Southern Utah 3: “South”

After we left Zion we headed for St. George. It was really relaxing and a nice break to be able to go to the St. George Temple. That’s where Lindsey got married! It’s a beautiful temple. Excuse us in this picture. We tried to clean up as best as possible.

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After the temple we drove over to Cedar City. Lindsey’s husband John’s family lives there, and they were gracious and offered for us to stay there. Kari and Terry Pickett were the kindest people. They let us take a well deserved shower, they fed us a ton of food, and they even let us do our laundry! We loved listening to Terry’s stories and Kari is so fun to be around.

Two nights and a breakfast later we were in Kolob Canyon.

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Kolob Canyon is still part of Zion but it’s a bit of a drive away. We drove all around looking at how beautiful it was. This place is a lot less popular than the main canyon. Most of the trails looked pretty intense. We hadn’t planned much time here so we did one quick hike and said our goodbyes.

We had a fun drive down to Kanab. Right off of the highway there’s a dirt road that you can drive 11 miles down to get to a wonderful place called Buckskin Gulch.

We actually drove past the parking lot for Buckskin and went down the road a little ways further. There’s a campground right on the Arizona/Utah border that’s free for whoever gets there first. Unfortunately we got there right as the last spot was taken. We drove around looking forlorn for a while before this nice German couple in their tiny RV waved us over and asked if we wanted to put up our tent on their extra space they wouldn’t be needing. Several “thank you’s” later we had our red little tent set up. They were so nice and offered us coffee about three times. We sadly said no thanks. But we did eat our separate lunches together on the picnic tables. It took several question on our part, but this is their story: they met going to college in Germany, fell in love, came to America for their masters, got married because “it made sense financially,” got bit by the travel bug, traveled all over everywhere, they both work for big companies in Germany, they’re in their early 50s and don’t have any kids. And this is where it gets really interesting. They’d both taken a full year off of work, shipped over their tiny RV from Germany to Canada, and when we met them they’d already been touring the Americas for nine months. It was insane! So they started in eastern Canada, came all the way down the whole eastern coast of America, down through Florida and then through all the Southern states, through Texas and into and ALL THROUGH Mexico, back up and through New Mexico and Arizona and their next stop was Utah.

They were pretty cool and I was glad we’d run into them.

We did some little hikes around our campsite. There was an awesome rock that we decided to climb to get a good view of the area. For miles around there was nothing but sparse desert plants. It was beautiful around there.

The next morning is when the real fun began.

We drove down to the trail head and started hiking. It was 1.7 miles of walking in a dry wash to get to the slots of Buckskin. Once we got to the actual slots we were amazed. We were in these narrow walls of sandstone waves that seemed to reach up higher than the sky itself! It was bewildering! In many places the walls were several different colors. Never before this trip had I known that rocks could be so beautiful. The sun filtered down from the small crack above and illuminated the texture and movement of the bright red rocks. The waves on the walls were innumerable; each one looked as if carefully and lovingly handcrafted. The lines in the sandstone moved along as if alive while you walked. It was hard to grasp the full beauty of this place. It was impressive to say the least.

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The hike was relatively flat, but the ground was all soft sand, which made walking more strenuous. After a while in the slots it would suddenly open into these grand “cathedrals” with bright green trees and grasses

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and then go right back to more slots.

IMG_2258Billy called the beginnings of each of the slots the House of the Dead because of how ominous they looked. Does it look like you’d ever leave after you entered that?

Fun fact about Buckskin Gulch- it is not only alleged to be the longest and deepest slot canyon in the world, but it is also rated as one of the deadliest hikes in America. That’s fun, right? The reason it’s so deadly is mainly due to the fact that flash floods are very possible at all times. It can be clear skies around Buckskin and raining 50 miles away, but because so many areas drain into skinny little Buckskin, your chances of survival are pretty slim if you get caught in one. Here’s an example of how high the water can go.

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So after hiking in for about two miles when I started noticing some storm clouds, I freaked out and wanted to start hoofing it out of there immediately. By the time I convinced Billy to leave I was the one leading, which is a first for our entire trip.

Don’t worry. We made it out alive.

Fun story: only in the beginning of the hike there were these reflective chocolate milk-looking puddles.

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None were very big, and surrounding them it looked like chocolate mousse. Anyway, Billy managed to slip his foot deep into a puddle, which was pretty funny considering how hard it was to land in one. He’d jumped off a rock right into it.

And that’s the end of the fun story.

After our fun times at Buckskin Gulch we tried driving down to see the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, but it was closed still. For winter. On May 10. Makes perfect sense.

Dejected of heart we decided to drive down the road and figure out where to camp. We happened upon the wonderful Kaibob National Forest. And once again it was an awesome experience for us because we got the whole place to ourselves. It was a little chilly and rainy, but the forest was beautiful and private. We loved it.

The next morning we headed east. We stopped and marveled at Monument Valley along the way.

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We drove along and saw some other unnamed beauties.

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We saw the Mexican Hat.

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We drove up the steep, gravel path called the Moki Dugway.

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The views from atop the mesa were unique.

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A great fact about Arizona is that you can basically camp anywhere for free as long as you don’t make a mess and it’s not private property. So we pulled off a dirt road and camped in the middle of nowhere. And again we had another amazing, free, completely private camping spot. It’s one of my favorite things.

After the best night of sleep yet, we woke and drove to Blanding, Utah. Before we got there, however, we stopped off at the Southern Fork of Mule Canyon thanks to a great tip we’d received from our German friends. We hiked a ways on that trail wondering if we were in the right place. This hike had no signs or guidance as to where to go or what to look for. It was a different experience after all those national park trails where every three feet you have a sign pointing you in the right direction and telling you to keep off the grass. We hiked around for fun all morning and then chanced upon this beauty.

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The House on Fire.

And I had to share these gems.

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We left before lunch time and made it to Blanding. We explored the quaint city and ate at Patio Drive In and visited the Pioneer Museum and the visitor center.

Back when I was still at BYU working at my maintenance job and planning out our southern Utah trip, my other boss, Chris, offered and said it would be fine to stay at his parent’s house. He told me about how much his parents love entertaining and having people over. So here we were on their door step a little nervous to knock.

We shouldn’t have ever been the least bit anxious, though. As soon as Janet Wilcox opened the door she made us feel right at home. Her husband Steven was just as warm and friendly.

I love Utah hospitality.

After we talked and got to know each other for a while we excused ourselves to shower and rest a bit. Before we knew it she was calling us down for the most delicious calzones I’ve ever eaten. After dinner Billy and I went to the Monticello Temple. I loved it! It’s one of the smallest temples, so intimate and comfortable. It was such a sweet experience. I left feeling so happy and refreshed.

We went to bed pretty quickly after we got home.

And then we woke to the smell of breakfast.

She’d made us hootenannies (German pancakes). Soon after we filled our bellies we said our goodbyes and thank yous and packed the car and started heading to Canyonlands National Park.

But that adventure must wait for another post.

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