Lots of rocks here. Rock formations. Arches. Canyons. Heavy geological focus with this one.
Jul 13th • 2015
After our beautifully exhausting romp through Joshua Tree National Park, we loaded up the car and began our first miles eastward.
Fifth Campsite: Williams KOA
A few hours out of California and into Arizona brought us to the KOA nearest the Grand Canyon. Williams KOA was crowded (to be expected on a Friday evening near a very well-known attraction) but fun. We scored one of the last campsites. The bathrooms were nice and clean. There was a pool and a laundry room that we took full advantage of that Saturday morning. We even enjoyed a little late-night entertainment with an outdoor movie. It was called “The Gruffalo.” Michelle and Adri found it very moving.
Saturday morning, we did laundry and ate breakfast at the food truck on site. The MSR IsoPro fuel we had been using ran out. But the KOAs food truck had a pretty decent breakfast menu. There was even a coffee bar inside. After breakfast, we left for the Grand Canyon. The line to get into the park was ridiculous. The parking was crazy. So many people.
Maybe it was more of a shock as we were coming from the quiet and near-deserted campsites of Joshua Tree. From no one to suddenly, everyone.
We entered at the South Rim. For a hot minute, I thought we should attempt making it to the North Rim as well…but that detour would cost us four to five hours in the car. We scrapped that in favor of continuing eastward and north toward Utah.
Next time I come here, I want to be camping or hiking into the canyon. My new dream is to hike the ten miles to see Havasu Falls in Supai. Maybe next year.
At first, Courage was excited to be outside. It didn’t last long. The heat from above and the hot sidewalks below left her exhausted. Note to self, visit the desert in the fall. Or spring. Just not summer. And not during a crazy heatwave. That was unexpected.
We left the park the same day, heading on to reach Utah. At one point I stopped for a photo op and came face to face with the least fearful crow that I have ever met. After a staring contest, I conceded an apple core to him for his efforts. In my head I’ve now built up a mythology where he owes me a favor and when I return to the Grand Canyon and get lost hiking, he’ll lead me back to the trail.
I might be watching too many movies.
Exiting the park, we began a long drive through Navajo land. It was a strange sight to see booths of plywoods and tarps set up along the road. Everyone had jewelry for sale or dreamcatchers. The way history turns can be a little depressing.
But who can see the future? Who in the past would have known that thousands of years would allow the Colorado River to carve away the land and create amazing forms.
Even the geological crescendo to the canyon is impressive. Known as the Little Colorado River Gorge, I could see the beginnings of the grander canyons. Maybe millennia from now will reveal this as an extension of that grander erosion?
It’s still very deep.
From there we slipped into the badlands. It’s a beautiful place and known as the Painted Desert. I wish we could have stopped and explored, but with temperatures in the triple digits, any physical activity becomes laborious if not dangerous.
And this is where the cinematic scenes in my head became reality. Between my father and my grandfather, I’ve seen a lot of westerns and the red rock formations of Monument Valley elicit an odd wave of nostalgia in me.
I half expected to see cowboys chasing cattle along the horizon…or at least hear the theme song to Bonanza or Gunsmoke.
Sixth Campsite: Campground at Goulding’s Lodge
Across from the entrance to Monument Valley sits Goulding’s Lodge. At this point in history, it includes a trading post, campground, church, lodge, museum, and more. Apparently, the original owner of the land was greatly responsible for bringing Hollywood to the west. He helped scout locations in Monument Valley. Goulding’s Lodge was even home to John Wayne during the filming of many classic western films such as Stagecoach.
Overall, the campsite was great. There were showers and a pool. Please note that Goulding’s sits on Indian land. So…no beer.
We even did a couple of small hikes around the site.
The first arch we saw was up and behind our campsite. It was the most perfect surprise.
I wish that I had been more proactive about recording our campsite meals. I don’t think people realize the full potential of a fireside dinner. Anything cooked over a fire is suddenly much more delicious. Maybe it’s the smoky flavor…the location…the fact that you’re tired and anything edible becomes delectable. I don’t fully know. But our meals were freakin’ legit. And a side note, always bring a cast-iron skillet. It’s a thing of beauty to use over an open flame.
Note to self: buy a freakin’ tripod. No more long exposures on top of the CRV.
Before leaving Goulding’s, we explored a little more. Across from the church and near the small warehouse, we found a trail that led back into the rocks.
Adri and I contributed to the latest trend sweeping the west…rock stacking, err, balancing.
And our aggressive schedule continued. We headed further north into Utah. Next stop, Moab.
We also passed through a small area called Mexican Hat. I didn’t get it until we came across this rock formation. How that large rock became balanced so precariously, I will never fully understand. I give you, the Mexican Hat.
Seventh Campsite: Moab KOA
I don’t have many good things to say about the Moab KOA. It was the most disappointing campsite we came across. Our simple tent spot (with no water) was $40. It was also the most exposed site we had yet. No shade at all. It was at that moment that I realized my dad was a genius for insisting we take his bungee cords and tarp. I rigged up enough shade to cover our table and give the dogs a decent break.
The staff tried to give me issues over the dogs even. (I’m assuming they aren’t fond of pit bulls after another camper received an accusatory comment from one of the employees. His dog was an American Staffordshire!)
The staff was quite unhelpful regarding the lackluster performance of the WiFi…even complaining about me later on with my sister within earshot. It was a strange thing to see after the awesome KOAs we had visited prior to this. I can’t recommend this place. I’m not kidding. Don’t waste your money or time on this place.
But on to better and more beautiful things!!! Like Arches National Park! This is another dream come true for me.
For most of the day, we had laid low, hiding under the tarp or poolside, trying to escape the vicious heat. I ran out and got groceries along with extra fuel from GearHeads. (By the way, the folks there are awesome. They even have free filtered water! So stop by and fill up before you head into Arches or Canyonlands.) Around 7 PM, we left the KOA and headed through town to visit Arches.
We headed into the park to see one of my favorites and possibly one of the best-known arches.
The gracefully formed and aptly named Delicate Arch.
Moment of silence.
The best part was the shared excitement of the onlookers. Tripods and photographers everywhere. Between the sunset and the full moon, a person would be crazy for not recording at least part of the scenery.