Epic Road Trip – Utah!

Our family planned an Epic adventure!  This is probably the craziest thing that I have ever done.  Below will be the story of our absolutely spectacular adventure through the state of Utah and its Mighty Five Parks with my family and another family that was also going with us.

We started our journey at our humble abode!  That’s where all good adventures start!  Leaving the abode to go out into the world and explore!  We made our way down to the Philadelphia Airport to catch our flights out of the northeast.  This in itself is a little bit of a ride and I put that map below for you to see.

We then boarded our Spirit Airlines Flights leaving Philadelphia for Las Vegas at 7:15PM and landing at approximately 11:00PM Las Vegas time.  The flight was smooth and on-time despite being re-routed to avoid storms in the middle of the country.  Despite having 5 kids with us, 2 teenagers and the rest under 8, they were still awake and eager to see Vegas when we touched down.  We are so lucky to have awesome children.  They were quiet and respectful for the entire flight.

We navigated our way to the baggage claim in the airport, which was no big deal since there were abundant signs all over the place and you just had to follow the crowd.  Waiting for your bags was annoying, but there is really nothing else they could do, you need to wait for them to unload the plane.  I used this time to asses my surroundings and find my way to the next step, figuring out where to go for the rental.

In Vegas, at least at McCarran International airport, there is an off-site rental car section.  You need to take a shuttle to the rental car building where a lot of the rental car companies are located.  The rental car company that I chose was Sixt, and it was not in the rental car building!  So we needed to board another shuttle to get to the rental building for Sixt.

This was not that big of a deal, and if I would have looked up I would have noticed that Sixt is literally across the street from the shuttle bus parking (a little to the right….).  We did take the shuttle but we were in it for about a minute.  The shuttle could only fit 7 of us so they needed to make 2 trips for all 9 of us.

It was late at this point and the help at the Sixt counter was friendly but not very quick.  Since I was tired, my patience was getting thin and that may be where my irritation had come from.  Once they actually took us, it took about 15 minutes of waiting to get any help, the service was excellent and the counter person instantly guessed which car was reserved for us.  The Chevy Express van!

The plan was to stay one night in Vegas, the night we landed, and get the RV the next day.  So we made our way to the Westgate Hotel near the convention center.  It was a short ride and the hotel was very nice.  I would have to say that I even liked this one better than the Luxor, which we stayed in on the way back, and it was much cheaper.  The room was very spacious and accommodating.  If I was going to spend any time in Vegas, I would definitely consider staying here!  The rooms were very nice and the local tram is attached to the hotel so that you can get to the strip easily!  Also, it was the cheapest hotel in town that night!

 

 

Trip to Westgate

View out of the Westgate

The next day we checked out of the Hotel and dragged our bags and all of us to Sid’s Café where we had a delicious breakfast.  Everything that was ordered was delicious and this was a good start to our day.  It filled our bellies for the journey ahead.  Once finished with breakfast, we loaded up the van and headed to Sahara RV.

Now the fun begins!  We arrived at the RV rental center about an hour before we were scheduled to be there.  I went in anyway and stated that I would come back if I needed to but they were very accommodating.  The lady at the desk was very friendly and took care of us in a very polite manner.  She went over everything that we would need, handed us a nice little binder that had all the information in it, and took our money!  Not that it was a bad thing, you need to pay for the rental!  The process was completely painless.

After dealing with all the paperwork, we were then sent out with one of the mechanics to learn how to use the RV.  Since I’ve never driven one or have been responsible for the function of one, I was paying close attention.  He went over everything with us, how to use the slide outs, how to get the generator to go on, how to check the levels in all of the holding tanks.  We then went through the inside of the RV and he explained how everything worked.  We also did a walk through for existing damage.  We did not want to get charged for anything that was already there.  After going through all the functions of the interior, we went outside and he showed us how to hook up to city water, how to hook up the dump pipe, and how to get the generator on if there was an issue with starting it.  We were also shown how to fill up the fresh water tank.  There’s a lot that goes on in an RV, but nothing that is overwhelming.

Once we were satisfied that all was well, we were handed the keys and were free to go.  This thing was big!  Not tractor trailer big or anything, but 31’ is a lot bigger than my VW or even our Envoy!  Surprisingly enough, it was not difficult at all to drive!  I pulled out of the fairly tight parking lot in the back of Sahara RV and made my way down the street to the nearest Wal-Mart where the shopping spree began!

On the way, I was instantly put to the test in the RV.  I don’t know where I’m going so I am completely relying on my GPS to get me around.  I end up having to make an off angle left turn where I can barely see what is coming, this goes fine but then I am tasked with navigating this thing through an active construction zone.  Nothing like being thrown into the fire!  So by the time I get to the nearest Wal-Mart, I am completely comfortable with driving this thing.

