“There’s a whole world out there, right outside your window. You’d be a fool to miss it.” ― Charlotte Eriksson
As I’ve written about, this year has been hard. I knew for my mental health, I needed to get out of town and hit the road. I’m incredibly fortunate that Bend has nearly no cases of COVID, so I felt comfortable traveling. Since I postponed my Philadelphia trip and my brother seems destined to not be able to come (SC is the opposite of Oregon), I decided to knock some items off my bucket list. I did consider going to Yellowstone/Tetons but ultimately decided to do the ‘Mighty Five’ in Southern Utah. I am so glad I did because as you’ll see in this post, and those that follow over the coming weeks, Utah may be the most beautiful region I have ever explored.
The most important thing to do before you leave is make sure you have the ‘America the Beautiful’ pass. It is an annual pass from the National Park Service and costs $80 annually. I’ve spoken about it in other posts and highly recommend as you do not pay any fees entering any park or NPS land. Every park I went to, sans Capital Reef and Great Basin, cost between $30-$35. The Cedar Breaks National Monument was $10. I paid for my pass by day two. You just show your signed card and id when you enter. Make sure you order your pass several weeks a head of time. While you can use your paper receipt, it has a very limited eligibility period.
I picked the perfect time to go as Oregon has been on fire. Fortunately, Bend is far from the hot spots but the smoke had blanketed the area. Not only that but it was incredibly hazardous. I had already planned this trip out and hit the road as soon as I could. I knew the trip would be spectacular when I saw wild horses on the side of the road. It was so cool and my brother was so jealous…an added bonus, ha!
I had an original plan to start in Moab and work back west but was forced to flip it. Due to COVID, Zion National Park requires shuttles passes to access the park. They go on sale (they’re a $1) in time chunks. My plan was to buy passes for the week so I could take my time. I purchased tickets for Monday and Tuesday and waited for the rest of the week to be released. Well, when they were, they sold out almost immediately. Thus, Monday it was! It also changed when I was leaving as Zion is nearly a 13 hour drive and I didn’t want to get to my motel too late. So I left Saturday after I got off work. I stayed in Elko, Nevada (I had considered sleeping in my car but most rest stops on my Nevada route all seemed to be closed). It worked out perfectly as I arrived in St. George, Utah (where I stayed) at a decent time on Sunday. Zion was the only park that you needed to make pre-arranged plans. While all others had areas that were restricted, Zion was by far the most effected by COVID. More to come in that blog post.
I booked all my rooms via Expedia. It is my go to travel site and have been using it for years. You are able to set your parameters and I have literally booked in the parking lot of the motel. In times of COVID, I read the reviews regarding cleanliness but price was still weighted. As it’s just me, I don’t really need fancy anything. I spent between $30-$120 per room. The most expensive were outside of Capital Reef-which is in the middle of nowhere- and Moab. Both were nice and very close to the parks so was great for an early start. Fortunately the places I stayed two nights (St. George and Salt Lake City) were great prices, so it all worked out.
The biggest thing is get gas frequently. I never let my tank get past half way. There are incredibly long stretches with nothing but the open road and limited cell service. Some of the parks are also a lot of driving (Bryce, Capital Reef and Canyonlands particularly) and you don’t want to be low. You should also use the restroom there when you can. Several rest stops in rural areas had compost toilets which did not smell great, including one in Nevada which also had a sign for rattlesnakes.
To prep for the trip, I bought a cooler and filled it with water bottles and gatorade. It saved time and money. I also brought a ton of snacks for the road but mostly for hiking. The perk of road trips is that you can just bring it all in your car. I do recommend getting a cooler with a drain spout. Mine was the perfect size but I had to dump the water out and it was a bit of a wet mess!
The scenery in Southern Utah is really something else! I will discuss Scenic Route 12 in a separate post but the drive from Capital Reef to Moab was equally stunning. I am not very religious but driving you really think, wow there has to be something more. I also said ‘holy f**k’ a lot, lol (sorry, dad). What nature can do really puts things into perspective but also really calming, that you are a part of something so much more. I may have cried (and if you’ve read my blog, you know it happens).
I cannot wait to share my trip with you, it will reenforce my personal philosophy…Be Brave. Live Furiously!