed there before (double the excitement). As I mentioned near the end of our last blog, I had asked my brother Edgar if he needed to refuel before we headed to Canyonlands from Moab and he mentioned that he had ¾ of his tank full so there was no need for him to refuel. If you guys haven’t noticed by the pictures, my brother has a massive Toyota Tundra (monster truck size). Some people like to think the bigger the better, right? Well… Not so much in this case! As we were driving to Canyonlands we were now relying solely on our GPS but the address that Google found was for the Park itself and not the exact campground. Since most parks close at 7:00pm or 8:00pm we weren’t worried at all when it came to asking for campground directions once we got there. We drove for maybe 35 minutes from Moab until we got to Canyonlands National Park and we arrived exactly at 5:00pm. Man!!! The park’s entrance was already closed! Apparently the park closes at 4:30pm for who knows what reason! Maybe the park is not as frequented by visitors that they feel the need to close the park early. At this point Abby and I had purchased our annual National Park Pass but my brother hadn’t, so he needed to pay at the entrance via envelope. To our surprise there were no envelopes either at the entrance station! That being said we decided to drive to the visitor center. There were probably 6 cars parked outside the visitor center so we thought the park rangers would be in sight, that way we could check in, pay and get directions to our campsite. Nope! The visitor center was also closed.

We asked a few people if they had any idea where the campgrounds were and we got a variety of answers, so we looked at the map. While we were doing so, Eyra decided to climb on a built in bench outside the visitor center and ate it, of course she cried and scared the crap out of us but she quickly recovered both physically and emotionally. One lady in particular told us that she and her 2 kids had no idea where to stay that night since she drove to the park by accident (who does that?), so we offered her to stay at our campsite if we ever found where our campground was and also because we had extra room since it was a private group site. She thanked us and respectfully declined our offer. It makes sense, she was talking to Edgar and I. I am sure she thought we were some sketchy dudes who hit on ladies at random National Parks in the middle of nowhere as a side job. Maybe we look very intimidating but I guess I would have done the same thing. Karla and Abby looked at the map and we decided to “explore” the National Park and we embarked on a quest to find our campsite. I am not going to lie but we drove for maybe 45 minutes and there was no luck. We could NOT find our site! The name of our campsite is named Split Top and there were no signs at all on the road that indicated where this campsite was. It also was not on the map at all, in fact, there was only 1 campsite listed on the entire map! I was beginning to get frustrated and second guessing myself. Had I booked us in the right place, or perhaps the campsite was located on the other side on Canyonlands at Island in the Sky? So I asked myself, what would Chuck Norris do? I was so disappointed at this point that I decided to leave the park and that’s when Edgar decides to tell me that he is running out of fuel and he can’t continue searching for the campsite, so we decided to head back to Moab. As we excited the park, Abby noticed a sign that stated “private campground”. This sign was located 0.4 miles outside the National Park, so what did we do? We went straight to the campground to find a campsite or even better, ask for directions. Edgar was thinking about leaving his truck at the visitor center since he was running out of fuel but he miraculously decided to follow me to the “private campground” (because I’m awesome). The private campground’s entrance had a trailer home/patio and we decided to go in the trailer home, I could not believe the place! This place was a mini REI! I mean this store had anything you could ever ask for. Edgar and I saw the lady and her 2 kids that we invited to stay in our campground and she was asking for directions to Moab. She turned around and saw us and booked it outside. To those people who don’t know me, believe me I am completely harmless, we just wanted to help since she didn’t have a place to stay. But it was her loss because the campground was sweet when we found it. Anyhow, I noticed that the lady went outside and began pumping fuel. I instantly told Edgar, “Dude there is fuel here!!”. Edgar’s face completely changed and he topped off at $4.00 per gallon (OUCH). I guess when you are the nearest fuel station (for about 40 miles around) you can pretty much charge whatever you want and people will pay it, like in Edgar’s case. A huge weight came off of Edgar’s shoulders when he began to fuel up and the guy from the store gave us directions to our campsite, he was spot on with his directions and we found the campsite with no problem.

The campground was maybe a mile away from the entrance (I felt super stupid since it was that close) but the campsite was very cool. But seriously, there were no signs for the group site until we got to the actual campsite, that’s why we kept missing it. By this time, we decided to relax, set up camp and grill some veggie and beef burgers. Meanwhile Eyra discovered the campsite’s sand and got it all over herself, I mean she was covered from head to toe in sand. I couldn’t be upset, after all, we were camping! Edgar and Christopher quickly began exploring our surroundings and decided to go on top of our Split Top cave. Yup! I chickened out since the trail to get on top of the Slip Top cave was crawling with spiders and I don’t like spiders. Call me a p*ssy, I don’t care. I hate spiders with a passion, moving on since I am already getting the heebie-jeebies!

It wasn’t long before our camping tables were covered with food. we all began to joke around, laugh, admire our amazing campsite and enjoy each other’s company. That night was an early night for everyone as we all had a long day (pooped from Delicate Arch). I want to say that we all headed to our tents a little bit before 8:00pm, we gave Eyra her shower and Abby and I washed our hair and faces before calling it a night.