This was the plan all along; we were flying to Vegas, Renting an RV, and equipping it when we got there.  There were items for rent from the RV place but it was going to be cheaper to just purchase everything and give it away when we were done.

The below items are what we purchased to keep cost down and be able to function in the RV on this extended trip.

Lawn Chairs – We needed something to sit on while around the campfire!

Kitchen Set – Pots and pans to allow us to cook our meals in the RV.  The RV center wanted to rent them to us for over $100!  This was just cheaper.

Pillows – We purchased a whole bunch of little travel pillows so that we had something to rest our heads on.

Blankets – Everyone needs a blanket to sleep with.  We brought sheets with us, since they folded up small.

Barbeque Grill – We purchased this but actually cooked over the fire.  So we returned it in the end.

We also purchased a ton of food, enough to snack on while driving all day, and some for the following 2 days while we spent time at Slickrock Campground.  In all we walked out of Wal-Mart spending around $400.  Keep in mind this is food for 2 days for 9 people and the additional supplies that were needed for the trip.  We thought that was pretty good.

After a couple of pictures of us loading up into the RV, the kids (all of them!), my wife and I got into the RV and headed out.  We had a full tank of gas and a mission to get out to Moab where we would be spending the next couple of days.  As soon as we got to the highway there was tons of traffic and we needed to move the RV over a couple of lanes to get to where we needed to be to proceed.  I had to cut a couple of cars off because when you are driving something this big, people do not want you to get in front of them.  Might makes right!

It was just that initial heavy merge that was the issue, once you made it just a little outside of Vegas, the roads open up and it is clear sailing!  To my surprise, the speed limits out there are extremely high, 85MPH!  I know some of you are used to that, but I live on the east coast where the highest you see is 65MPH.  This threw the first wrench into our trip, don’t worry there weren’t many (and they were all very minor), is that the GPS calculates the time that it will take based on the speed limit of the roads that you are on!  Guess what!  You can’t really drive an RV at 85MPH!

I spent the first hour or so trying to maintain 75MPH on the highway.  This seemed prudent with that size vehicle but it seemed to be struggling a bit.  I had the cruise set but the engine seems to be struggling, I then came upon a large incline and the cruise could no longer maintain that speed and abruptly cut off.  Apparently this is normal behavior but at the time I did not realize it.  This thing is heavy and under-powered so going up the inclines slows it down dramatically, sometimes down into the 40MPH range.  I wanted to keep the truck healthy so I just babied it up the hills when it was required.  After that fiasco, I set the cruise at a max of 70MPH.  These made the vehicle much easier to control and maneuver and made driving it much more pleasurable.

We drove through some spectacular scenery coming up through Nevada, Arizona, and then finally to Utah!  We stopped on the side of the road for the Utah sign and took pictures.  Life Elevated!  Because you are always 5000ft above sea level!  As we moved north on Interstate 15 the population kept getting thinner and thinner and by the time we made our turn onto Interstate 70, there was very little in population.

This is where my second minor wrench came into play.  In my normal driving style, even when travelling far distances, I let the tank get down to about ¼ tank and then start looking for a gas station.  So, I let the RV do the same since I would think that the size of the tank is proportional to the size of the vehicle.  Don’t get me wrong, it is, but the distance between gas stops is much farther out there.  So we get onto Interstate 70 heading eastbound and find that we are driving right into a national forest.  In my head I’m thinking that we have a really big problem because there won’t be any gas stations in a national forest!  Fortunately, there is a giant gas tank in the RV and we were able to make the approximately 50 miles to the next gas stop.  Crisis averted!

We ended up stopping in this general area for dinner since it was now around 6PM and all the kids were starting to get hungry.  We were pretty far from our destination still so we stopped at Costa Vida, fresh Mexican grill.  This is the first real interaction that I’ve had with anyone who lives in Utah, and being from the Northeast, it was a little bit painful.  I was still in travel mode and wanting to get to the places that I had planned and any slowdown would set me off.  So it seems that we confused the workers with our large family and they kind of messed up the order.  I was not necessarily aggravated at this but I told them how to resolve the issue easily and they could not follow the directions and it annoyed me.  To top it off, I would have expected better Mexican food closer to Mexico, but I guess it was not to be.  Food wasn’t that good…..

At this point, with almost a full tank of gas and full bellies, the kids split up and actually rode in the van for awhile.  My oldest daughter stayed in the RV with us so that she could do all the homework that was assigned to her.  This way it would be done before the vacation actually started.  It was a beautiful ride through the mountains and high plains all the way until it got dark!  Once it was dark, you could not see anything!  It gets really dark out there!  There are no street lights or anything to help you navigate the highway, you just need to pay attention.

