From California to the U.K. in 30 days - Day 10 (Moab, Utah to Kanab, Utah)

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July 26th 2017
Published: July 26th 2017
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It’s warm and sunny this morning which means I am sweating profusely by the time I have completed the ritual of the suitcases. A quick check of the weather forecast and I decide to forgo the tarp as it promises to be clear and sunny all the way. We load up on some free snacks and coffee from the hotel and decide to get breakfast a little further down the road. It’s about 30 miles back out to I-70 and we backtrack the way we came in a couple of days ago. Quick wave to the dinosaurs and a nervous glance at Gemini Bridges road twisting away up the side of the mountain.

We take I-70 west and are back on the surface of the moon. Bare dirt, huge spoil piles - some tan, some grey, and the ever-impressive rocky buttes and mountains frame the horizon. To the right appear a series of jagged red teeth, pointed rocks that appear to have thrust up through the earth at an odd angle. They run for several miles and look as though they could have just appeared yesterday.

Breakfast is in Green River at the Tamarisk Café. The restaurant has a view of the lazy brown water of the Green River (total misnomer) and the food is good. I have ground beefsteak and eggs with fresh slices of tomato, and Antonio is delivered a breakfast burrito the size of a Volkswagen. Gracie has her pancake and AJ finishes his sausage and eggs and quickly dives in to assist everyone else.

Our friend Lupita has told us of a place named Goblin Valley. We exit the Interstate and head south on State Route 24 towards the park. It’s another of those open vistas, we can see forever to the horizon and the moonscape continues. Rocks, buttes, mountains and escarpments dot the landscape. Some areas are grass covered and others completely bare. I can’t discern what causes the difference. We reach the park in about 30 minutes and pay our $13 to enter. Almost immediately we can see the “Goblins”. This is an area which has been gently sculpted by wind and water for millions of years. The goblins are rounded misshapen sandstone sculptures, balanced atop a softer layer of mud and silt, the make the most fantastical shapes. The kids are smitten and we are able to explore freely, climbing on or over them at will. We see stone dogs, birds, noses, faces, sailing ships – ooh that one looks a bit phallic! Gracie spots a castle in the cliff wall and we pick our way between the goblins and climb up for a closer look. What a remarkable view! The valley is laid out at our feet and looks like an alien planet. The kids are delighted at being able to climb and touch everything – Gracie announces that she would like to kiss one of the “Bloglins”! The guidebook recommends a full moon visit and I add it to my bucket list. It must be fascinating and a perhaps a little scary. It’s almost 11am and hot. We are glad to be back in the air conditioning as we head back South on the highway.

Our visit to Goblin Valley is fortuitous in more ways than one. Not only did we get to experience a unique attraction, but it is now closer to get to Kanab by continuing on 24. Had we not made the pitstop it would have been interstate much of the way. The spoil piles that we have been seeing begin to increase in both size and frequency. It appears as though we have entered a giant mining area but they are all natural. Some are grey, others tan and still others have an almost purple content. They close in on the highway and soon it begins to twist and turn as we navigate between them. I feel as though we are in a giant’s kitchen. Massive piles of different colors are spread everywhere like ingredients on a worktop. To the right, the Fremont river appears; a thick muddy wash the color of milky coffee. I’m glad we aren’t in survival mode as it doesn’t look very appetizing. Along its banks, vivid green trees and plants are contrasted against the bare piles of dirt, obviously ambivalent to the flavor and happy to for the sustenance. The road twists and turns between them following the river. Massive monoliths of sandstone begin to appear, larger and larger until we are in a massive canyon. The sandstone cliffs are a kaleidoscope of textures, some smooth, others scored in layers of intersecting sediment. A sign says we are entering Capitol Reef National Park. Somehow, I have missed it on the maps and we are pleasantly surprised. The highway continues to wind through the sandstone canyons and it’s once again breathtaking. We see a turnout filled with cars and the sign – Petroglyphs! We quickly pull over and take turns walking out to the cliff face (the kids are sound asleep in the back seat). I have never seen them in real life and it is fascinating to see the crude figures scratched into the face of the cliff. I wonder if they were made to be art, or were they just a bored youth defacing the rock, an early form of graffiti perhaps? Either way they are marvelous to behold and we acknowledge our good fortune in traveling off the beaten path.

The road climbs steadily and once again I feel we are back in Wyoming. High desert with sloping valleys, and tall peaks all covered in dry grass and scrub brush. I’m shocked as we pass an elevation sign proclaiming the pass to be at 8100 feet. When did we get so high? As a Californian, it’s easy to forget that much of the Western U.S. lives above 5000 feet. In the distance are thunder heads and we can see rain falling on the adjacent hills, but a quick check of the map shows the highway turns left before we should reach them. A few fat drops hit the windshield, so engorged that they explode like water balloons, but quickly peter out. We stop for a bathroom break at the side of the road. Some construction fences off old cabins – Butch Cassidy’s homestead! Nice location Butch! Back on the road and things are definitely greying overhead. I am regretting not tarping up, and as the rain begins I am really regretting it. We spy a gas station ahead and take advantage of the canopy to remove all the bags, and pull out the tarp. Unfortunately, it isn’t quite big enough to go all the way around completely, even before it got melted. We do the best we can and get back on the road. It pours for about 10 minutes and we are pretty sure things are getting soaked back there. As we close in on Highway 89 the rain mercifully stops. The now familiar red rock of Southern Utah begins to show through. We see signs for both Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks and continue south towards Kanab.

We pull into town around 5pm and our home for the next three nights is Canyons Boutique Hotel. It’s quite lovely. Situated on the north end of town, the interior is very elegant and the room is luxuriously decorated in rich reds, not unlike the local rock. The desk clerk is very nice and recommends the Rocking V restaurant for dinner as the hotel restaurant is closed. It’s walking distance and we are able to sit outside on the sidewalk to dine. Dinner is outstanding! Antonio has king crab legs and I indulge in a bison fillet. It is one of the most tender cuts of meat I have ever had. We finish off with some crème brulee and ice-cream and walk back to the hotel feeling pleasantly stuffed.

It’s worth pointing out that at this point our room looks like a Chinese laundry as much of the clothing in the bottom suitcase was indeed wet. Since the hotel doesn’t have a dryer, we are forced to hang our various items from every piece of furniture we could get our hands on. Definitely plan on getting a bigger tarp and ignoring all weather forecasts from now on.

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