The following morning, we prepped early and were on the road by 8:00am… I think that was the time? Mmmmm… Yeah! That sounds accurate! Man!!! I really don’t remember now, anyway. We headed straight to the visitor center sometime during the morning to get Edgar paid since there was no one at the visitor center the night before. We also spoke to a park ranger and since the day was going to be blistering hot, the park ranger suggested a few options for us to hike, especially since we had a little hiker with us! The park ranger suggested to hike Roadside Ruin Trail, Spring Cave (which was literally 50 yards from our campsite) and finally, Slickrock. The total for those trails came up to 4 miles, maybe less. Since we were at the visitor center, I decided to get something for Eyra. Eyra is still too young to participate in the Junior Ranger Program so I bought her a pin that looks similar to the actual junior ranger badge and she was a happy camper, ha! Get it? I crack myself up!

Roadside Ruin was Eyra’s first actual hike, the trail was only 0.3 miles and she did awesome! She has the makings of a great hiker and backpacker. Roadside ruin took me back to when I rafted the San Juan River because the Roadside ruin appeared to be an old granary and granaries like that were all along the San Juan River. I counted at least 3 granaries while rafting, the only difference was that I got to get close to Roadside Ruin. Eyra finished strong but she was hungry and thirsty and she was rewarded once we got to the car.

Our next hike was Spring Cave. This trail was literally 50 yards away from our campsite and we had no idea about it until the park ranger told us during our visit to the visitor center. As we began our hike we instantly saw an old cowboy post or camp and it was pretty cool. It had old stables, tables, chairs, a small cabinet, old cookware, plates and bowls and more. Judging by the brutal heat, I can see why the cowboys decided to set camp near a cave. As we continued with our hike, the trail kept getting more impressive and interesting. Along our right side of the trail there was nothing but caves and it was so nice and cool (temperature wise). Moss was growing out of the caves, cactus was surrounding the perimeter, lizards were roaming around constantly until all of a sudden we arrived to the actual Spring Cave where very little water was flowing down the cave’s wall filling little by little a small puddle on the ground. This place was truly spectacular since the cave contained prehistoric Native American rock art. It was amazing! I have gone to numerous museums, exhibits, galas, parks, different countries and never in my life have I seen a park system so trusting of its visitors that it allows them to get up close and personal to these amazing pieces of prehistoric art. All I could do was admire the beauty of the rock art and its surroundings and even better, we were the only ones around. It was our own private tour. We spent at least 20 minutes in that section of the trail. As we proceeded with our hike, we kept seeing more caves to our right side and some caves were so small that the only one that could fit was Christopher.

The more we hiked, the more we kept encountering caves. We all didn’t mind that since the hike was relatively cool in comparison to previous hikes such as Delicate Arch. As we kept walking, Abby pointed out more prehistoric art and this time there were numerous hand prints all over the ceiling of the cave. It was quite a sight to see. I asked myself, “I wonder what the people who created this art were thinking? Why paint hands?”, regardless of the answer, I am sure they had a reason to do so. This trail had made the list of one of the coolest hikes I have ever done and not to mention that we weren’t even close to finishing the trail. The cowboy camp, the caves, the prehistoric art! We had seen all of this so far and within the first 10 minutes of our hike. We couldn’t wait to see what other surprises the Spring Cave trail had for us. When we were at the visitor center, the park ranger told us that if we decided to hike the Spring Cave trail, at some point we were going to encounter 2 wooden ladders that we needed to take in order to climb up the rocky and sandy cliffs to get an incredible view of the park. Sure enough, the first ladder was spotted and up we went. The view was nice at that point but we still had one more ladder to climb and not far from the first ladder was when we noticed the second one.

Abby was the first to climb and she instantaneously shouted WOW!! I pushed everyone around to see what Abby was seeing…no I didn’t do that! That would have been a d*ck move but I thought about it. I also climbed the ladder and saw what Abby was seeing and yes! I also agreed with Abby as the view in front of us was more than spectacular, it was breathtaking. All along the trail hardened ripples were present in the sandstone and cairns also made an appearance. As we followed the cairns, the scenic views kept getting more amazing but the unfortunate thing is that my camera can’t do it justice. Nature is impressive in the sense that it thrives against all odds. We couldn’t believe the amount of life that was present in this hot and desert-y environment, especially the wild flowers (which clearly were Abby’s favorite judging from the number of pictures I have of them). From the top of the cliffs we could see the parking lot and just as we saw our cars, we noticed a large group beginning to hike the trail. I guess we lucked out and just like that we finished this sick trail (sick = term of endearment meaning AWESOME!).

By this point, the clock had reached noon and our campsite was so close that we decided to get lunch, refill our water bottles, cool off, take our hiking shoes off and sit in our comfy chairs (I did at least, everyone else tackled the chips).

Our last hike of the day was going to be Slickrock but honestly, during the hike it felt hotter than it did at noon. Sections of the trail were closed because they were protected during Bighorn Sheep breeding season (which apparently is happening now). We relied completely on cairns during our hike to show us the way. The trail was a loop that consisted of four scenic viewpoints. Every single scenic viewpoint looked vastly different because we were seeing the canyon from different vantage points. 30 minutes within our hike we noticed a small cave and pointed at a pair of crapped on boxers. I think someone thought they were going to fart and, oh surprise, something else came out. As I pointed at the boxers a park ranger came out of nowhere, so I blamed him! I did ask him if those were his pair of boxers and he replied, “Well… the boxers are mine now!”. He picked them up, put them in a plastic bag and asked if we were ok! He mentioned that he was patrolling the area since the heat intensity was on high and he needed to make sure hikers were safe and taking precautionary measures before the hike. Once he verified we were knowledgeable hikers, off he went smelling a little funky.