We finally arrived at our first stop, Slickrock campground just outside of Moab.  It was late, it was dark, and I’m driving this monster vehicle that I have to back into a very thin spot with not a lot of room on either side.  Not really a problem, had my wing man guided me in and in 5 minutes we were backed in with the slide outs out and ready for bed.

The next morning we awoke to beautiful red rock scenery.  I would have called them mountains but that was not really what they were.  They were just giant red rocks.  I made a nice pot of coffee and sat outside and just looked at the amazing views that were offered.  They weren’t even that good since the campground is right outside of town, but I’ve never seen scenery like that before.

After breakfast, we all loaded up into the Van and headed for Canyonlands National Park.  This was a quick ride up (north) on 191 and then a left onto 313 heading west.  The views just heading into the park were spectacular; you don’t even need to be in the park to be slack jawed at the absolutely amazing scenery that is abundant.

While at the Islands In The Sky, which is a section of Canyonlands we stopped at a bunch of scenic overlooks and took great pictures, we also did the Mesa Arch trail which was an easy trek to a beautiful arch overlooking a canyon and probably my favorite hike of the whole trip, Whale Rock which was a pretty easy hike up to the top of a giant rock that is shaped like a whale.

After a long day of hiking, we decided that we could no longer just eat a large breakfast and then come back for dinner; we would need lunches during the day.  Especially with all the kids, who apparently need to eat constantly…..Who knew.  So we trekked into town and found a grocery store where we stocked up on some lunchmeat, chips, and bread for sandwiches.  We also purchased some little odds and ends that we thought we needed.  All food related, so this will be different for you if you choose to do this depending on your eating habits.

We then made our way back to the campsite and had a nice relaxing dinner of burgers and mac n cheese.  We probably had some chips as well but it was a nice dinner.  At this point we kept the barbeque fire going to keep warm because the temperature had dropped and we were not allowed to have campfires at the site.  We were all exhausted at this point and we decided on an early bed.

Morning came around pretty quickly and started pretty much the same as the day before, only this time we made sandwiches for lunch and brought them with us!  The plan was to get to Arches National Park and check out everything there.  Wow!  Just Wow!  I thought that Canyonlands was spectacular; the drive into Arches was amazing.  You can just see the giant rock formations that are standing there like man made buildings but so much larger.  Everything in the park was larger than life.  Just unbelievable!

We decided to go all the way out at Arches first and make our way back.  So we drove to the end, jaws open at all the amazing scenery, and finally got out to hike to the broken arch.  We could not do the loop because the campsite that is out there was under construction but we hiked out to broken arch, then up through it and around to where the trail would have made the loop.  This trail was closed but there were two more arches that were just a couple of hundred yards further so we hiked over to them.  Everything was amazing, except for the hike back since we had to double back on the same trail that we just came from.

The rest of the trails that we did at Arches were very moderate.  They were all 1 mile or less and you’d just park your car and walk to the Arches.  We did the Windows trail, which brought you to two wonderful looking arches that when viewed from Turret Arch (On the same trail) looked like you were looking out of two windows.  Name really says it all!

Turret Arch was a short hike away from the Windows Arches and allowed you to climb up and into the arch formation.  Of course, we did that and you were then inside the rock formation.  There were all kinds of ways that you could have climbed on and explored the rocks but we pretty much stayed put when we got to the top since we had a couple of small children with us.  I personally was thinking about climbing up into one of the perches but was worried about the climb down, so I did not do it.  While we were there, some younger gentlemen climbed right up into that perch without issue.  I guess you have no cares when you are younger…..Or just more ability!

Across from the Windows Arch trail was the Double Arch trail.  This was another very short trail that takes you to the arches.  These arches are quite spectacular and I kind of wish we got there a little earlier.  It was late in the day at this point and the entire family was getting a little tired so we did not do too much climbing in this area, but it was ripe for it.  I believe that you could have climbed up into the main arch and looked out over the landscape; we could see those people when we drove in!

We did do one more trail in Arches and it was to the rock art that was carved on the side of the wall.  This small trail was a loop and was very interesting with a preserved homestead complete with all the 1800’s furnishings as well as a lower level for…..?  Then a little further down the trail was the rock art that was carved into the rock.  They kind of looked like aliens but I’m sure they had some other kind of story to them.  I just don’t understand ancient rock carving language!

