Week 22: Hidden Gems and All American Beauty in Utah

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One of the greatest gifts travel has given me is the opportunity to  form wonderful friendships all over the world.

I am so grateful that Facebook has enabled me to keep in contact with my friends, so I can always know what they are up to, and if we are in the same area, reconnect.

Travel blogging has expanded my friendship world even more. I get to meet and hang out with really cool people.

For the past month, we have been traveling with our friends, Crazy Family Adventure, who we met online way back in 2014 when Bryanna joined B-School through my mentoring program.

Of course, we connected in real life when we came over to the US (2 years ago now).

Monument ValleyWith the Crazy Adventure Family crew in Utah

We connected with them in Nashville, Clearwater Beach Florida, Universal Studios Orlando, our Top Villa vacation home in Orlando for a week, Thanksgiving in Raleigh, Asheville for a week, and now the past month in Utah.

Not just with them though, but her sister’s family, and her parents!

What an enriching experience it has made our travels. All of our kids get along so well – a few arguments here and there, but that’s normal and they sort it out themselves pretty quick.

Capitol Gorge hike in Capitol Reef National Park

On Friday, our friends Mike and Anne Howard from Honeytrek were nearby so joined us at our boondocking spot in Escalante for the evening (and AWESOME Saturday adventure. I’ll share that in next week’s post).

With Mike and Anne at our camping spot in Escalante, Utah

We met them online way back in 2011, then met in real life on our New England road trip in 2017, then a couple of times in New York City for conferences.

We had a fun evening around the fire catching up and coming up with plans to help save the world. You know how that goes!

It’s wonderful to have like minded people you can share the journey of life and its many adventures with.

Be open to forming new friendships as you travel, it is life’s greatest reward, and the reason we are all here – to connect, share, support, and love.

(Oh and even if you are not a honeymooner or couple’s traveler, you will love Mike and Anne’s Book: Ultimate Journeys for Two: Extraordinary Destinations on Every Planet)


This week 22 wrap up of our USA road trip shares our adventures from Saturday to Friday.

I publish the posts on Sunday (I need a few days to prepare it!) More in-depth posts on each region with loads of tips and suggestions will be coming soon.

Be sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook where we share the current day-to-day adventures

Canyonlands – Shafer Trail Drive

Shafer Trail Drive, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Our last day in Moab saw us take on the famous Shaffer Trail Drive down into Canyonlands National Park.

Most known for the Shaffer switchbacks which you can get a good look at from above at the Shafer Trail Overlook. They wind down into the canyon over steep drop offs.

It wasn’t as scary as it looked from above, and it was a beautiful way to experience Canyonlands.

I loved how we passed by the Colorado River right underneath where we experienced sunset the week before at Dead Horse Point State Park.

Shafer Trail

The Shafer Trail takes you back out to Moab.

After over two weeks in Moab, we were happy to leave. Getting out of there was a nightmare though and took over two hours to dump, refill with water, and get out of the Moab traffic.

Moab does not have the infrastructure to manage the huge numbers of people visiting.

Hide and Seek in Goblin Valley

Goblin Valley State Park, Utah

Okay. Hidden Secret time.

Most people haven’t heard of this. I hadn’t until Bryanna told us it’s worth a visit. And it is!

Goblin Valley State Park, Utah is a magical land of hobbit hiding places, goblins, and mythical creatures.

The kids are sure to say it is one of their favorite places. It’s the playground that exists in their minds. Places to crawl, climb, and hide.

Goblin Valley State Park, Utah

It’s a small valley, but large enough for you to go on a few hikes and explore further afield.

Goblin Valley State Park, Utah

We chose to let the kids run wild playing hide and seek and tag. We joined in or watched perched on top of a Goblin and enjoying a much needed rest.

Things we did in Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Capitol Reef National Park is so beautiful.

It has to be up there as one of my favorites, especially since it seems so undiscovered. It was so quiet and peaceful.

There are loads of fun hikes, scenic drives, and even a lovely grassy, shady picnic area with orchards and horses surrounding it and a store with the most delicious raspberry ham gluten free cookies.

We had a wonderful three days exploring Capitol Reef and will write a more in-depth post on it for you.

For now, here is a little glimpse into what we did.

Cassidy Arch Trail

Cassidy Arch Trail, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Not an easy walk, but a fun one that your body will love.