The scenic views were so worth the heat. Everything was so beautiful that I will shut up momentarily and will let you soak the beauty of the park. Check these images out!

There is something about the desert that really does it for me.

And just like that our hike was over and back to the camp we went. Eyra was super cute the whole time, making funny faces, hugging everyone and even kissing us (a rarity). I always have to kiss her but this time she did it first. I’m taking her camping more often.

Edgar being an executive chef made the most amazing camping meals ever. His vegetarian spaghetti was AMAZING!!! Abby and I have reached our 1 year of becoming vegetarian and let me tell you, it wasn’t hard at all. I don’t think we’ll go back. The cool thing about the cave was that since it had a crack on its ceiling, it created a weird air pocket or votex if you want to sound cool. But since we had the fire going it created a fire-nado! Super cool. That whole afternoon and night all we did was sit by the fire, told each other cool stories and most importantly, we all enjoyed the moment. Who knows when the next time will be that we set foot on Split Top campground, but that has to be the best campsite I have ever stayed at.

The following morning, I received the bad news that Karla, Edgar and Christopher would not continue on the rest of the trip. Karla felt like she over did it and she felt like something was off (mother’s intuition). It was for the best for them to head home, pay a visit at the doctor’s office and relax (Karla is doing great and so is the baby). There were 2 stops we needed to make before heading to our next destination, one of those stops was Newspaper Rock petroglyphs. I will try to avoid using the words cool, sweet, amazing and incredible. As my uncle John would say, “this place is bitchin”, and indeed it was. Petroglyphs are full of mystery as the carvings have a story of their own and many have unknown meanings. Eyra was instantly attracted to the petroglyphs, perhaps it was the odd shapes or the mysterious demons carved within the stones or perhaps she loved the way it looked… whatever it was she enjoyed seeing them as did we.

On our way back to Moab, Abby and I were talking about getting more ice for our coolers when all of a sudden I saw a pronghorn and boy did I slam on my brakes! I keep forgetting that wildlife is all around us and just like that, the pronghorn was nowhere to be seen as it blended in with its surroundings.

Everywhere we drove, Eyra had to, and I mean HAD TO watch Disney’s Frozen or we would have a meltdown and when you still have 5 hours to go on your drive, it’s best to give in. Honestly, we were keeping count, this was the 7th time Frozen was on the IPad. Can you guess how many times we listened to Let It Go by the time we got home? Take a guess and put it in the comments below. Once we arrived to Moab we headed to the Moab Dinner. It was a nice restaurant with an awesome façade. The service was great and the food was reasonably priced. But even with great food in front of us, saying goodbye is always tough, especially when you know you have more places to go and more adventures to come and the other half of your group can’t make it. But we kept them in our thoughts and I am glad to hear that Karla and Edgar’s baby is healthy and the day we can meet the little one will not come soon enough. In a blink of an eye, we had completed our business in Canyonlands National Park. Next time we go, I’ll make sure Edgar has a full tank of gas and I’ll make sure to know where our camp sites are! Until next time.

Please see the picture below for a sneak peek photo of our next destination.

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To be continued…

 

 

Arches National Park

 

Welcome back everyone.

Our trip kept getting more exciting, more adventurous and hotter as we kept heading west. It is truly amazing that only one state away from where we camped (Colorado) we could find a complete different environment (Utah), a state full of deserts, bizarre rock formations, raging rivers, red fiery sands, dinosaur fossils, snowy peaks and as a matter of fact a completely different ecosystem. Utah is truly amazing and it’s the perfect state for adventure seekers. Utah alone welcomes millions of visitors a year, nationally and internationally. In fact, I do believe that the majority of the people we met or came across on the trails were mainly from Germany or France and their perspective of Utah was priceless. Some of those visitors that we encountered had never seen a desert before or experienced weather reaching 110 degrees and boy do they love the west, especially John Wayne! Let’s not forget the French… We actually encountered a French group wearing bandoleers and John Wayne style hats. It was awesome! As far as the cowboy hats and bandoleers go, we all enjoy the parks in our own way I suppose, besides who am I to tell them differently. They seemed like they were having a lot of fun. The point is, get out there and live life to the fullest while trying something new! I just put the hat and bandoleer on my list to get next time we go back. I already have it all figured out. Abby, Eyra and I will have our own western personas. I will go by the name of Itchy-Trigger Arteaga, Abby will go by the name of Snake-Bite Dakota and Eyra will go by the name of Patches & Diapers Desperado! I think it sounds legit!