Another day over and another day of needing to go to the food store!  We stopped again at a better food store and made better provisions for the next day.  We once again stocked up on snack food for the kids and some better lunch meat since this was going to be a requirement for all the hiking that we were doing.  I believe that we even picked up some more eggs on this trip since we were going through them like crazy.  It’s hard to feed 9 active people every day!  That simple fact seems to be the only real oversight of the trip, that and the RV only refrigerates a certain amount of food so we are limited in how much we can purchase.

The next day found us heading back to Canyonlands but this time we were driving to the needles section.  This was a little bit of a ride from our campsite, but what a beautiful ride it was.  South on Utah 191 and then a right onto 211, this really put you in the middle of nowhere with no towns or anything around you.  We left Moab, where we were camping, and did not go through another town.  That’s 70 miles of isolation!  The farther from Moab you went the more open the terrain got, there was really nothing.  When we turned onto 211, the views were spectacular since we were now in the canyons and not on them, but the population thinned out even more.  When we finally got to Canyonlands the visitors center was almost empty and there was only 1 other car there.

I think we spent the least amount of time here and almost took it as a rest day.  The trails were short; except for the first one we did which was Slickrock trail, a looped trail on the top of some white rock with views out into the canyons.  We got some really good pictures on this trail and we really took our time on it.  I think that we were pretty tired at this point.

We then moved onto Pothole Point where it was less than 1 mile to the rock that is overlooking part of the canyon.  We took our lunches with us on this one and climbed up onto the rock to eat.  This was a very short hike and sitting on top of the rocks while eating lunch was a perfect way to enjoy the views!

The next trail in Needles was the trail that all the kids liked the most.  Cave Springs was a pretty awesome trail and had something for everyone on it.  It had an old cowboy homestead that was using the rock as shelter.  There were some old furnishings and paraphernalia still at the site.  Of course it is all roped off now because they don’t want it to be touched.  There were small little caves that the kids could walk under (adults too if you wanted to duck) and some interesting history about the rocks crying and providing water in the desert.  Then you needed to climb ladders to get up on top of the rocks and explore the rest of the trail.  To see how hidden the homestead actually was, you could not even see it from up on the rock!  This was a really good, fun, family trail that should not be overlooked if you happen to be in Needles.

So, we really just did all the easy trails at Needles.  We did the last hike of the day which was the Roadside Ruin which took you to an ancient grain silo that was built into an overhang in the rocks.  This was a super short hike but was quite interesting to see how they stored the grains or seeds that long ago.

We finished the day with the ride back to the town of Moab.  This was a little nerve racking because the van was low on fuel and there were no places to stop along the way.  My tip of advice for this leg of the trip is to get fuel in Moab before you head out!

We did eventually make it back and fueled up at a Shell station just outside of town.  They had a little convenience store where we were able to get coffee and I was able to replace my sunglasses that broke on this leg of the trip.  I pulled them of my face and one of the legs came right off!  All gassed up, with Coffee, and we were back on our way.

We decided to stop and eat at the Moab Brewery and bow what a treat that was.  The food and service was top notch and we left there with full bellies and smiles on our faces.  We had the loaded French fries, super hot wings, and nachos for an appetizer, there were 9 of us and we were starving!  My wife ordered some chicken wrap which was pretty good and I ordered the recommendation from the waiter, the sausage pasta dish.  I don’t really remember the name of it but it was delicious with hot sausage and shrimp over a bed of Fettuccine.

After dinner we went back to the campsite for our last night in Moab.  It was short lived with everyone getting their stuff together to move out the next day.  We did hang out back and chill for a bit but went to bed early in anticipation for our next ride.

The next day we were up at a decent hour and moving towards actually getting the RV to a different location.  As usual, all the kids wanted to ride in the RV so my wife and I were with all the kids again.  This really was not too bad since the drivers area is lower than the living space so we did not really hear them while moving along.

We left Slickrock campground around 10AM and headed out to Thousand Lakes campsite.  This was about a 3 hour ride to the next location.  We stopped at the first gas station we saw on the way out of Moab on 191 but that proved to be a mistake.  This place is a rip off; gas was about .80 more per gallon than everywhere else.  Unfortunately, without being familiar with the area, I did not want to take the chance of running out of fuel so I filled the RV to the $100 limit and moved on.  I would plan around this next time to save a couple of bucks.

The ride to Thousand Lakes was absolutely beautiful.  We got to see all the scenery on the highways that we did not get to see on the way out because it was dark.  I made the observation that Utah just looks like this and it does.  You don’t need to go to the National Parks to see the beauty of the landscape out there.  It is just everywhere.

Other than the landscape, there is absolutely nothing out there.  Miles and miles of beautiful landscape and not much else!  We drove up 191, out on 70 heading west, and then down 24 going south to get to our next stop.  It was miles and miles without seeing a single town or stop.  It was amazing to be that remote and isolated, also a little scary, but we had two vehicles.

