After our 2014 Northwest Tour, I realized that we needed to get out more and see this beautiful country with our kids, especially Utah. Everywhere we went along the coast, people would ooh! and ahhh! when they heard we were from Utah. A lot of the rangers at the different national parks we went to mentioned that Utah was at the top of their lists of places to see. Some even said they were jealous that we call Utah home. It made me curious about our home state. What had I been missing out on all of these years? As we arrived home, I looked at the majestic Wasatch Mountains and the Great Salt Lake and thought, “Wow! Utah really IS fabulous!” I vowed to use all of my plasma money, from this summer, to make traveling around UT a possibility. I knew Aaron would be starting his new job in a few weeks. He won’t be able to get more than 2 weeks of vacation for the first year or two. So, I wanted to make sure we got all of the vacation time we could in the meantime.
I have been to Bryce Canyon once (about 7 years ago). It was for a family reunion and we had several little ones and a little baby, so it wasn’t the best time to go exploring). I had never been to Capitol Reef and Aaron couldn’t remember going there. Since it was close to Bryce Canyon and also had a Junior Ranger program, we decided that these two national parks would fit the bill for our first mini tour through Utah.
A few of our friends mentioned a campsite in a little town called Fruita, for our Capitol Reef stay. We arrived in Fruita and discovered that it really is an oasis in the desert. We checked out the visitor’s center and drove in to the camp ground see if we could get a site (it was still the time of year where it was first come, first serve).
Here are some of the orchards in Fruita. It was so awesome! They had several different types of fruit trees throughout. Visitors can pick the fruit they want, weigh it, and pay (on their honor). There wasn’t a lot of fruit when we got there, but it was cool enough just to see the whole set up. The mulberry trees were HUGE!
We watched a film at the visitor’s center and it explained the history of Fruita and Capitol Reef a little better. The early settlers created a series of orchards and an irrigation system. I am surprised it has survived all of these years. Not only is their intense heat and dryness of the area, there are flash floods that can wipe out homes and vegetation. These are some really strong trees!
A picture says a thousand words….or the amount of pictures I took says a thousand words. I had to narrow down how many I shared. There were so many different vistas that took my breath away.
We found a little campsite and set up our tent. Doesn’t it look so pretty, with the orange rock in the horizon?
Since we rarely get any pictures of the two of us while on vacation, I made sure to get at least one picture right at the beginning.
I thought it ironic that we had these shirts on. Definitely Quiksilver and his Queen!
After we set up camp, we decided to head out to do a little hike. We chose the Capitol Gorge trail because it was rated easy. And it truly was. The weather was amazingly perfect! Overcast, not too hot, temps around 70. It was a little scary to think that at any moment we could have a flash flood. I just tried not to think about it too much and enjoyed the outdoor experience of hiking through a gorge.
Toy Yoda at Capitol Gorge….because she was excited to be there!
As we were entering the trailhead, we were welcomed by a family who had just finished hiking in. I asked them if they wanted a few photos together and they happily allowed me to take their picture. Then they offered to take our family pic. Sah-weet!
Another hiking moment where everyone else is yards ahead of the lingering photographer. I tried to keep up, to stay in the moment as much as possible. Sometimes, it is just so difficult for me….so much beauty all around! I mean, look at these walls!!
My little troopers. Simon kept asking if I was going to take their picture (I think he is turning into a photo hound), so I finally had them climb up into one of the caves (formed by water, over several thousand years) and got a picture.
The kids thought this was the most amazing thing they saw on this hike….it was pretty cool.
None of the kids complained about the hour and a half hike. In fact, they kept saying this was the best hike ever. LOL
Castle Rock was one of my favorite formations in Capitol Reef.
As a part of the Junior Ranger program, the kids chose to listen to a ranger share the brief history of the geological aspect of Capitol Reef. Fascinating! This is the demo of the different layers being pushed into a monocline . It was really intriguing to learn about how all of these formations began and why there were so many layers of different colors (which was so fun to see!).
The rangers were pretty awesome at Capitol Reef. The kids had to do a little more than they were used to doing, but still enjoyed earning their badges. Love my Junior Rangers!
This was definitely my favorite image from Capitol Reef. LOVE, LOVE LOVE the Apache Plume!
And the tie dye sky? Yeah, I think we came to Capitol Reef the perfect time of year and were so blessed to have such ideal weather!