One of the parks that I remember as a kid was the beautiful Arches National Park. I wanted to share that experience with my family (since neither Abby nor Eyra have ever been). As we first arrived to Utah, we decided to head to Arches because A) it’s super cool and B) it was also right on our way to our next campsite located in Canyonlands National Park, Needles District. You would not believe the amount of vehicles that were waiting for entry into the park, we counted 62 cars ahead of us and more vehicles were waiting behind us. It was a mad house and the heat was only rising, it was so bad that our A/C was having a hard time keeping up. I almost had forgotten about the summer crowds but the wait was worth it. It’s been 17 years since I had set foot in Arches National Park and honestly I don’t know why I waited this long and I felt like a kid in a candy store just mesmerized by the beauty of the park. I know I sound absurd, beautiful this and amazing that, but I cannot find the right words to describe how incredible this place truly is. What can I say, I love me some stinking desert! I could tell Abby was impressed too, because she had her window rolled down snapping pictures left and right!

The park offers the best scenic views without even trying. One of the coolest things to experience is that no matter where you look, there is always something neat to see on every corner and I guarantee you that Arches National Park will leave you in awe. The beautiful and massive sandstone walls will just take your breath away; the incredible view of the Three Gossips will give anyone a sense of welcome as they stand gallantly on the side of the road as everyone goes by. The gorgeous view of the petrified dunes and the La Sal Mountains right behind them are a sight to see and let’s not forget the impressive equilibrium of Balanced Rock. Sometimes I think to myself, I should have been a geologist, I guess it’s never too late.

That morning before we arrived to Arches National Park, our group decided to visit Landscape Arch which is located in Devils Garden Trail but unfortunately that section of the park was closed for upkeep and maintenance. After checking our options and looking at our map, we all decided to hike to Delicate Arch, which in my opinion is probably the most popular Arch within the park. “Why?”, you ask? A) because that is the arch used on Utah’s license plate. B) every restaurant uses Delicate Arch as their slogan or promotional photo and C) Delicate Arch is even used in Utah’s welcome sign. That being said, imagine the crowd it brings to the trail. Honestly that was one of the hardest hike’s I have ever done and the trail isn’t that long, it’s maybe 1.5 miles to the top. But then again, don’t forget that I had 45 extra pounds on my back (Eyra, pack, water, snacks) and the heat reached 109 that day with minimal shade and the trail was pretty darn steep. I was very surprised to have found a parking spot along the trail, perhaps I just lucked out because the parking lot was completely full and people were parking on the side of the road, even though there are signs stating not to. As we prepared for our hike I lost Karla, Edgar and Christopher. Later I found out that they had to park somewhere else due to the congested parking lot.

Abby was the sunscreen master, by the time I was finished putting sunscreen on myself, Abby and Eyra were both ready to go, I am the slowpoke of my family. As we began hiking the trail, I could see small ant-like dots ahead of me. Turns out that the dots in front of me were actual people hiking up the trail to see Delicate Arch. The ice in our water lasted maybe 5 minutes before it was completely melted, our water went from cold to really warm (as if we were going to drink tea), sweat covered our bodies and by this point the sun was at its highest point since it had reached noon. The amount of people on the trail was insane, at times the area got so congested that we had to move aside to let others pass. Karla, who is expecting her first child, was a trooper! I don’t know how she managed the heat (and in a long sleeved shirt at that!!).

There was a moment where I felt that we had hiked for a while and I turned back only to see the parking lot not far from where we were standing, ha! Who was I kidding… I needed to continue hiking before the trail turned into an un-hikeable trail with the massive crowds. As we continued to hike up we wanted to keep Eyra well hydrated and she sure destroyed her water, Abby and I re-filled Eyra’s cup 7 times on our 3-hour hike. I am glad we were able to pack 5 liters of water on that hike alone. The agony didn’t seem to have an end. The more we went up the less shade we found until all of a sudden we found a nice corner with tons of shade. Boy!!! It was paradise!! I voted to rename that spot to Sliver of Paradise and all of the other hikers who were sitting, resting and cooling off also agreed to the name change.

We sat down for a bit, drank some water and contemplated getting back up again, so we did what we do best! We people watched! There were some people who looked like they were going to die and others were simply trail running as if the trail was the easiest trail that ever existed and put everybody to shame including my group and I. We than saw a lady that said “That’s it, I am not going a step further!” and here I was thinking to myself that I was having a rough day but apparently not as bad as this lady! We actually talked to this lady and we tried to stay positive and tried to encourage her by telling her that she was literally almost there, to trust herself and to push for a few more steps. But she didn’t buy it, and at that point it was best for us to let her be, someone was obviously really cranky and I didn’t want Eyra getting any ideas. We grabbed our stuff and continued hiking for 3 minutes until suddenly there was no one on the trail! I thought we were lost; I couldn’t believe it! I actually thought we took the wrong turn since we didn’t see anybody ahead of us and as we approached yet another corner, there she was!!!

Delicate Arch, you beautiful thing! I had forgotten all about my hot hike, Delicate Arch was just there waiting for us wanting some love and she didn’t disappoint! The Arch is beautiful and is definitely very delicate looking! Once we were within sight, the crowd was back. We had to wait in line to get our picture taken next to the arch like we were waiting for Space Mountain at Disneyland (minus the awesome fast passes). But it was so enjoyable to just sit and enjoy the sight!

