Sunday, October 07, 2007

Utah Camping Journal

Last Thursday Bernie and I flew to Salt Lake City to visit son Jeff and daughter Laura. Laura's doing a nursing rotation in SLC and has moved in with Jeff for awhile. It's the first time they have shared a home together in ten years. Ten years ago they were both in their late teens.
They have discovered that they actually like each other, now that they are adults. And we've discovered that we really like being together as a family as four adults. Usually it is hard to co-ordinate all of our work schedules and geographic location. But since the two of them are both in one place for awhile, we made plans for an autumn adventure.
We all liked to camp way back when but it's been years since we have gone camping together. Both the kids own tents; both kids still enjoy going camping.
Bernie and I? Not so much....heat, humidity, and mosquitoes do not make for camping delight in Texas.
Originally we planned to go up to the mountains to Heber Valley, about an hour from Jeff's house. But when the weather report predicted snow, Jeff did some quick research, and found a perfect place to go instead. We decided to drive three hours south of Salt Lake, to explore the area called Capitol Reef National Park.
If you'd like, you can come along and see the highlights in the pictures below. You won't even need a sleeping bag!

We arrived at our camp ground in the dark, pitched our tents, and heated up canned stew and had stew and salad for a late dinner. The stars overhead were incredible!

In the morning I was astonished to discover that this was the view from our camp ground. Not bad, huh?
I was so excited to see the fall colors and beautiful red rock mountains in the morning light.
Two little tents were all we needed. The camp ground DID have hot water showers too...thank you Jeff for the extra camp ground research you did to make that treat possible.

The golden aspen shivering against an impossibly blue sky; an autumn dream made into my day's reality.

With a view like this...
and this, we knew we wouldn't be inside much anyway.

After a pancake, sausage and egg breakfast, cooked by Mr B., we left to go explore.

Hickman Bridge was our first hiking destination. We hiked through rain drops that served to brighten the colors around us.

The colors were beautiful, whether up close or at a distance.

Rain, wind and water equals a natural bridge. We wondered how long it will last. Centuries? Decades?

The boys.

A smaller bridge. It was a fairly strenuous hike up to the Hickman Bridge; when we saw this bridge on the way up we were like: This is it?
It was still pretty interesting. Especially realizing that the rain that was falling on us could easily cause a flash flood, and where we were standing could be filled with water in minutes.

Laura's hair is the same color as the red rock!

On the trail back out.

My babies...all grown up.

I marveled at how much fun we were having, and thought of the years when family harmony was rare between the kids. If only I could have had a glimpse of this day back then, it would have given me so much to look forward to!
We camped in a little town called Torrey; down the road a bit was another town call Fruita.
Fruita was mapped by the explorer Fremont in the 1860's; then ten Mormon families settled it in the 1880.
The ten families planted orchards that are still producing fruit.
On this crisp fall day some hundred and twenty years later, both deer family and human families were out enjoying harvesting apples from those same orchards.
What a gorgeous setting for an orchard!
Each orchard had ladders and picking poles at the ready for visitors.
Of course the deer knew they didn't need to bother with the ladders; the humans would soon be knocking apples out of the trees any way.
The apples were absolutely delicious.

The deer were so funny. They were a little shy, but would stand there looking at you chewing an apple like a human would chew gum. So often they would be in a group with their heads down, and no amount of shouting or hand clapping would get them to look up.
Bernie mimic of a rifle shot always got their attention though.
(Note to Dad: There were bucks with four points in the orchard too. I think they have figured you hunters out.)

Jeff made me laugh so hard. He provided deer dialogue:
Deer: "Oh, my stomach hurts. I shouldn't have eaten so many apples."
Next day: "So, whaddaya wanna do today? "
"I dunno."
"Wanna go eat apples?"
"Uh, OK..."
The visitor center had all kinds of diagrams explaining how these formations are created.
I don't remember any of that information; they are just to beautiful to look at to bother thinking about all that scientific stuff.

It was another short hike to a place called Fremont Falls.
Jeff raced up top. I froze in place...the sand and rain had made the rocks slick. Bernie and Jeff were able to help me make the final climb.


Stand back from the edge!

Aaaagghhh...I can't look!
(Laura climbed up around the bend above and took a video for me so I could see the full effect of the water rushing through the narrow passage. My thrill seeker daughter...She sure didn't get it from me!)
We were so fortunate; while it did rain on us a little, it never got so bad that we felt we had to stop doing what we were doing. If anything, the rain and clouds enhanced the experience by adding color and shadows to each scene.
As we finished our first day of exploration, we were treated to the ultimate color display: A double rainbow in the sky!

It was amazing to see THROUGH the rainbow to the red rock cliffs behind.

All that day I kept saying how this was perfect day, a gift to our family of time together in a beautiful place, enjoying each other's company. I never dreamed that God intended to wrap up this perfect day gift with a bow, let alone a double rainbow!
Once we got back to camp, Jeff made the perfect campfire. A log cabin square with a tee pee on top is the trick he informed me. It was so nice that the logs were so dry that there practically was no smoke from the fire at all.
Jeff grilled some steaks while I made corn on the cob and mashed potatoes.

Add a salad, and ding dinner is served! Even though we ate in the rain it was a delicious meal. We could have moved to a sheltered area if we had wanted to, but it just felt fine to stay in our little campsite and enjoy our meal.