It’s uphill all the way to the Cassidy Arch, which you are allowed to walk on top of. Make sure you know before you walk on any natural arch or bridge as most are protected and you cannot.

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

We were proud of the kids for managing a challenging hike so well!

Hickman Bridge Trail

Hickman Bridge, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

I LOVED this walk.

The landscaped changed so much through it from stunning valley views, to multi-colored rock country, to sandy beach type trails, all leading to this natural bridge.

Hickman Bridge, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

We even saw a herd of deer at the end along the river.

Scenic Drive

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

We did the 10-mile Scenic Drive which winds it’s way past stunning rock formations and deep along The Capitol Gorge road which gets a bit winding and narrow and surround by cliffs, but totally fun!

Note to Craig: remember to put the truck in “park” before jumping out to take photos, lol.

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Capitol Gorge Trail

Capitol Gorge hike in capitol Reef National Park in Utah

This was a fun one for the kids walking along the bottom of the canyon at the end of the scenic drive road.

Super easy and only 2 miles return. We couldn’t find the tanks (water pockets) up a short trail into the mountains. We got distracted and took a wrong turn somewhere.

But the views were incredible.

Capitol Gorge Trail, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

We wanted to hurry out instead of finding it as there was a storm brewing and a few drops started. There are warnings everywhere not to be in these gorges during a thunderstorm due to potential flash floods.

Grand Wash Trail

Grand Wash Trail, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

A gentle five mile return hike through the Grand Wash gorge. It comes to a section called the Narrows, where the walls come closer together.

Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument
Drive part of Scenic HWY 12

Highway 12, Utah

It’s Utah’s only road that is recognized as An All American Road, which tells you how beautiful this scenic drive must be as Utah has incredible drives all over the state.

We have only driven the first part from Torrey near Capitol Reef to Escalante. We will drive the rest this week.

Craig and I did it back in 2006 and I was blown away by the lunar like landscape mixed in with every color of the rainbow and style of rock formation you can think of.

Highway 12, Utah

I was unsure whether, because I have since seen so many incredible things in the US, this drive may not be as impactful as in 2006, when it was not the norm for me.

Highway 12, Utah

But, I think beauty like this can never be understated nor underappreciated.

Lower Creek Calf Falls

Lower Creek Calf Falls, Escalante

What a wonderful surprise Lower Creek Calf Falls was!!

Can you believe this beautiful waterfall gushing down over the cliff in a tranquil, tropical feeling place?

This reminded me so much of Emma’s Gorge in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

It was a big hike for us to do with the kids to get here. It was six miles return with an elevation gain of 500 ft. which wasn’t too bad.

The views along the valley and rainbow colored escarpment walls the entire way were beautiful. Most of it was a sandy track which made it a little more challenging.

Lower Creek Calf Falls

But so worth it when we arrived.

The kids contemplated swimming in the pools underneath the falls until they felt the very chilly water.

RV and Road Trip Lessons

  • I’m enjoying boondocking more and more. It’s a bit of work staying on top of things and your supplies, but I have no desire to return to the ease of an RV park. You mean you want me to pay $60 a night for something I can get with more space and beauty for FREE?
  • Getting forced off internet is a good thing. It helps you focus better on the tasks that are important. It feels weird to not have any idea of what is going on in the world and takes awhile to get used to the freedom and peace of that. But, I love how then my only available tasks becomes writing. I get a lot done and, thanks to only three days without internet (and me only working a couple of hours each day). I am caught up on a ton of posts that were waiting my presence, and I have organized all my video files to the current day, ready to be sent for editing. Now to get better at it when I am connected.
  • Traveling with other kids makes everything easier and more joyful. I love how they kids are playing together every day. They play imaginary games, are writing movie scripts together, cook cupcakes, and enjoy hiking with each other. Somewhat. We still have a few complaints on the longer, harder ones, but you know that’s the way it goes. Often they are having so much fun together they forget to complain. I LOVE how they rarely go on their computers and the internet anymore. YAY for the reduction of the YouTube influence!
  • If you drive on the opposite side of a washboard road (dirt road with corrugations) it is much smoother. Be sure you can see what is coming down the other side of the road though so you avoid any accidents!
  • The Beast (Ford F250) is allowing us to explore many off the beaten path destinations. We LOVE our F250!