Let me tell you that the hike down was much easier but my shoulders were killing me. It was about 15 minutes before arriving back at the car when I threw the white flag. I couldn’t continue to carry Eyra so Abby stepped up and finished strong with Eyra on her back. As we were walking towards Ute Rock Art which are sweet petroglyphs carved on a vertical wall towards the beginning of Delicate Arch Trail we encountered a lady that told Abby “I can’t believe you did the entire trail with that baby on your back!”, and gave me the meanest look! Abby told her that she had just put Eyra on her back and that I carried her the whole way but she did not buy it and gave me the stink eye and walked away. I guess I can’t win them all, but I know I did my part.

We relaxed for a few minutes by our car, I opened the Pelican cooler and grabbed more ice and added that to our water because our water was really warm. By this point we had already consumed 12 gallons of water overall and we weren’t even to our midpoint of our trip. We packed our gear in the car and discussed our plan for the afternoon. We decided to head to the visitor center for a bit and later head to Moab for lunch. Sure enough that’s what happened.

We ended up going to Zax restaurant in downtown Moab, I don’t know if it was my hunger or the place was legit amazing but I destroyed all my food and not to mention Edgar… that dude destroyed 12 slices of pizza, 1 bowl of soup and 2 bowls of salad! I have no idea where Edgar stores all that food but the dude can sure eat. I asked Edgar if he needed to fuel up before heading to Canyonlands and he said no since he had ¾ of a tank of fuel in his massive truck. Canyonlands was our next destination and what happened next was for sure comical and made our trip even more memorable.

Stay tuned for more of our Canyonlands trip. Please see the sneak peek picture below.

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To be continued…

 

Colorado National Monument.

Welcome back everyone. As our trip continued to unfold, Abby, Eyra, Edgar, Karla, Christopher and I were on our way to Saddlehorn Campground which is located in Colorado National Monument in Grand Junction/ Fruita. Before I booked our camping sites I wanted to experience unique destinations as well as new camping spots. So what did I do? I googled the sh*t out of everything, I googled close to 30 sites and I checked online reviews to avoid potential crappy campsites (I actually did this for all of our locations), but for Saddlehorn, I did find the top 5 best camping spots of the area. My next step was to obtain the data from TripAdvisor, read the feedback from previous campers and found the most popular spots in the area. I have to say, the camping spots that we booked had a killer view of Grand Junction and Fruita and the view looked even more majestic during the night. If you guys ever have the chance to book sites 42 and 43, do it! You will not be disappointed. The only downside was that if you have small children, you must keep a constant eye on them since the locations of the campsites are literally next to a 100-foot drop, well…. maybe more now that I think about it.

Our drive wasn’t too bad but it seemed that a storm was definitely following us so we decided to stop at Beaver Creek and get some grub. We went to an amazing restaurant… no not really! It was just Subway and sat on the restaurant’s outside patio and watched as the storm went by. The funny thing was that even though we were in the mountains, the weather stayed relatively warm. I have done this drive with Abby numerous times when we headed to California but I can’t recall the last time we did it, but I honestly don’t remember going through 4 tunnels! Did CDOT add a bunch of new tunnels and why? One of the things we miss about Colorado besides the mountains is the dry weather, our town of Pella which is located in Iowa is really humid during the Spring and Summer and at times it can be suffocating. It’s so bad that one of my dogs took a leak on the concrete driveway and it stayed there for 3 days until I washed it off and even then, the water I used to clean up the dog urine stayed on my driveway for an additional couple of days. I kid you not! My point is this, all Eyra wanted to do was to run around the Subway restaurant and Abby didn’t allow that so she stepped outside with Eyra to burn some energy off. Since the Subway restaurant that we went to was attached to a hotel, we noticed a couple of employees watering the hotel’s hanging plants. As Eyra followed the water puddles around, we heard one of the employees say “Man, this humidity is killing me. I feel like I can hardly breathe!”. Abby and I just looked at each other and started laughing, the hotel employee looked at us as if we were crazy but in reality we thought he was the crazy one since it wasn’t humid at all. Maybe we have finally become acclimated to Pella’s weather.

As we arrived to the Saddlehorn Campground the drive was beautiful. Pretty much the entire drive up to the campground is steep switch backs as you gain elevation. The campground sits on top of a mesa so we shouldn’t have been surprised. If you (the reader) are one of those people who will not go potty in public restrooms or vault toilets (aka hole in the ground toilets) then you are in luck with these restrooms because they are awesome and super clean (and even have flushing toilets!!!!). I know the ladies in our group didn’t mind them. Once we set up camp the weather was brutally warm, we have hit low 90’s and in a blink of an eye some mean gnats appeared out of nowhere. The worst part of these little devils was that they weren’t even bothered by our bug repellant! That is the only thing I did not like about this campground. Even worse, they bit Eyra everywhere; ankles, arms, cheeks, but mostly her scalp! Eyra was the most delicious of all because no one else got destroyed by the vicious gnats.

