I’ve tried to write this blog post several times. I feel like traveling gives me so much creative motivation. I’m pumped when I’m on the road photographing or testing myself (and my relationship with Aaron) hiking and camping. But I got home this time and am drawing a blank. I can’t even come up with a creative dialogue to go along with these photos. One thing that happens when I travel is I spend months processing what I’ve seen and experienced and I think that’s why I’m having a difficult time putting it into words. Utah was the state that solidified my wanting to move from Florida to the west. It’s difficult to explain, but the land makes you feel like you’re the only person on earth and in the same breath makes you feel very, very small. I wish everyone could experience this.
Here’s a suggestion if you plan on taking a trip to Utah, camp. Camp as much as you can. You won’t miss that shower as much as you think. Yes, you can wear your clothes for multiple days in a row. Merino wool is your friend. Pack lots of water. I mean LOTS of water. Layer, wear sunscreen and don’t forget a big brimmed hat.
Suggested route if you’re planning a week in Utah….
Spend one or two nights in Valley of the Gods. Make sure to face your camp southwest so you can see the sun hit Monument Valley at sunrise. Key piece here.. always wake up before sunrise. It’s cold, but worth it. Also make sure to peek out of the tent or camper around midnight and look up. Nothing compares to the night sky in Utah. If you can, make sure you stop into Comb Ridge Eat and Drink in Bluff to grab a coffee or an early dinner (and a cookie, trust me).
Set out North towards the Moki Dugway. As I type this I’m hesitant to recommend taking the Moki Dugway as the 3 miles of switchbacks are not paved and recommended speed is 10 mph. The view going up is incredible and exposing. On a clear day you can see Colorado. When you’re on top you’ve made it to Cedar Mesa. Spend a night camping at Muley Point. The east section won’t be as crowded, but get there early to get a good camping spot. From there you can head north towards the Kane Gulch Ranger Station. There are so many great canyons featuring Anasazi dwellings, ruins, and pictographs, from day hikes to through hikes. Some of them require permits so make sure you check before you head out. Continue north and you’ll get a good view of the Bears Ears. I suggest going west towards Hanksville so you can then go on to Capitol Reef and also have the biggest (and best) milkshake of your life at Stan’s.
For this next part I would suggest traveling April or early May. It’s not often photographed or talked about in Utah, but Cathedral Valley is one place you cannot miss. The drive takes you by hills of bentonite and exposes the amazing waves of color Capitol Reef has to offer. The road to get to the Cathedral Valley camping spot is about 30 miles down a dirt road where speeds are under 25 mph. There will be a few small streams to cross, but you don’t need high clearance for them. Once you’re at the camping area you have a great view of the Henry Mountains. You’re tucked back into the cedars, but can easily step out to get a view of Cathedral Valley below. I would also recommend getting there early so you can get a good spot as there are only about 6. Another plus is there’s a composting toilet here. If you’ve camped out west, specifically Utah, you come to celebrate things like composting toilets! You can take the same route back to highway 24 or you can continue the loop, but be prepared to cross the Fremont River which is at the end of the route. We were able to cross in our 4x4 truck, but not certain when the snow starts to melt and the river is really flowing. Also it’s not a direct crossing. You actually have to drive UP the river about 30-40 feet to the crossing. It was a first for us.
From there head west on highway 24 towards the Capitol Reef sign and take the Notom Road Burr Trail south. This was the reason I wanted to return to Utah. This road. It’s partially paved, but being on dirt is the best part. The views are great and the switch backs are easy to navigate. The Burr Trail ends in Boulder, which is great because you need to stop in for a cup of coffee and a pastry at Burr Trail Outpost. From there head on highway 12 towards Escalante. Highway 12 is known as one of the best scenic roads in America. It’s also a great way to get to Bryce Canyon.. Surrounded by amazing slot canyons is the small town of Escalante. It’s a very popular anchor point for slot enthusiasts and hikers. You must stop in at Escalante Outfitters for pizza and a beer. Breakfast is just as yummy. In addition to food they sell gear and showers if you need one, just bring your own towel and soap. I feel like I could spend a week in Escalante hiking and eating at Escalante Outfitters. We only spent a couple nights and headed on to a place we’d never been.
On the way to Bryce Canyon there’s a turnoff for Cottonwood Wash Road. Here you can access Kodachrome Basin State Park. If you continue on this road you’ll be able to pull off and walk to Grosvenor Arch. It’s a very quick walk or you can see the arch from your vehicle. Cottonwood Wash Road takes you through the heart of the cockscomb. It difficult to describe, but it’s as though the earth broke apart and one side rose up straight in the air, like a cockscomb. The road dumps into highway 89 which will take you to Lake Powell and Page, Arizona.
We ended our trip in Sedona, Arizona with some much needed pampering. We stayed at the Creekside Inn Sedona. Compliments to Trevor and Yolanda for making a killer breakfast. Sedona was a little overwhelming, but I see us staying at the Creekside Inn again. Kudos to you if you stuck around this post till the very end. I tried to be short, but that can be difficult to do when you spend a week on the road.