Sarah and I had a wonderful wedding in May 2018, but with family visiting from out of town and immigration details to sort out we chose to postpone our "real" honeymoon until 2019. Instead we went on two "tinymoons" within the United States, one to Utah and the other to Asheville, North Carolina. Both were fantastic opportunities to see some of the amazing natural scenery of this country.
Tinymoons -- Fall 2018
Tonight after work we headed to the airport to catch our flight to SLC. Sarah's United Gold Status paid off and got us upgraded to business class for the short trip, which was nice as Sarah seems to have caught a cold and isn't feeling well this evening. Another great part of business was that Pablo was on the same flight and also got upgraded, ending up sitting behind me. He's headed to the SLC comic con, obviously. It was great to see him and chat a bit.
At the airport we hopped in our rental car (Kia Soul) and headed to an airport hotel for the night. The hotel (Tru by Hilton) is brand new, fancy, efficient, and super convenient. All of this was pleasing since the flight didn't improve Sarah's condition at all so she was ready to sleep. Hopefully she's better in the morning.
Today was fantastic and Utah is gorgeous! We got started a bit late this morning as Sarah was still feeling under the weather, so we hit up Walgreens for some drugs and eventually got on the road after a hotel breakfast. The drive to Bryce Canyon National Park was long, but also quite pretty, and super easy on well maintained highways with 80mph speed limits. Sarah slept as I drove and was feeling a bit better when we stopped for a quick lunch in Bryce Village just outside the National Park.
We parked in the village and took the super convenient park shuttle to the visitor centre, and then onward into the park stopping at Bryce Point and Inspiration Point for phenomenal views of the canyon and all of its hoodoos. The hoodoos are tall, thin spires of sedimentary rock that was laid down at the bottom of an inland sea millions of years ago, and then eroded unevenly since then. After seeing the spires from above we got back on the shuttle to Sunset Point to do the Navajo Valley hike through the hoodoos themselves, returning back up the canyon rim on the Queen's Garden trail. The hike was spectacular and Sarah crushed it despite being sick and having to deal with the elevation (the rim is 8000' above sea level).
After our hike we took the shuttle back to the parking lot and then started the drive to Springdale, the town just south of Zion National Park which we'll be visiting tomorrow. The drive was along Scenic Route 89, and it certainly lived up to its name. We saw tons of amazing natural features, and Sarah even spotted a Pronghorn Antelope at one point. The final section of the drive along Highway 9 through Zion was especially pretty and featured a super long tunnel with occasional "windows" in the stone to give glimpses of the amazing valley below.
Our hotel here in Springdale is serviceable, but nothing fancy. For dinner we went to a nearby Mexican restaurant and then hit up the local ice cream shop for dessert. Finally we picked up a few groceries for our lunch tomorrow and then went to sleep.
We slept in a little bit this morning, and then had a pretty good breakfast at Cafe Soleil. Despite our later start and the insane popularity of Zion we were still able to get a parking spot in the main parking lot. Apparently the week after Labor Day is one of the rare slow times at the park, lucky us!
Like Bryce Canyon, Zion has a super great shuttle to get around the park to help manage traffic. We took it from the visitor center to the Weeping Rock, a cool rock overhang that regularly drips water that actually runs through the stone and is forced out at the overhang, supporting a vast amount of vegetation. It's pretty cool. We then walked across the river valley to the next shuttle stop and caught the bus to the trailhead for the main event, the Narrows Hike.
The Narrows is the narrowest section of Zion Canyon, and one of the most popular hikes in the nation. The full trail is an overnight hike, 16 miles in length from a private ranch down the Virgin River into the heart of the park. Much of the hike is literally in the river, as the canyon is so narrow that even when low the river fills it side-to-side. It's almost impossible to get permits to do the full hike, but you can hike up river from inside the park as far as you want and then turn back. The river was relatively low today so we were able to get quite far and only get wet up to our knees. It was an absolutely amazing experience with lots of friendly people. As we were entering the river someone leaving even gave Sarah a walking stick!
After the Narrows we went to the Emerald Pools hike, most of which was closed due to a recent storm that had absolutely obliterated chunks of the trail. The first pool was pretty neat though. After the hike we returned to the car to change out of our wet hiking boots and begin the drive to Lake Powell where we're staying tonight.
The drive was really pretty once again, much of it along official scenic routes. The landscape changed a bunch too, getting more desert-ish, with buttes starting to appear. After a nice sunset stop at the main overlook over Lake Powell, we drove into town, got dinner at a legit Mexican place, and settled into our hotel for the night.
We got up in good time today and headed out after a quick hotel breakfast. Our plan today was to drive to Moab via Monument Valley. Monument Valley is a region of huge sandstone buttes which has been used since the 1930s in many films depicting the American West. The actual valley is located on Navajo land and the tribe manages tourism in the area.
The entire drive today was consistently gorgeous, and the stretch through Monument Valley was especially awesome. We paid the access fee to do the 17 mile drive on the floor of the valley itself. The roads were rough but passable and it was definitely worth the time and money to see it all up close.
After a couple hours of jostling around the valley we headed on to Moab, a drive that also provided excellent scenery. For dinner we found a Vera Pizza Napoletana restaurant for excellent pizza, beer, and tiramisu. Then we got a few snacks for our hikes tomorrow and picked up a few beers from Moab Brewing.
Today was a very full day! We started with a quick hotel breakfast and then drove straight to Arches National Park to get in early before the crowds. After a quick stop at the Visitor Center we headed out on the scenic drive around the park stopping regularly to see all the buttes, petrified sand dunes, and of course the arches. The park is full of them! We did a short hike at the Windows arches and the famous Double Arch (seen in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), and another short hike to see Delicate Arch (the one on Utah license plates) from afar. There is a moderate hike to get right up to Delicate Arch, but it's completely exposed and it was hot today so we decided to skip it in favour of a hike to Landscape Arch, the biggest in the park. Probably the coolest thing in the park is the Fiery Furnace, a collection of narrow sandstone canyons, fins, and arches. You have to book a special pass in advance to hike through them as their ecosystem is quite delicate. We couldn't get one, but are definitely going to try to come back and do them in the future.
The hike to Landscape Arch was fantastic, with several other arches along the way. We had lunch on the trail and took several other breaks to avoid dehydration (it was pretty hot and dry). The arch itself is huge and very thin. You used to be able to walk under it, but a bunch of it collapsed in 1991 and they figure the rest could go anytime now. Sarah stopped at the arch while I continued on a bit further, hiking up a rock fin to see Double-O arch.
After we finished at Arches we took a quick look at Canyonlands National Park, the biggest National Park in Utah. We didn't have much time so we just did a short scenic drive. As the name suggests it's full of huge canyons. It's carved by the Colorado and Green rivers and is part of the same system as the Grand Canyon. Certainly a place to come back to in the future.
Next we made the long and surprisingly boring drive to Provo. The goal was to get back close to SLC for the night so that we can do more stuff near the city before leaving for home tomorrow. We succeeded, but now it is time to sleep.
We're back home now after an easy flight from SLC. We spent the morning driving up to Park City, looking around there, and then driving over the mountains to Salt Lake City. Park City is cute, and very clearly a ski town. We had fun at the Roots store, each buying a couple things as they were having a big sale. We had a nice lunch at a brewpub too. The views were lovely on the drive once again and the trip overall was spectacular. We're definitely going to return to Utah and its wonderful National Parks in the future!