We tried to make the best of it and we busted out even more food to snack on. Out came the goat cheese and raspberry jelly with crackers, Gouda cheese, camembert cheese, brie and manchego. Yeah, I have always had a thing for cheese and now I think I have given the cheese bug to both Abby and Eyra since we tend to eat it on a daily basis, but the cheese-marathon was short lived by Edgar and I since we decided to walk to the visitor center and find a couple of trails to hike or find the nearest scenic views. Oh buddie! We found an amazing canyon right next to the visitor center and we couldn’t wait to tell the ladies about it. The visitor center was not far at all (it was maybe .4 miles from our campsite) and the scenery was incredible and so peaceful (but still really hot). We decided to walk back to the campsite to get the girls and Christopher and show them what Edgar and I had found. I swear… it’s like the girl’s minds and ours connected since they were ready to hike by the time we got there. To top it off, Abby had used our camping shower for the first time, and it was so convenient that everyone that night including myself used the camping shower. It’s easy to use and it warms up quickly by using the sun.

On our walk we noticed a small amphitheater, lots of lizards, cactus, hares and there was hardly any people at the campground. it was like our own private area. Eyra has never met a stranger, she chatted with Karla for a while and later she would run straight to Christopher but she always wanted to hold hands with Edgar for some weird reason.

During our walk, all we did was admire the beauty of this place and we all let nature and our eyes do the work as we all soaked in the beautiful sunset near Saddlehorn’s canyon. I feel that even my camera can’t do it justice on how awesome and majestic this place truly is. That being said, I want to do the same and let you admire these photos below and you (the reader) can be the judge.

The sunset really brings in different colors to the area.

I told you! This place is badass!

The more places I go, the more I encounter people who ask me if carrying Eyra is a hassle, or they ask me how heavy she is or if I ever get tired of carrying such a big pack on my back. Yeah Eyra is heavy! But is Eyra a hassle? Nonsense! I enjoy every moment with her on my back, I want to enjoy every moment with my little girl and I want her to know when she grows older that we never left her behind, not even for the most fun of vacations. Besides, Eyra is helping me with backpacking training. Pacific Crest Trail, here I come!!

We finished the night by snuggling in the hot tent until Eyra fell asleep. We were beat! The downside to the desert is the nights… we fell asleep dripping in sweat, and woke up about halfway through the night freezing cold! Aside for the drastic temperature change, we slept very well and mosquito free (we were ninja’s getting in the tent without letting a mosquito in). Edgar made us eggs and French toast the next morning before we packed up and headed to our next location! Our next location in  my opinion was the coolest camping site I have ever been on. Stay tuned to hear where we adventured to next!

To be continued…

 

Retracing Old Footsteps.

Welcome back everyone! I must apologize for not being able to post new blogs on our site for the past 2 weeks. The reason why is because my family and I embarked on a 2-week road trip that turned out to be the trip of a lifetime and it would have been silly to blog while trying to experience our amazing trip. The truth is, I can’t multitask. I consider myself a lucky man as I have a beautiful family and I live in a remarkable place that is nowhere close to my roots. My life has many unbelievable stories and some of those stories may seem a bit of an exaggeration to some people, but all are true. One of those stories is how I came to be here in the United States. I want to thank my dad, brothers, neighbors and friends for all of the actions and support during my adoption process when I was 11 years old but most importantly I want to thank my mom. I am the man I am today because of her. My mom re-shaped my future, language, and even my education in fact! My mom re-shaped my whole life. It’s hard to believe that 2 years have passed since her departure. My love for adventure was born because of my mom. I honestly can’t tell you how many times a year my family camped (way too many). I grew up with that sense of care for the wilderness and there was an instant connection between the back-country and I. When I was young (possibly 13 years old), my parents took my younger brother and I on a road trip that would permanently be ingrained in my memory. Many years and hundreds of camping get-together’s later, I now had the opportunity to re-create and re-trace the same trip and footsteps that I once took with my family as a young boy but now I got to do it with a family of my own.

Our trip took close to a year to plan since most of the locations that we intended to go to needed a minimum of 6 months in advance to obtain reservations or permits. I had to work with available national park dates to book our camping trips and even entered a lottery system for permits. We were fortunate enough to obtain every campsite and permit intended for our trip, all we needed was to pull the trigger and make it happen. The hardest part was to prep for 2 weeks of camping with all the necessary equipment and also to plan adequate meals for the trip with the rest of our party. Logistically, I can honestly say, we nailed it and everyone involved in this trip made it even more special. This trip meant the world to me for numerous reasons, some of those reasons were that we would kick off our camping trip on my mom’s 2-year anniversary of her passing, also I was re-creating the trip that I did with my parent’s when I was a young boy and last because I was doing this trip with my family and some of my closest friends. Abby and I began prepping everything 2 weeks prior to our trip, we noticed that the weather was going to be crazy in all of the locations that we intended to go so packing extra gear seemed like a waste of space in our car and also unnecessary weight but we decided to take our gear just in case we did ended up needing it (we used all of our gear). Now… Since our trip took 2 weeks to complete I am going to breakdown the blog into numerous posts per campsite or location throughout this week instead of having one massive blog. The main reason is because by the time I complete writing the blog, it is going to be just as long as The Lord of the Rings trilogy and I clearly don’t want you (the reader) to lose interest. That being said, please stay tuned throughout the week as Abby and I will be releasing a blog daily this whole week.