Distance Driven

Where we Stayed?
Goblin Valley Boondocking

Goblin Valley

Oh my what a spot to camp for free!!

I loved being tucked away into a little crevice at the base of the vibrant orange cliffs here. The kids also loved this spot and could be found high in the cliff faces climbing and exploring.

A little further back in the nook was a campfire ring. Sadly, we didn’t get to have a fire as the wind was blowing up a a dust storm here.

We only stayed one night, but would have loved to have stayed longer here.

Goblin Valley

It’s a little past Goblin Valley at the Little White Horse Canyon area.

No cell or internet service available here.

Boondocking spot near Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef Boondocking

Just outside the Capitol Reef National Park and only five minutes from the town of Torrey was our boondocking spot for Capitol Reef National Park.

It was off the side of the road.

Again, the kids were happy with the nearby cliffs to scramble over and go on exploratory hikes. No campfires once again due to windy conditions.

It was also FREEZING here. We nearly had snow. What? It’s MAY already!

There was no Verizon phone or internet service here, but there was Sprint.

Hole in the Rock Escalante Boondocking Spot

Hole in the Rock, Escalante

What a treat this place is after spending so long in the dirt.

It’s fields of grass and decent sized trees. The kids are loving the open spaces, trees to create their own secret hideouts, and the field to play cricket in.

I’m so happy that after teaching then how to play last week, they grab the cricket kit for a bash!

There are spots here along the cliffs edge with beautiful views, but we couldn’t find one to fit us all, so we grabbed this great piece of grass instead. Closing in our circle around the campfire.

Hole in the Rock, Escalante

We also had great internet service here, which was much appreciated after going 4 days offline.

This boondocking spot is right off the beginning of Hole in the Rock scenic drive which goes all the way down to Glen Canyon.

Travel Costs

Hwy 24, Utah

Each week, I include our travel related costs for the week.

I don’t include things like business costs, insurance, and souvenirs etc. That’s so personal that whatever I told you wouldn’t necessarily be true for you and your budget.

The following, apart from perhaps our groceries, will give you a reasonable estimate of costs related to travel.

If you are new to our weekly wrap, our costs each week are usually around $1,000 – $1,300. We’re really trying to stay under $1,000

My 30 days to Money Mindfulness Course helps you learn how to master your money (and do things like weekly spending checks no matter how much they hurt!) You can’t change what you aren’t aware of.

Vehicle Costs

  • Fuel: $202
  • Parking: $ 
  • Uber: $

The generator is costing us a bit extra in fuel. We only use it for about an hour a day to top up. Once we get our broken batteries replaced it will be better.

Accommodation Costs

  • Camping: $0 (yay)

Attractions

  • Park Fees: $15 (Goblin Valley State Park)
  • Tours: $
  • Tickets: $
  • Tips: 

Food

  • Restaurants: $
  • Coffee: $10
  • Groceries: $328
  • Take out/ snacks: $20
  • Alcohol: $

We eat a mostly whole foods, organic diet, which means our grocery bills are higher than what would be typical.

Don’t forget with eating out costs, tip will be included in the prices and the odd glass of wine or two.

RV Supplies and Living

  • Laundry: $15
  • Firewood: 
  • Propane: $25
  • Supplies: $
  • Dump: $
  • Postage: $15

Total paid by us: $635

So happy our costs have come way down this week. Hoping to keep that trend up!

Capitol Reef National Park would have cost us $20 for a 7-day pass. We have a National Parks Pass which gives unlimited access to federal lands. It costs $80 a year.

It’s absolutely worth it for a trip like ours and saves us hundreds of dollars.

Where to Next?

Capitol Reef boondocking

I am so excited for what this week will bring. We are planning to visit Bryce Canyon!

This is my favorite National Park in the USA. I wonder if I will still feel the same wonder and awe as we return.

We’ve promised the girls a horse ride through the canyon as it still remains one of the best things I’ve ever done on my travels.

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You can find our previous RV weekly wrap posts here.

Our latest in-depth blog post is on things to do in Lake Mead.

Videos of the trip coming out soon.  Subscribe to our channel so you don’t miss it. We’re now releasing our road trip videos.

Check out our latest video of our last adventure in Sedona, spotting mule deer in the wild and hiking the Boynton Canyon.

 

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