So many rainbows!
As we were driving around Capitol Reef, we saw these bighorn sheep mamas and babies. The entire herd was crossing the road. It was so much fun watching them traverse the mountain, especially the little ones who are still learning.
“Mom! Take my picture!” I must have around 50 images of pictures Simon wanted me to take of him. I tried faking shots, but he knew I wasn’t taking any pictures and asked to see the screen. Busted!
The hike up to Hickman Bridge the next day had some absolutely stunning views.
The kids didn’t complain about this hike either. In fact, everyone except Lukie said they love to hike. Luken let me know after this hike that he “is not a hiker”.
Hickman Bridge was another easy hike and we were there in no time.
Love my hiking companions! Looking forward to hiking increasingly more and more difficult trails, as they all grow up and are capable.
We had Jamin take a shot of us together.
We lucked out and there were a couple of young ladies who arrived around the same time as us. They offered to take a family photo for us. Of course!
This little lady was all decked out in pink and I couldn’t resist getting a few shots of her with the pink stone.
Follow the pink stone path! Follow the pink stone path! Follow! Follow! Follow! Follow! Follow the pink stone path!
The petroglyphs were so awesome! Many years ago, this was an awesome story for some ancient civilization or another.
After an evening and then a morning full of Capitol Reef, we headed out to Bryce. On our way to Bryce Canyon, we saw quite a few cattle. I tried to get a shot of this baby nursing, but there wasn’t a shoulder and we were going pretty fast, so this is what I got.
Our road took us over what looked like Hell’s Backbone.
Deep incline down both sides of the road. It was a little bit unnerving for me to be driving down the middle of a very narrow ridge. Luckily it was only for about 3 or 4 miles of the trip.
The view was magnificent, when I didn’t think about the drop….
Finally, we arrived in Bryce Canyon!
We were thrilled, THRILLED, to see that there were some spots left in Sunset Campground (this was the campground Aaron remembers camping at as a child). We couldn’t find any available tent sites, but they let us stay in one of the RV sites.
The boys have gotten really quick with putting up our tent. Booyah! And the kids were excited to have a campfire. The spot we had in Fruita didn’t allow fires, so we didn’t get to roast marshmallows the first night.
We also had some pretty awesome neighbors. I got talking with them and found out they were from SLC (which, believe it or not, isn’t as common as you’d think). They have an adorable little man named Peter. He fit right in with our crazy bunch!
We got to see this mama pronghorn antelope and her twins. I couldn’t get a very good shot (they were moving and I was far away, without a tripod). But you can still see how adorable they are. When the mama went to cross the road, the little ones finally came behind her. She seemed to be really immune to humans. Not sure if that is a good or bad thing. 😉
Bryce Canyon is more beautiful than I remember.
The kids wanted to hike again (except for Lukie, of course, who was back to crazy poses for my pictures). We had heard that the combo of Queen’s Garden and Navajo Loop were easy and beautiful. I think we had been spoiled by the cooler weather enough that when we finally had a really hot day at Bryce, we just about died. Plus, to make matters worse, I had recently purchased some new hiking sandals and hadn’t broken them in before we left on our trip. I had a few blisters and was partially miserable for this hike….
I still managed to find beauty all around.
Hiking the Hoodoos!
I was the only member of our family without a green shirt (I don’t own one in that shade and I didn’t have time to find one). I need to find one before our next trip!
The skies were SO blue! I didn’t adjust the blue tint on this image at all. This must be what skies look like, when the pollution is low.
These little tunnels were fun to see. It must have been quite the adventure for someone to figure out the best trail and carve part of it out of the mountainside!
We made it to Queen’s Garden!
Someone offered to take our picture and we couldn’t refuse that.
Jamin bought a camelback for his birthday and everyone got to try it out on our hike. Definitely getting a few for the family, when we get back home!
Love this man!
“Mom, take my picture!”…..
And into the end of Navajo Loop….so amazing!
I was far behind everyone else, blistered, hot, thirsty, exhausted, but I took a few minutes to take this landscape in. God does amazing work!
Did I mention I love this man?
This was probably my favorite photo in Bryce. Such a contemplative pair.