Our first stop was Colorado and our timing was more than perfect. Since Abby and I grew up in Colorado we felt like we had a lot to do in 1 day, (exhausting day). I had the chance to visit my dad and my little Eyra tagged along for the ride while Abby had the opportunity to visit her family and also join her high school classmates for her 10-year high school reunion. Abby and I were exhausted since we arrived to Colorado at 2:30am on Saturday, June 3rd and only had a few hours of sleep before we began our day, after all we did drive 10 straight hours from Iowa to Colorado on Friday afternoon on June 2nd. Abby had a blast and I got the chance to catch up with my dad while Eyra terrorized my parent’s house. That day was not enough for all of the activities that Abby and I had planned but we made the best of it. The following day, my brother (Edgar), my sister in Law (Karla) and nephew (Christopher) met us at my in-law’s house since we planned on eating breakfast there before we kicked off our 2-week adventure. Camp Dick was the place that I choose to kick off this trip since that was my mom’s favorite location and we sure enjoyed 2 glorious days there. The weather was perfect, no mosquitoes, the nights were peaceful, the wildlife was abundant, the night sky was clear and the stars were bright and let’s not forget about the great company and the delicious food.

When we arrived to Camp Dick, we arrived a little bit earlier than originally intended since our reserved campsite was still being occupied, that being said we decided to do a short hike that turned out to be more of a 3 1/2-hour hike since we took our sweet time and enjoyed the scenery. Camp Dick usually opens the week of Memorial Day but due to late snowstorms some campgrounds and trails were pushed back an additional week from opening for safe measure. As we parked 50 yards away from the Middle St. Vrain Trail, we began to noticed a lot of downed trees. I have been to Camp Dick numerous times and I have never seen the trail this badly damaged.

As we continued on the trail, some of my favorite spots were a bit unrecognizable and also challenging to get to. Sections of the trail were wet and muddy and the downed trees were more of an obstacle but we were just happy to be there that we really didn’t care about the conditions that the trail was in and we made it work. I am sure many people had the same thoughts as we kept running into groups of people that had the same idea, besides don’t expect to camp or hike without getting dirty. When we see a trail in those conditions, that is an invitation for us to go and play hard.

Once we reached the 2-mile mark, we arrived to a beautiful waterfall that was completely over flowing. I could not believe how high the water levels were, but I suppose I shouldn’t have been very surprised since the trail still had a few areas of packed snow and slush. Since the water levels were high, the waterfall looked even more impressive but also uninviting. The waterfall is a perfect location to relax and have a quick breather, to gulp some water and have a snack. Why is it so perfect, you ask? The reason is the location. That area is perfectly flat. At that moment Eyra wanted to get out of her Osprey pack (of course) and yes I was super nervous the whole time because, like any other kid, Eyra was curious to see the waterfall and yeah… I wasn’t going to allow that without supervision since that is asking for trouble. Fortunately, Eyra found a downed tree and began balancing on it and boy was I glad because that waterfall was for sure raging. Seconds later we noticed a group of girls (late 20’s) that were also after the amazing view of the waterfall and the picture frenzy began. This is what I don’t understand, my brother’s GPS didn’t have much signal, in fact no signal at all. Camp Dick is notorious for blocking any electronic device from functioning, besides… We were in the mountains; it is expected for any electronics to not function. Well, I was proven wrong. All of these chicks were busting out the duck lips, Throwing the peace sign, posting pictures on Facebook and Instagram and saying “YOLO” who says that? I haven’t heard that since 2012. How the hell did they get reception? Curiosity killed the cat and I had to ask. Turns out that they weren’t even aware of their cell reception. Their phones just worked. Not even on edge, I mean 3 full bars on 4g? WTF?? I will stop being a hater, I was just jealous. Seconds later I heard a scream and a grunt, as I turned to see where it came from I noticed Christopher (my nephew) holding his right shoulder and he began to scream again, we were all confused to what was happening in front of our eyes. As he lets go of his shoulder I noticed something fell to the ground. It was a bumblebee that stung him twice. I was surprised because Christopher took it like a champ and all the girls thought he was the bees knees! Haha, get it?? No but seriously, all the chicks surrounded Christopher and told him how brave he was and of course documented every detail as if they were going to sell the story to the New York Times.

Christopher grabbed a piece of snow from the ground and began icing the stings. I mean seriously, this kid is one tough dude. If that happened to me, I would have made those girls call the Flight for Life helicopter to come rescue me. As we began to descend, the trail began to change. More mud, more slush and more people, but the weather was surprisingly nice, perhaps high 70’s. I should have asked the girls what the weather was like on their phones.

After an interesting and fulfilling hike, it was time for us to set up camp and begin cooking our first meal, Abby and I made broccoli and cheese soup in bread bowls and boy did that hit the spot. Just like that, the beginning of an eating frenzy had commenced and would continue for the 2 weeks to come. You would have thought that by hiking for 3+ hours we would be tired and ready for a nap but on the contrary, we went down by the creek and only listened to what nature had to offer; the humming of the humming birds, the relaxing watery sounds of the creek, the wind caressing the trees, Eyra throwing pine cones into the river and more. Being there made me forget about all of my responsibilities. I didn’t think about work (not even for 1 second), I didn’t think about mowing the lawn, I didn’t even think about using my phone and that’s what camping is all about. Camping in my opinion is the perfect cure for the soul and it’s the one time where you reconnect with your inner person or your inner self. You are no longer an employee, supervisor, client, etc. While camping I believe in myself and what I can do, whether is trusting myself to hike, trek, cook, start a fire, read a map, read the stars, recognize certain plants, spot animals and be aware of my surroundings and knowing my limits and that goes with the other outdoor activities that we do as a family.

