This post should be named “Why We Love Utah and Why Utah Hates Us”. I can’t get over how freaking beautiful Utah is. Utah is home to 14 National Park Sites (National Parks, Monuments, Recreation Areas, etc.) and I get why. We barely scratched the surface on Utah. We had made a plan to visit Bryce Canyon National Park & Zion National Park – but the universe had other plans. Even though I am 95% sure Utah has bad mojo, luck, or whatever you call it for us, we plan on returning.
Where We Stayed
Our first stop was Bryce Canyon National Park. We decided to go FREE and camp on the Dixie National Forest. After driving down a gravel/dirt road for a few miles we found a FREE dispersed campsite that was by far our favorite spot. Pros: We were by ourselves with no neighbors for miles, we had a small creek near the camp for Sparky to run around in, and we could let Sparky off leash to run around like an idiot. Cons: We were about 30 minutes from Bryce Canyon, and we had a long dirt/gravel road to drive on to get to our site. Also, during our stay we had cloudy weather, making it difficult to get solar energy.
On one of the nights we camped, Sparky woke us up at 4AM to go to the bathroom. Steve and Sparky went out in the cold (high 20’s) so Sparky could do his business. They heard a giant splash in the water and both got freaked out and ran back inside. We had seen earlier in the day a beaver dam and didn’t think anything of it. Turns out, beavers are nocturnal and can slap the water with their tails to warn predators. We are 99% sure that’s what they heard.
What We Did
On our first full day we drove to Bryce Canyon National Park. Bryce Canyon like many other busy National Parks offers shuttle services to many of the hikes and overlooks. If you were traveling to a busy National Park I would check out this service. However, with a dog, we drove the 17-mile scenic drive ourselves. There is only one hike we could do with Sparky – Sunset Point to Sunrise Point. The trail is a paved mile loop. All other overlooks that are paved he was allowed to visit as well. Turns out, there is a large chipmunk population in Bryce Canyon – and Sparky LOVES (or hates) Chipmunks! Each time we took him out of the car to check out a scenic overlook it was a struggle to keep his attention. Overall, Bryce Canyon is phenomenal but I believe we missed the best points by skipping the trails. If you ever want to open a business as a dog day care near Bryce – there might be some serious cash flow for it. When we one day return to Bryce we plan on doing lots of trails. Until then, we got a preview and a taste for it.
The next day we went to the Red Canyon visitor center. The Red Canyon trails are near Bryce Canyon in the Dixie National Forest. The visitor center has a “life-sized” Smoky the Bear statue, which Sparky had mixed feelings about. When I walked him near it he barked at Smoky, when Steve took him near it he ignore Smoky. The visitor center was helpful in getting us trail maps, a plant guide and a bird guide. We decided to do a few popular connecting trails – Pink Ledges, Hoodoo, and Birdseye. The trails were nice, gave us great views, and a challenge. We made it to the peak on one of the trails and felt exhausted but excited we finished it. We made it almost back to flat ground when I took a nasty fall. The loose rocks slipped under my feet and in an instant I was on my butt and left elbow. Now, I have NO idea what I did in the fall and I can tell you I DIDN’T fall on my wrist, but my left wrist was in an incredible amount of pain. The shock of the fall and the pain on my wrist left me in tears and incapable of really moving for a few minutes. Once I got to my feet, I did a body check – everything felt fine except my left wrist. Within a few minutes my hand started to swell. I was reliving the fall again in my head trying to sort out why my wrist hurt but couldn’t figure it out; I didn’t land on my wrist. We made it back to the car where we ate our lunch and I put the ice pack on my wrist.
After lunch we decided not to go on any more hikes, and instead went into town. We had been having issues with our tires having low or high amounts of air throughout the last few weeks due to the elevation change, but at this point our left front tire was getting low. After will did a full tire check into town we decided to drive back to camp and have an easy night. We made it halfway on the gravel road before our left front tire started losing air again, and this time quite fast. It went from 36 PSI to 4 PSI in a matter of 15 minutes. We had a flat. With my left hand in a lot of pain, I was not much help to Steve – who really didn’t need the help because he is becoming quite a pro at changing tires thanks to our honeymoon. This was his first time putting on a spare on the truck so there was a learning curve. Once he got the spare on, we headed back to town. We got to the tire shop at 6:08 (they closed at 6), and even though there were still some people there working, they refused to help us. They told us to come back in the morning; needless to say we didn’t go back. I guess you don’t have to worry about customer service when you are the only game in town. We had to drive 30 minutes back to our campsite.
The next morning we loaded up the trailer and left our beautiful campground to head towards Zion. We stopped at the little town of Panguitch, UT on the way to get our tire fixed and do laundry. We were able to stop at an RV park, charge up our batteries, empty the tanks, fill up the fresh water tank and do laundry! Steve went to get the tire patched and came back with bad news. The tire was too damaged to patch up and this town didn’t have tires we needed. We had to drive to Hurricane, UT to find an actual tire dealer. Hurricane was actually a bigger city and right outside Zion. We found a tire shop, Beard Hurricane Tire Pros, they not only had only bearded men working the shop, but were able to give us a great deal on 4 brand new tires. After Steve chatted with one of his bearded brothers and knowing our tires were reaching the end of their safe life, we decided to just go ahead and replace all four. Our wallet hurt and it took a major dig into our travel budget but it was worth it. At least we got the beard discount!
We left the tire shop around 4:00pm, did some Walmart shopping and went in search of a FREE campsite near Zion. We had two places in mind. The first campsite was packed. There are a lot of other cheap people in the world and they got there before we did. Our second choice wasn’t looking much better. We had driven almost to the end of the road where the highway began and decided we needed to turn around to just settle for a spot between people. Turning around was quite difficult, and a big storm coming in didn’t help. Steve almost jackknifed the trailer and truck and in the process hit the bumper on the trailer spare tire and broke the tire valve. As you can imagine, there were some cuss words, screaming, and complete frustration. We called every RV park in town, and of course there was NO availability. We even called the three closest Walmarts and due to city ordinances, NO we were not allowed to camp there. We had some pretty choice words for Zion who, even though innocent, got the brunt of our frustration. How could the park be so packed in October!? So, just like that our Zion dreams were done. We left the Zion area with no clue what we were going to do, only that we hated Zion (and Utah) for taking our money for tires, ruining our spare, charging a ridiculous amount for beer and not letting us camp at Walmart. We stopped at an In N Out, ate our problems away with cheese fries, milk shakes, and 3x3s and headed to Arizona.
We made it to Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area Campsite just inside the Arizona border. It charged us $8.00 for the night, which was just fine. It was close to 9PM and we needed to stop. We were bummed about missing Zion but decided that Utah would be a place we return to someday.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada