So, the day had to come when I would leave Zion. After I had been there, even for a few hours, in my heart I never wanted to leave--I could have stayed forever. But real life, and stupid work, called me back. Armed with my Utah maps, (I guess I haven't said this before, but I don't have mounted GPS and I really LOVE actual maps, so that is all I use) I set off on the route Will from the Chevron station told me about. It would take me through the park, east to Red Canyon, just above Bryce Canyon National Park. Moving back north and east, I'd pass through Escalante and Capitol Reef National Park and end my evening at Goblin Valley State Park.
I swung back into town and dropped some postcards in the mail and stuck the GoPro on my helmet for the trip through the park and tunnel. The day was cloudy, and it was holding off some of the impending heat. As I exited the park and hit the stretch of road that would take me to Red Canyon and near Bryce, the temps dropped even further. At the junction of highways 9 and 89, I stopped at a gas station to get a drink. When I came out, two young men were parked next to my bike and asked if they could take a photo of me and my bike. They were traveling around the country documenting American recreation for Yonder Journal. One of these days I may get on Instagram and see if I made the cut.
The ride was relatively uneventful, but beautiful. I haven't reviewed all the GoPro footage, but I bet there is some great stuff. If you haven't been to this part of the country, check my YouTube page in a couple of weeks to see how gorgeous it is. The skies stayed cloudy the whole morning, but each time I thought I might ride into the storm, I turned away from it long enough to skirt it, and get nothing more than some light drops.
I cruised into Escalante sometime around lunch. I rode through town, looking to see what was out there, and which parking lot had the most motorbikes (a sure sign that food will be good). I stopped at The Circle D, and sat at a counter facing outside. I wanted to sit on the patio, but the skies were a bit dubious, so I chose inside. Not even five minutes after I ordered, the skies opened up, and it rained all through lunch. I ordered the handmade black bean burger, and it was delicious. It came with "skinny fries," and I was a little surprised when the waitress didn't offer me fry sauce. Not that I eat it--my two least favorite condiments mixed together!
As I was eating, a beat up pick-up truck pulled into the lot. A local guy, probably in his fifties, got out and stood in the rain staring at my bike. Suddenly, he threw his head back and laughed wildly. I knew why. He came into the restaurant laughing and went right up to the counter laughing and greeting the girls; they obviously knew each other. After he put in an order to go, he said to one of the girls, "Someone out there has a sticker that says, 'Eat Moose--12,000 wolves can't be wrong" and proceeded to laugh and laugh and laugh. I had my back to them, but she must have pointed me out, because he walked right over and we had a lovely conversation about the area and road tripping. I'm telling you, I met some great people on this trip!
|This is what it looked like as I geared up after lunch. Thankfully, the rain wouldn't last too long.|
After lunch, I walked out and geared up. In the rain. Then I rode off. In the rain.
I don't like rain on the motorbike.
Thankfully, within half an hour it tapered off, and though it didn't get sunny, it was at least dry. I rode through Capitol Reef and was thankful Jeremy Baxter (ZCBC--see Zion post) had told me about the pictographs right off the road. I would have flown by unknowingly if he hadn't. I enjoyed a little time in the park, but the best part of it was riding through as the rain started again. The were a million small waterfalls flowing over the rocks as I rode through, and the rain eventually got so heavy it was sheeting sideways off the road and riding along was like doing water crossings on a trail. Water flew up over my feet and knees, into my lap. There was no one else on the road, so I went at my own pace and decided to enjoy the rain.
Those couple of hours on the road, highways 12 and 24, were some of the most spectacular scenery I have ever ridden through. I turned north at Hanksville, UT, and rode another 22 miles or so, before turning west on a little road that would take me to Goblin Valley. This is where I kind of screwed up. I was told to stop at the gas station prior to the turn off and pick up beer, because it would be my last opportunity. I misunderstood which turn off, thinking the gas station was at the little turn off for the park. Hanksville was actually where I needed to stop, and I totally failed. As I turned into the park, I realized my mistake and considered turning around to go back, buy beer, and maybe some fruit or veggies to flesh out dinner. Then I decided against it. I was actually so tired, I figured I would barely make it through dinner and maybe one beer before passing out, so I kept on.
