We're not big resort people. We can spend a day at the beach but I find it hard to sit still and I like to feel like I'm exploring or on an adventure. So we decided to go to Utah and tick off 3 National Parks in the time we had. I've never been further west than Chicago and Nashville so I was excited to get a taste of a new landscape.
On the way out, Philly airport provided some cool neon lights on a moving walkway, which I forced Melissa into having her portrait taken on. We flew to Las Vegas, picked up a rental car and drove a couple of hours out to Mesquite, on the NV - UT border. The hotel/casino we stayed in felt like something right out of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. It was surreal to see dessert and casinos, just like in the movies.
We spent the next morning driving to Zion National Park and doing the Emerald Pools Trail, which is relatively short, nicely shaded and was a good warm-up for our trip. The next morning we got up and started to talk each other out of doing the Observation Point trail. The line to get into the park was huge and we were going to be starting the hike a good 4 hours later than the ranger recommended.
We talked to another ranger who said just to take a ton of liquid and salty snacks. Melissa bought an extra bottle of water and we stuffed it into our bags that were literally full of food and water. We decided to just go for it. We weren't going on the popular and overcrowded Angels Landing trail, so if we didn't do Observation Point, we would have regretted it. The views were just awesome! But the entire hike is full of amazing views and varied landscape. Its just an epic hike!
That night we drove through Zion to a nice little Air BnB, not far from Bryce Canyon. We got up early for the sunrise, which wasn't a particularly good one, went back to sleep for a bit and then made our way into Bryce.
Our bodies were a bit sore from the big hike in Zion so the fact that Bryce was largely accessible by car made for a nice chilled sightseeing day. Only downside was I didn't really feel like we worked hard enough to deserve those awesome views.
We floated about Bryce Canyon for most of the day before making the 2 hour drive to Austin's Chuck Wagon Motel, about 20 mins outside of Capitol Reef.
The next morning we had an early breakfast at the motel with what seemed like fake eggs and some bad coffee. But we didn't care. We were about to explore another National Park!
Capitol Reef felt so different to the other National Parks. There was less infrastructure surrounding it, less cars, and much less people. Coming from rural Scotland, it was much more like I would imagine a park to be like.
We stopped in an old house by the orchard and bought an apple pie that they seem to be kinda famous for. I think the trail we took was Cobbs Creek. A ranger recommended following it until we see a sign that points uphill to 2 vistas. It was probably a 3 mile round trip and fairly moderate hike. The trail, had it all. Beautiful views, slot canyons, varied terrain and endless interesting things to look at.
We drove the scenic by-way, then did one last short hike before we headed back for the night. The terrain was different again, with great views and the most red colored rock we had seen on the whole trip.
We went to a ranger led evening program about astronomy. Capitol Reef is one of the few places in the country that doesn't get any light pollution from urban areas. This means you can see more stars than most other places in the US.
Capitol Reef is a winner. It must be one of the most underrated National Parks.
Before we got on the plane, we spent a day in Vegas. I'm not really into gambling, and I wasn't a fan of the feeling of being inside a money making machine. But I'm glad Ive seen it. Vegas is a spectacle. Its a sensory overloading, disorienting, mash-up of marketing and advertising, high-end stores, fancy restaurants, pretend fancy restaurants, street vendors, lights, music and noise. There was a DJ in H&M and a zip line running the length of the downtown area. You can wander between hotels without ever seeing the light of day.
I don't quite know what to make of Vegas. But it sure isn't boring.