The fire stayed blazing and warm, and of course we honed our marshmallow roasting skills and enjoyed a few s'mores too.
The temperature dropped during the night, and there was frozen precipitation on the tents. Personally I was in total bliss as I snuggled in and got to listen to the rainfall on the tent. The wind blew hard, and the combined sound lulled me to sleep.

The next morning the wind was still blowing pretty good, but the boys got a fire going right away, and a hot shower chased any overnight chills away. Hot oatmeal and yogurt, and fresh fruit and coffee around the campfire made for a perfect breakfast. We talked and read Charles Spurgeon, and joked and generally just savored our time together before we broke camp
Yup, it's a tad bit chilly this morning...where did I put my gloves?
Wish I had brought my Uggs...glad I brought my rain gear! It really helped keep out the wind.
Cute little camp ground...the little cabins looked inviting too, but then I wouldn't have gotten to listen to the rain on the tent. There was a heated pool too; this would be a fun place to camp in summer with little kids.
After we packed up we headed back out into the National Park to choose another hiking trail.

An easy hike along the Fremont River looked good.
Huh...this trail is heading UP.

The scenic view at the top. I discovered both Jeff and I have a bit of vertigo; standing on a cliff edge makes us feel a bit weird.

Laura on the other hand is not bothered at all. Roughly a thousand feet up, nice!

Looking down on the Fremont River, it was easy to see Autumn winding through the valley along the river bends and twists.

We had to hike up further, along a switch back trail to finally reach the very top. I almost quit... but I was so glad hung in there (pant pant, huff, huff..)

What a view!

The way the mountains reared up gave the horizon a cockeyed feeling.
Looking down to where we began our hike.

Bernie was so cute with his scruffy face.
Laura is our family photographer; she's the one who remembers to take posed pictures of us.
Thanks Hon, you are a peach!

Laura has traveled so many places she has learned to always write where she is and to take a picture so she will remember. She has pictures of writing in sand, snow, with rocks and this time, on a rock...using soft sandstone on a surface that rain will wash soon.
Getting closer to the valley floor...

The folage against the red rock...I couldn't stop taking pictures.

Pink, beige, purple, turquoise, rust...the colors changed in layers that didn't seem possible.

A quick picnic, and then we drove a seven mile scenic drive through the National Park. Again, notice how the mountains rose in various angles.
Majestic castle?

The huge slabs that had fallen from the walls long ago?

Fingers? Totems? Mummies? Each scene fired my imagination.

Some of the walls were so massive and sheer. Bits of the walls continued to fall, and the rabbit design may be gone with the next rainstorm.

Laura had also gotten into the habit of purchasing music for each of her travel adventures; in the visitor's center she purchased a CD of haunting blend of old time violin and American Indian music. As we drove along the music provided the perfect soundtrack to a perfect drive.

We left Capitol Reef and headed home; snow was predicted and we drove through small towns being dusted with snow. Deer crossed in front of us, and the blazing red and yellow fall color was soon being seen against a backdrop of white.

The warmth of the car, a cup of hot chocolate and family togetherness soon had me relaxed and asleep. I climbed in bed as soon as we got home while Bernie, Laura and Jeff headed out for pizza.

The next morning we got up and headed out to K2, the church that the kids have been enjoying. Bernie had visited it with Jeff his last visit, and I found it was as inspirational as all of them had said. The church is about to expand onto a second campus. What a joy to see people excited about their church and faith!

After church Bernie left for the airport. I get to hang out with the kids until Tuesday!

Stay tuned for more Utah adventures tomorrow!


Kate said...

Wow! Wow! Wow! Utah is now on my list for places to see when I get home to the USA.

Gorgeous colors. Great pix and beautiful babies too. What a treat!

K Q:-)

Anonymous said...

Wow! I've never been to Utah (gotta get out there one of these days!). Your photos are wonderful! I'd feel as if I was in Heaven if I could get the four of us (plus Laura's hubby) together for a little vacation like this.

Marie Christopher said...

What a wonderful trip. How blessed you all are!

Becky said...

It never ceases to amaze me and leave me in wonder how God is so extremely creative! Everywhere is different and gorgeous. Great pictures, Jill! Glad you have the pleasure of enjoying the family!

Lovella ♥ said...

Oh what a gorgeous place to visit and camp and hike. This has now become a dream destination for me.
I would imagine it would be very hot there in the middle of summer and so you were smart to wait and do your hiking with the crisp autumn air.
I'm just thrilled for you that you had such a wonderful time together with your kids.
These are the memories that keep a mama going for years.
Enjoy today and tomorrow yet. . ..

Sara at Come Away With Me said...

The photos are breathtaking! Such beauty all around. I wonder if you and I were taking photos of those same little purple daisy-like flowers at the same time, you in Utah and me in Colorado! And the golden aspens too. (I'll be posting mine later this week).

Isn't life amazing; isn't God good . . . what a beautiful time your family enjoyed together. Thank you for sharing some of it with the rest of us.

Oh, and I LOVED Laura's idea about writing the date and place and taking a photo. I'm going to remember that for next time.

Kathy said...

What a great vacation with your kids. The scenery is incredible - I'd love to see it myself.

Jane Carlstrom said...

Thanks for sharing your family trip. It was wonderful to join you all. J