 

The ride down 24 was nice and we finally ended up in the town of Hankville, if you want to call it a town.  There was a gas station and a couple of really run down stores and that was it.  Then the town was gone and we were heading west towards capitol reef.  We actually had to drive through Capitol Reef to get to our next campsite and that is exactly what we did.

The main road goes straight through the National Park.  There was not guard shack asking for money or anything.  Just drive right through.  So we drove through and found the visitor’s center and all the parking along the side of the road that we passed up.  I thought about just stopping and doing the hikes that we wanted to do but the plan was to get to the campsite and then go to the park.  This was a one day excursion!

We finally got to the campsite, and what a beautiful campsite it was.  The campground was well groomed and the spots well defined.  There was ample parking for our van and our RV.  The restrooms were super clean and the staff was really friendly.  They also take orders for muffins in the morning that they bake every day.  I recommend placing an order!

We hooked up the RV to the hookups and quickly got on our way to Capitol Reef.  This was another little drive from Thousand Lakes RV park to the National park.  Since we didn’t really have a lot of time to spend at this park, the activities were pretty limited, but we packed in what we could!  We hiked 2 trails, the Hickman Bridge trail, which was a moderate 1 mile each way hike to the natural bridge that was pretty spectacular!

The other trail was Sunset point, which was not really a very difficult or long trail, it just kind of went up and around the top of a high point and ended up overlooking the canyon.  The views here were awesome and the information plaques that were there told you that the bottom layer of the canyon in Capitol Reef National park is the top layer of the Grand Canyon!  Very interesting stuff!

We also decided to do the Scenic drive which starts at the visitors center and goes about 8 miles to the end where you can choose to go down some dirt roads if you so choose.  We decided against it and just turned around to come back.  The views, as you probably have guessed by now, were terrific and the drive out and back was awesome.

We decided to eat out again this night since we had no food in the RV and there was really nowhere to buy any.  The only things that were really available to us were restaurants.  We decided to eat at the Rim Rock restaurant.  Since it was our anniversary, we had steak and a very wonderful meal overlooking the canyons of Capitol Reef.  The food was delicious and they accommodated our large party quickly and efficiently.  The wait staff was friendly, food delicious, and the overall experience was very pleasurable.

That night my wife and I stayed up around the campfire, Thousand Lakes lets you have one, and was on the lookout for the Milky Way.  I was very disappointed in all the light pollution that was emanating from the RV Park making it very difficult to spot the stars.  We walked all around the park trying to find the Milky Way and were unsuccessful.  I almost gave up but looked on line to see when it would be visible and to my surprise; it did not rise until almost 11PM!  So we stayed up a little later and went looking for a dark spot but were not really able to it.  Oh well.

The next day ended up being a travel / rest day.  We left the Thousand Lakes RV Park and drove to the Bryce – Zion Campground.  This was roughly a 3 hour ride through some beautiful sections of Utah.  The farther that we moved away from Capitol Reef and towards Bryce Canyon, the more lush the scenery became.  It seems that we were moving out of the desert and into more of an area with water.  Our route took us down Utah 62 which seems to drive right down in the valley between two mountains.  The land was green and must have turned that way from the runoff off the mountains.  There were few towns along the way and they were very small, this route is definitely the road less traveled.

We passed Otter Creek state park which was very pretty, if we had more time I would have liked to stay here for a day or two!  We then made a right and headed through the mountain pass to Kingston and out to the main highway, Utah 89.  This road took us straight south to our next destination of Bryce Zion Campground.

We checked in and got our campsite setup.  Hooked up the RV and then asked the campground attendant where the nearest food store was since we were now pretty much out of food and wanting to save some money by cooking.  She told us that the nearest one was about 10 miles south of the campsite in Glendale.

We then took a ride to the food store, which was Terry’s Food and Drug, to get us some food for dinner and lunch the next day.  This was an interesting place with a food store kind of attached to a hardware store.  There is not much out here so I guess an opportunity for both businesses was available.

We went with some hamburgers, bacon and eggs for breakfast, and picked up some lunch meat for the next day.  As well as some bread to put that meat on!  We loaded up on snacks and anything else that we may need to get us through at least the next day and headed back to the campsite for some much needed relaxation.  They had everything that we needed and we were in and out of there in no time.

Dinner was just hamburgers over the campfire.  The fire pit was pretty overgrown and full of weeds.  We pulled some of the weeds out and added them to the fire just to try and clean this up.  We then needed to butcher some grate that we found and prop it up on some wood to get it to stay over the fire and be able to cook.  The burgers that we purchased as well as the ones that we already had were what were on the meal ticket this night, this and some potato and macaroni salad that we purchased at Terry’s.