|Thumper looks as though she is sitting in front of a tromp l'oeil backdrop.|
At the entrance to the park, the ranger informed me there were a number of campsites still available. He wrote them down on a post-it and stuck it to my tank bag so I could ride through and pick out the one I wanted. He said number 5 would probably be the best for me, but I should see if anything else struck my fancy. I actually decided I liked number 17, and returned to pay for it. When I got back to the entrance, two large trucks with trailers and loads of teenage boys had pulled up. I parked the bike and went inside. There was a small gift shop where I was able to grab a couple of postcards and the obligatory stickers for my panniers. After the ranger was done with the truck loads of people, he came over and asked what I had decided on. I told him, and he looked at me kind of strangely, before taking my money and sending me on my way.
I should have taken number 5.
In my defense, number 17 was a great spot. However, numbers 18 and 19, I found out after I rolled in and began to unload, were the home for the next few days of the hoardes of teenage boys. WHY WOULD HE NOT TELL ME THAT!?! Later in the evening, when I returned from hiking and began making my dinner, I would also find that two campsites away from me in the other direction was a group of pre-teen Boy Scouts.
Please, just kill me now. I suppose I was a little surprised to find out the Boy Scouts were even allowed there anymore....
In October of last year, a group of Boy Scouts was visiting the area, and a couple of the scout masters chose to knock over one of the hoodoos which had been standing for more than 20,000 years. They claimed they were afraid it might fall on someone and hurt them, but have since been charged with misdemeanor crimes, and fined heavily. I got super pissed when I heard about this occurrence. Right now, the area is open for people to walk through unhindered, enjoying the beauty of this landscape that occurs like this no where else in the world. People are not forced to stay within a strict trail system, and for now, one can still put his or her hands on the stones surface to feel it. Assholes like those scout masters are going to ruin it for the rest of us! Seriously, those guys are the reason we can't have nice things.
Anyway, I finished unloading and setting up camp, and took off to go hiking and rock formation-viewing. I rode the bike to the other side of the park, not realizing there was a trail that I could have walked. As I pulled into the parking lot, the view was spectacular. A large depression in the earth was the site of the hoodoos, and they were amazing! I walked down the stairs and out into the acres and acres of truly fascinating formations.
|A little forest of creepy goblins.|
The storms which had been near me all day were blowing through, creating stunning backdrops for the formations. This was a place to sit peacefully, contemplating the universe and my personal smallness, and greatness, within it. Unfortunately, this was also the place for teenage Boy Scouts to marvel at how loud their voices were as they bounced off the rock. No peace for me. Oh well, next time.
|The wind was blowing so hard, I couldn't keep the camera steady as I swept it around for the panoramic shot. This was, in fact, the best of 3.|
Eventually I made my way back to the campsite, intending to cook dinner and pass out. Those things I did, but before I got started, I realized that with the coming darkness, the bats had come out for the evening. They were wonderful! They flew all around the campground, ungracefully as bats seem to do, eating bugs--thank you--and keeping me thoroughly amused. I don't know what it is I love about them so much, (I even bought a book about them in Great Basin NP the week before) besides the bug eating, of course. I think they are wonderful little beings though, and I do like their leathery wings and little fox faces.
|Yeah, I totally got to camp right there in the rocks. It was great, and to top it off, the campground had showers!|
The campground eventually quieted down for the evening and I slept hard. I was exhausted, and it felt so good to wake up in the morning in my comfy sleeping bag, on my comfy sleeping pad, Dog next to me, ready for the day. I decided against breakfast, opting to stop in Green River for coffee and a muffin instead.
People who know me will be surprised I made that decision. I have had a hateful relationship with that city for a number of years, beginning the day the pump handle at a Green River gas station began leaking all over me and my car. As I went inside to clean myself up, the sullen teenager behind the counter informed me I owed her eight bucks. That began my constant 4-letter word vocabulary anytime I came near the town. This was the trip to break that ugly cycle. I had a perfectly uneventful foray into the town, and a lovely cup of coffee with a green tea/ginger muffin. The muffin had some sort of goo in the middle, but I quickly flicked that out of there and it was lovely. Thanks, Green River, for finally coming through for me.
|I have thought about taking this picture every time I've crossed back into Colorado, and my last day of riding finally made it happen.|