Last year for the Valentine’s weekend, Billy and I were engaged. We borrowed Billy’s parent’s car and drove up to see his sister, Hillary, in Rexburg, Idaho. It was a fantastic trip. Hillary is a banquet chef, so she whipped up this amazing and romantic meal that we enjoyed with friends. We explored the BYU Idaho campus and went hiking up R mountain. The trip was more fun than I could have imagined. We even explored the sand dunes that Napoleon Dynamite was filmed at.
This Valentine’s weekend was just as much an adventure as last year. We kept with the theme of hiking, but this time we went south instead of north.
To prepare we made homemade, whole wheat bread, healthy granola bars, and packed up nuts, cheese, apples, and oranges/grapefruits. We brought some Ramen so we could have something easy and warm for dinner when we camped.
We left Sunday morning to drive down to Goblin Valley State Park. The drive was relaxing and exciting. We were getting away from the smog-filled, frozen Provo and into the wild and beautiful Southern Utah. Billy had to make me wait to get out the granola bars we’d made because I’d wanted to eat them before we even hit the highway.
After only three hours of driving we were pulling up to the pay station for Goblin Valley. It was so great to be here! Everyone always talked about this place and I had never heard a bad word about it, so I was thrilled that we were actually here and that we’d devoted a whole day to roam the park.
I wasn’t disappointed when we parked and got out. Basically, this place is an endless playground for adults.
There were never-ending climbing possibilities. In fact, there were a couple times that Billy climbed up things that I couldn’t (I cheered from below).
It was perfect weather, somewhere in the 50s. There was snow in places where the sun didn’t reach, but the sun was shining and it got warm climbing around. Billy was wearing a Camelback and we brought in some string cheese to snack on if we got hungry. It was such an adventure. Some parts were really slick with mud, so we had to slide down mudslides to get out of the situations we’d gotten ourselves stuck in.
Most people don’t know that there are three “valleys” to this place. The main one is when you first enter the park. We climbed over some towering crags to clamber into the second valley. I got scared at one point because I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to climb back out of this hole we’d lowered ourselves down to. Luckily the river we were following wrapped around and led us out to the open. Billy has really good natural instincts about hiking and camping and directions. I’m glad he does, because I’m really great at getting lost and stuck.
The sun began sinking but we kept going. Billy wanted to see if there was a way to climb to the top of the wall that was on the edge of the park. Of course he found a way. Once he did, he lifted me up. He laughed and said he could either wait ten minutes for me to find a way to get myself up or he could just climb back down and hoist me up. When we climbed to the top the view was amazing. We called it the Land Beyond.
You can see for miles and miles. It was thrilling to be up that high and to feel the strong winds pushing against you.
The sun was getting lower so we decided to head out. We wanted to get our tent set up before it was dark, so we hopped into the car and drove out of the park since it costs $23 to camp inside. We drove about five minutes down the road, and then pulled off this little dirt road that went right up to the outside of the walls of the park. Nobody was around. I’m not sure if anyone was camping out there at all. We quickly erected our tent and I made a little home inside while Billy got the fire going.
It was a great night. We sat by the fire and ate some warm Ramen noodles and an orange. When the fire started dying down we decided to get to sleep so we could be rested for the next day of adventures.
We both slept pretty well. It was cold outside the sleeping bag, but inside it was nice and toasty. We woke up to a beautiful morning. It was quickly warming up and the sun was shining so happily that it was impossible to not feel great about life. These huge ravens would fly through the canyon and their wings would make these great “whoosh”ing sounds that were startling because we’d never heard anything like it. When we finally decided to get up, it took less than 30 minutes to pack everything up. Our tent is so nice! It was our first time using it and it was so simple that I could have done it by myself.
We walked around our hidden camping spot for a bit, then hopped in the car and drove an hour to Capitol Reef National Park.
I was so excited to be here. We have a huge Southern Utah National Park trip planned for three weeks this summer, and I’ve come to love the idea of National Parks.
We parked at the first trailhead we saw. We had looked up about three hikes we’d wanted to do, but we were eager to get on a trail so we didn’t wait to find those ones. We started hiking.
We first did the Hickman Bridge hike. It was a kid-friendly hike that took less than an hour to do. We ran across three other groups of hikers.
It was icy in some parts, but once again the weather was perfect. It was so beautiful and peaceful there. On this trail, they put up signs every once in a while reminding everyone to stay on the trail so as not to damage the plants and wildlife. We only strayed a few times (half the time because we kept realizing we were lost and no longer on the trail).
Soon we finished that hike and figured, what the heck, may as well do the other ones. Four miles of hiking couldn’t be that bad, right?
It was gloriously brutal.
It was a very steep hike, with many elevation changes all throughout. We kept hiking, and hiking. We thought we had surely passed the Canyon Overlook and were nearing the Navajo Knobs. Finally we saw a sign and my stomach sank a little. It was only the sign for the Canyon Overlook. To get to Navajo Knobs we’d have to double the distance we’d already gone.
Billy wanted to go ahead and keep going. I did too but I was getting nervous. We’d only brought one string cheese and one Camelback of water. But we went ahead and kept hiking.
It was stunning. I had thought that the beginning of the hike had been gorgeous. It had been, but the further we hiked the more beautiful it got. Everywhere you looked was some amazing, real-life portrait of untold beauty. There were such vibrant colors everywhere you turned. If we were going to die, I couldn’t imagine a better place to do it.
We were so high up. The picture above doesn’t even do it justice. The land across from us in the picture are more mountains. It was crazy being at such a high elevation. You feel like you’re on the edge of the world, like you’re really seeing the Earth for the first time.
That’s the road we drove out on. You can barely see the car on it.
I had a headache by this point and I just wanted to get it done so we could get off this mountain. I kept putting one heavy foot in front of the other. Billy was always ahead of me.
The trail we were hiking was made up of these swells. We would climb to the peak and then have to go down to climb back up the next steep peak.
Like that. We had to climb up four or five of those Pride Rocks. Every time we’d get to the next peak we’d look around the corner and see another and I wanted to die a little each time. But we’d come this far. So we kept pushing forward.
The hike got a little discouraging sometimes, but at least we always had views like this one.
Finally we got near the top. We had to scramble a few times and wind our way around the knob, but once we got there it filled me with awe. It was unlike anything we’d seen yet. It was definitely worth every second of hiking we’d done thus far.
It was incredibly windy. It almost made you feel like you’d be blown off soon. I was filled with so much energy and triumph that I didn’t even mind that we had so far to get back to the car at this point. I was completely invigorated. If anyone is ever feeling down about life, I suggest going on this hike.
We started the descent. It sounds like it would be easy, but really it wasn’t. At all. Because the Pride Rock peaks always dipped down before it made you climb up the steep incline. It was exactly like our trip UP to the Knobs. It was punishing, yet not as bad as the emotionally-draining hike up. On the way down I was happier, more filled with energy. I was leading us now.
To get down faster we ran down the slopes. Both of our bodies were rebelling in pain. And we were both hungry. And we finished off the water. Nothing sounded sweeter than sitting in our car.
Finally we finished. We had hiked ten steep miles in six hours. Our bodies were completely drained, but they had never felt so good before. We ate some delicious cheesy bread and hit the road.
You see those little white knobs on the top of the mountain right above the road? That’s what we climbed to the very tippy top of. A couple hours before we had been ON TOP OF those little white knobs. Looking out over the whole, beautiful world.
It was a grand Valentine’s adventure.