This is the campsite that I actually got to see the Milky Way.  I figured it would be a while until I got out to a site that was that dark again and made the decision to set my alarm to go out and see it.  That is something that I always wanted to see.  I was slightly disappointed in the sighting.  I’m not sure if it was just a little cloudy or the pictures on the internet are just long exposures making it look brighter than it really was.  The stars of the spiral arm are definitely visible but just not as bright as I’d expected.  No big deal, at least I got to see it.

The next day found us heading out once again to a Nation Park.  This time it was Bryce Canyon.  The ride out to the park was just amazing; this is a familiar theme of this trip.  We had to drive through a national forest to get to the main entrance to the park.  The forest was nice and there was a really nice bike trail that ran along the road in the forest for miles.  I would have loved to ride this path but I did not have a bike with me.  Maybe if I ever make it back there I will.

This park was much touristier than any of the others that we have been to.  There is a little town that has sprung up on the outskirts of the park that has fuel, hotels, and restaurants all around.  It’s not very big but it’s more than we’ve seen since we’ve seen on this trip.

As a group, the trail that we did in this park was the hardest one that we’ve done yet.  It was the Navajo trail hike and it was probably the coolest hike that we did on the trip.  This was the hike that took you down from the top of the canyon, into the bottom and walked down through the Hoodoo’s.  It was pretty awesome.  We then met up with the Queens garden trail that took us to the Hoodoo that represents Queen Victoria.  It takes a minute to see the resemblance, but it is there and once you see it its true!

I made a mistake on the way back, we could have kept going on the Queen’s garden trail and ended up back at the top of the Canyon but in my confusion with trails being closed and not really knowing the trail map, I thought that we needed to go back the way we came.  I was wrong but it is what it is.  This trail was really tough going the other way!  The switchbacks are brutal and the canyon is deep so climbing up was waaaaay harder than the way down.  We were tired when we got to the top.

We then walked over to Sunrise point, which was only about ¾ mile from Sunset point and is where I found out that I could have kept going on the Queens garden trail.  Oh well.  The views here were awesome and the hoodoo’s sticking up out of the canyon were spectacular.  Utah is good for spectacular views!

There was one more trail that we wanted to do in this park, but we needed to leave the main site to get to it.  It was the mossy cave trail.  This was really cool; it was a trail that followed a man made waterway up through the mountains.  The trail made its way over the water and up to a small waterfall, which is not always small, depends on the time of year that you go.  This trail then branched off to the mossy cave which was also pretty cool; it was a shadowed section of rock that was leaking water out of them which caused the rocks to grow moss on them.  Hence the name of the trail…..

This was the end of our trip into Bryce Canyon.  It was now time for the hour ride back to our campsite and to get ready for dinner.  The first order of business was to go purchase some food for dinner.  We stopped at a “supermarket” on the way out thinking that we could get some food for dinner there but there was nothing super about that market.  So we decided that we would go back to Terry’s.

Unfortunately, it appears that Terry’s is not used to having that large of a group come through and purchase food since they had not restocked since the day before.  I guess we are spoiled living in the northeast!  Anyway, we were able to get some food for dinner, we wiped out their chicken supply, and we purchased some bagels, lunch meat, and bread for breakfast and lunches the next day.

We had Chicken that night and we cooked it over the campfire.  What an experience this was!  .  I burnt the first set of Chicken breast since they were too thick and then one of our crew decided to cut the chicken in half to help them cook faster and not burn them.  This worked!  Besides the first few pieces, chicken over the campfire was successful and we had a pretty good meal.

The next and last park that we were planning on going to was Zion National Park.  This is where the hardest hike of the trip took place, Angels landing.  Since this was a very difficult hike, the kids and one of the adults did not want to actually do it so we made a plan to have the three adults who were going to do it get up early in the morning and get it done.  So that’s what we did.

We got up early and got to the park when it opens at 7AM, or at least when the busses started running.  The drive to the park was awesome and the trek down Utah 9 was very cool.  It was a long windy road into the park and through a couple of really cool tunnels.  The decent into the actual park after the mile plus long tunnel through the mountain was very cool.  A sports car lover’s dream, too bad we were in an express van.  If you were riding a motorcycle or driving a sports car it would have been fun.  It was even fun in the van….

We got a little lost when we got to the bottom and ended up driving ourselves right out of the park and into the little town that was there.  We completely missed the turn in for the parking for this park.  Not that big a deal, we just looked up where the parking was, turned around, and found it.  It was right passed the visitors center on the left.

We hoped on the provided shuttle bus, you cannot drive through this park, and made our way to the stop that we needed to be at.  This was stop 6, the grotto.  This was the start of the trail to Angels Landing.

The trail for Angels Landing is not really very long, but it is almost straight up!  The switchbacks in the beginning are long and they continue up and up and up.  The higher you get the better the views and the more tired you get.  We finished the first set of switchbacks and there is a pretty flat section that takes you back to another set of extremely steep switchbacks.  These are short back and forth sections that must rise a 100 feet or more in a very short time.  Once to the top of these you will see the beginning of the hard part of the trail.

This part of Angels landing is not joke, there are warning signs all over the place that you can fall and you will die.  It’s pretty crazy!  We decided to do it anyway.  I would suggest that you be pretty physically fit to even thing about attempting this.  This is more like actual rock climbing than hiking with extremely narrow sections and places where you need to use your hands as well as your feet to get to the next level.  Not so extreme that you need a rope, but pretty close….

We did actually climb the hard part all the way to the top.  The views were worth it and the sense of accomplishment was very satisfying.  This was short lived since you still needed to go back the same way you came and the trip down is probably more dangerous and difficult than the way up.  Going up your momentum keeps you attached to the mountain, going down your momentum sends you flying off.  Be careful, you don’t want to fall!  1000ft drop on either side of you!  We obviously made it down.

After this complete rush of a hike, we made our way back to the campsite to pick up the rest or our crew.  We ate a quick lunch, relaxed for a few, and headed back with everyone to do the other hikes in the park.  This was our last day of hiking and we made it an easy one, doing all the really easy hikes in the park.  I think the kids appreciated it.

We did the Weeping Rock Trail, which was a short easy hike up to a rocky overhang where the rock was actually weeping.  This was stop 7 on the Shuttle bus.  You actually had to walk through the water that was coming out of the rock to go under it.  Everything was very mossy and slimy with the water that was running out, it was pretty cool but very similar to the Mossy Cave at Bryce.

We then hoped the bus to the next stop, stop 6 where we did the Grotto trail which was a very easy hike down a very flat trail that connected stops 5 & 6.  It was not very scenic, well compared to what we have been seeing, and I would recommend saving your energy for another hike.  I personally think that this hike was a waste of time.

We then kept walking and made our way to the lower Emerald pool trail.  This was the last trail of the National park trip, and it was pretty cool.  It went up a little bit and went to an over look where you could see the pool.  The trail kept going down and around a waterfall that was filling the pool.  This is why I wished we would have saved our energy since the trail was not really that long and kept going to see the other pools.  Maybe next time….

At this point it was pretty late in the day and we were out of food.  Since we already out of food and Terry’s was wiped out from our previous visits, we decided to eat out.  This time we stopped at Thunderbirds, home of the ho-made pies.  We have pictures of the ho holding the pies with the boys in front.  It is really just a nice little trading post / diner that is on the side of the road.  I recommend stopping here since the service was friendly and it was very much like a Jersey diner.  The food was pretty good as well, or maybe we were just starving, but either way it was worth a stop.  They even sung me a birthday song and hooked me up with some cheesecake which was pretty good.

This was the last night in the RV and by the time we actually got back to the campsite, we were spent after a full day of hiking and then dinner afterwards.  We pretty much just started a fire and hung out for a little bit, and then quickly let it die and went to bed.

Next morning was the trip back to Vegas to return the RV.  This was about a 4 hour ride from our last campground to Sahara RV center.  The trip was uneventful except for the little bit of traffic that we hit on the way into Vegas, and a quick stop and an In and Out burger.  After all, it was the Friday before Memorial Day; some traffic was to be expected.

Drop off of the RV was pretty smooth.  We just parked it on the street in front of the place, told them we were there, and they came out for final inspection.  He checked that we returned the RV with all the tanks in their proper position and a full tank of gas.  Fresh water and propane needed to be full, the black and grey water needed to be empty.  After a full week of living out of the RV we were all kind of sad to see it go, I could definitely get used to living that way.  The RV lifestyle really suits me.

In Las Vegas, we were set with reservations at the Luxor, so we made our way through Las Vegas traffic to that location.  What an awesome hotel!  It’s the pyramid shaped one and the rooms are on the outside of the pyramid with the casino and other attractions in the middle.  So the room above you was kind of overhanging your walkway, very cool!  Watch out for the elevators, they don’t go straight up!  It caught me off guard!

We checked in and got ourselves settled.  The Luxor rooms were nice, not as nice as the Westgate’s, but they served the purpose.  Since at this point we had driven all day and had been travelling, we decided to just hang out by the pool, it’s what the kids wanted to do and it seemed like a completely reasonable request.