I want to show and teach my daughter what my parents did in my case. My parents showed me parks, countries, places, museums that I never even knew existed and gave me aspirations and goals in life but they also got me addicted to that darn REI store. I guess as far as addictions go, that one is the least of my concerns. One of the things I noticed during our stay in Camp Dick was the drastic temperature change, During the day we had a nice mid 70’s day but during the night we dropped to 38 degrees. Since the temperatures dropped quickly mostly around 5:00pm, we decided to start the fire early and sacrifice a marshmallow to the fire God’s before our actual s’more ritual. Well…we don’t really have a ritual, we just make our marshmallows golden brown and eat s’mores until our heart’s content. Our first night at Camp Dick, the sky was so clear that satellites were really easy to spot, we counted 9 with a 5-minute period.

The following day, Monday June 5th. We decided to up our game and went straight to Brainard Lake Recreation Area which was maybe a 10-minute drive from our location. We were all amazed to see the park’s main entrance closed and only 1 trail was open that required snow shoes or YakTrax (shoe spikes). Fortunately for us we had the YakTrax and winter gear. According to the park ranger the trail was covered by 6 feet of snow but the weather was surprisingly warm. The nice weather was our sign and we committed to the hike. We prepped up, grabbed our snacks, water, jackets, backpacks and more and we set out for Sourdough Trail that would eventually lead us to Brainard Lake. The hike was beautiful and we hiked for a while but unfortunately due to the instability of the snow, we did not reach our destination. I slipped and fell with Eyra but thankfully I fell on my knees and no one got hurt, that was an indication that we should turn back before the weather got warmer and the snow began to melt even more.

The trail began to get harder on our way back. Two hours later we were back into the safety of my brother’s truck as a storm was beginning to brew towards the west. The wind was beginning to pick up and the nice weather was changing rapidly that it seemed to get cold instantly. As we finished the trail and began eating more snacks by the truck, the park rangers asked us for an update on the trail since we were the only crazies to have done it that day. The park rangers had been getting asked for updates on the trail conditions by the many more people that were waiting by the trailhead. I couldn’t believe how many people we saw with flip flops or Teva sandals! Even the park rangers lightly laughed at the visitors, telling them that the trail contained 6 feet of snow and slush. Some visitors were in denial and attempted to hike only to return minutes later. I don’t see why we would lie about the conditions of the trail. Maybe they didn’t like the comment about lack of preparedness.

On our way back to Camp Dick we encountered our first wild animal, I am glad my brother was paying attention to the road because we came close to a white tail deer and that was the beginning of more amazing wildlife in the days to come or hours. As we got back to Camp Dick, we attempted to nap since the hike sure drained our energy (and it was drizzling) but since Eyra slept a good portion of the hike on my back, she was wired that whole afternoon. As I was falling asleep, an unexpected visitor came to spend the afternoon with us. My dad showed up to spend time with us but to also celebrate my mom’s passing anniversary on that day. That afternoon was really special as both my dad and I hiked to my mom’s favorite location within the Middle St. Vrain trail (waterfall) and we stood there for quite some time just looking into the horizon. I know my mom was watching us in some way or form. What happened next made me feel extremely lucky and I wish I had taken a picture but there was literally no time and making a wrong move could have jeopardized our safety.

As my dad and I were heading back to camp I noticed a large animal ahead of us but couldn’t quite figure out what it was. The Middle St. Vrain trail is also a horse trail so I initially figured that’s what it was until we got close enough to distinguish the creature. It was a massive male moose! He saw us and we saw him; there was a 30 second Mexican standoff (neither of us moved while maintaining eye contact). The only good thing going for us that afternoon was the cover of the nearby trees and since there were downed trees, we figured the moose would not fit through tight spots and would not charge…nope!!! This huge sucker charged! Luckily, just as we thought, the moose would not fit in between the trees and that’s how we managed to get away. Once we got back to camp I think Abby, Karla and Edgar thought we were kidding at first when we mentioned what had happened to us but I guess they saw our scared faces that they believed us. I just want to throw this out there… I am glad I have a tent above my car to avoid most wildlife. But even in this case for a moose, my tent is still not tall enough.

Abby made an amazing dish of tortellini soup with garlic bread and I am positive that Abby, Karla, Edgar and Christopher were tired of hearing our moose encounter story! It was awesome. Talk about an adrenaline rush! I am just glad we had trees for cover and that Eyra was not with me. My dad left an hour later after having dinner and we welcomed the night by eating more s’mores and relaxing by the fire. We made sure to enjoy that night since I don’t know when we will be back to Camp Dick. The following morning Edgar made us an amazing breakfast, we packed and were ready to head to our next destination by 8:00am. But before officially heading out, we fueled up and bought ice for our coolers in Nederland which is a small town 12 miles away from Camp Dick.

I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect location to start our trip, our spirits were lifted and our hearts were craving more adventure and that’s what we set out to find. Please stay tuned as we will be posting a blog about our Saddlehorn Campground experience in Grand Junction soon.

Sneak peak photo of Saddlehorn campground.

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To be continued…