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.


To be continued…



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