We took a break after our hot hike and went to the visitor’s center (mostly because we knew it would be air-conditioned). The kids had to do a ranger program to earn their Junior Ranger badges. It just so happened that this weekend was a really big event in Zion, where stargazers from all over the world came to see the stars together. The solar program, included looking at the sun through these two telescopes. One showed the sun with 2 sunspots on it and the other made it look red, so you could view it and the flares coming off of it. So cool.
My little scientists loved it!
I love that Aaron is so involved with these guys. The older kids do their own Junior Ranger packets, but Aaron always helps Simon. This Junior Ranger badge was the most difficult one, to date. Seriously, each of the kids had to find and pick up 10 pieces of garbage, bringing said garbage back to the ranger…..this is a rather clean park. And they had so many terms and equations that were difficult to understand. Still, the older boys figured them out enough to earn their badges.
The younger kids took turns launching rockets they made at the solar exhibit.
They thoroughly enjoyed this part. The volunteers really went the extra mile to make sure the kids had fun!
So did the parents.
Simon wanted to launch his rocket again and again. And the volunteers helped him to make his rocket go farther than any other rocket. He was in heaven!
The kids spent a few hours working on their badges and even earned a special reward (a postcard of Bryce Canyon) for hiking the hoodoos.
Lukie found a few bottle caps to add to his collection. These ones look pretty stellar.
Aaron and I had a little bit of heat exhaustion, so we sat and relaxed. Ethan and Jamin were awesome and took over dinner while we recovered. I sure love these young men!
I went to Sunset Point to get some shots. They turned out wonderfully. I am looking forward to coming back when I have a better camera and getting some more.
We drove up to the highest points of Bryce Canyon and looked out of most of the viewpoints. When we got to this one, we found this little guy, begging for food. Most people would say, “Ahh, how cute!” when they see something like this. It made me sad. Because people can’t figure out how to NOT feed the animals, those animals are now dependent upon humans for their food. Aaron and I took a moment to have a teaching moment with the kids. I explained how feeding the chipmunks is like the welfare system. It seems like a great idea, a noble deed, a wonderful thing to help others out. Right? But when someone can no longer figure out how to take care of themselves (which, having had a husband who worked in that system for many, many years and saw it firsthand, we can attest this sad process), it is a disabling act. It takes away their freedom, their capabilities, and even their self-worth. And that is such a shame. Likewise, it is with these animals. This squirrel kept posing, in the hopes of getting some food from us. We didn’t feed it. We know better.
Aaron found this baby horny toad and picked it up to show the kids. I love that he has such a love of nature.
The kids each took turns holding the horny toad (which is really a lizard, btw). Then we put our friend back where he was heading, when we found him.
“Mom! Wanna take a picture of me….with Ry Ry?” Um, yes! Love that these two are so close.
I love nature, too. Thistle always gets such a nasty rap. I love it. I almost bought a silver-coated thistle in Italy. It was around $200, so I had to pass. but boy was it beautiful! The design of these “weeds” will always astound me.
At first, you might think, “Wow, how awesome to be able to get a shot of a crow up close!” Yeah, it would be, if this guy wasn’t actually begging for food, just like our little chipmunk friend. When we pulled up to this viewpoint, there were many visitors all with their cameras out. That was when I noticed the two crows, flying back and forth. The visitors thought they were lucky. Nope, these guys have just been fed human food. Now, they spend their days waiting for visitors to feed them, like monkeys in a circus. So sad.
We made it up to the Natural Bridge lookout and it was worth the drive up, just to see it. I love bridges & arches and am really looking forward to our future trip to Arches & the Canyonlands.
“Mom! Wanna take my picture?” Never got old. Especially, when he would sit down and look away from me….um, what is up with that pose? 😉
Toy Yoda in Bryce Canyon.
We went up to the Mossy Caves, another easy hike and much cooler than the previous day’s hike.
The caves, themselves, weren’t that spectacular…
but we noticed a waterfall further up the pathway and decided to venture up there and check it out.
I don’t know if this is a fungus or what, but I found it very lovely.
The waterfall was a part of a river that had been formed by early settlers, set up as a part of an irrigation system that involved diverting several natural rivers into one. Pretty amazing!
I really enjoyed all of the hoodoos of Bryce. This was the perfect place to end our weekend adventure!
On our way back to Toy Yoda, we ran into our friends and I got a few shots of them with their family.
So much fun meeting other adventurers and lovers of the outdoors! Looking forward to our next Utah adventure! 🙂