Everything went well until our littlest child decided to slip on the concrete and slam her face into the ground.  This cause a complete uproar in the Luxor pool staff and they were all over it.  As concerned parents we were comforting our kid and making sure that there was nothing seriously wrong, which there wasn’t, but once the Luxor pool staff got wind of the mishap, they were like flies on rice….

They made us sign all kinds of forms stating that they were not responsible, that if they were responsible they would take care of any issues, they made sure the child was not in any way traumatized or concussed.  It was a little overkill but they staff was professional and they took all proper measures, and beyond, that you would expect.  We could have probably milked this for some free rooms or dinner but we are not like that, it was an accident, the concrete around a pool can be slippery.  If everyone sues over little accidents like this, they will just close the pools and no one will be able to swim.  My kid was fine; she just had a little bump on her head.  (It actually bruised up pretty good after a while, but by the next day it was gone…)

After that fiasco, we called it a day by the pool and went back to the rooms to change.  We agreed to meet in an hour and went to get ready for dinner.  We decided on going to the dinner buffet in Excaliber since it was the one that I remember being the best.  We took a slight detour to go on the pedestrian walkway over the strip to see the strip at night.  The kids were very amazed at all the lights and the view was pretty cool, but we were hungry and the buffet was calling.  The spread definitely was pretty expansive and it was steak night.  The meal was a little on the expensive side but I ate enough to cover the cost, or at least get my money’s worth.

When dinner was over we were spent.  Kids were falling asleep at the table and the adults were just dragging when attempting to do anything.  The meal was huge and we were all ready to go to sleep.  That is exactly what we did, we made our way back to our hotels and went to bed.

The next day we got going pretty late and pretty much checked out at the last possible moment.  We all decided to sleep in.  Our plan for the day was to just walk the strip and take it all in.  My wife and I were in Vegas a couple of years ago for the Rock N Roll Marathon so we’ve seen all the sights, but the rest of the crew had not.  We checked out, put all of our luggage in the van, and set out to walk the strip.

My wife and I had a plan, we wanted to eat at Hash House A Go Go, but it was on the other side of the strip from the hotel.  With a whole bunch of kids in tow, hungry kids at that, we decided to make the trek anyway.  We looked at some sights along the way but pretty much went directly there.

The food at this place is absolutely incredible.  Portion sizes are huge and the flavors that they put together are fantastic.  I highly recommend checking out this place if you happen to find yourself in Vegas.  It’s in the Linq, but there are other locations as well.

The rest of our day was spent just strolling the strip and checking out all the cool themed hotels.  We were pretty tired at this point and it was getting pretty hot so we meandered our way back to the van by going through all the hotels and checking out the insides of them.  Most of them are connected so you don’t have to go out in the heat.

The only really interesting thing that happened this day was the people jumping in the fountain!  So we stopped at the Bellagio to check out the hourly fountain show.  So we’re sitting around waiting for the show to go off and people on the other side of the fountain start jumping in!  That seems a little crazy to me and apparently it was.  This caused the show to be delayed and we ended up not getting to see it!  This is how their actions affected us….They jumped in with no concern for others thinking that what harm am I doing, I’m just jumping in, I’m only risking myself…..but it affected my family in the way that we were unable to watch the show.  My kids were disappointed.

We eventually made our way back to the van, which was parked at the Luxor, and took it to the rental company to be returned.  What a sad moment that was, leaving Vegas, filling up the van to return it, and then dropping it off.

We then walked across the street to the rental car kiosk and hopped the airport shuttle bus to the airport.  We made our way through security and just sat down in the terminal awaiting departure.  We picked up a really light meal to hold us over and eventually boarded our plane.

This was the quickest flight of my life!  I boarded the plane, dealt with the puking lady who was in my kid’s seat, and was dozing off before the plane even left the gate.  Next thing I knew was that we were touching down in Philadelphia and the flight was over.

I have to commend the Spirit Airlines flight crew on our flight.  They were awesome, they handled the puking lady with class and called in the cleanup crew to try and make it right.  They ended up moving our seats up to the front when the cleanup crew could not full resolve the issue.  The seats were up front so my wife and I plus one of the teenagers moved into those seats while the little kids sat with the other adults.  The flight crew took our kids to the back of the plane, showed them around, and generally made them feel comfortable.  They even had extra snacks on the flight!

We made it back, I found our car in the parking lot, and we headed home.  I believe that we finally made it to our house around 9:30am and we slept, well I slept, till about 1PM.  I wanted to try and get back on east coast time as soon as possible and it worked.  I was tired enough at 11PM to go back to sleep!  What an awesome trip!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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