Saturday, Sept. 27
Got out in time to meet the TA Meet-Up group outside their hotel. Was so great to see all the familiar faces - apparently the Utah air keeps everyone young ... everyone looked exactly the same as two years ago! Good also to meet PNJM, as we had communicated by email and phone before last year's Escalante trip but never met. Anyway, it was really great to see everyone.
Having said that, as much as I wanted to head out and share some adventures that day, my mind had already committed to a total decompression, veg-out day, with a forecast of almost certain heavy rain. So I just chilled out in my motel room fiddling around online, getting some work done and re-organizing the car for the second half of the trip. Unfortunately, there was a car show across the street that day, and some idiot decided to choose the motel parking lot as the place to rev his engine - LOUDLY - and then race up and down the main drag. He did this non-stop from about 8:30 a.m. til about 3 p.m., and of course no one did anything about it. I also had guys smoking right outside my motel room a couple times during the day, so that when I opened my door to step outside, my whole room stunk of cigarette smoke. Are you detecting a theme on this trip so far of disrespectful, annoying people?
Anyway, had a very fun dinner with the Meet-Up group at a truck-stop restaurant. I only had chips and salsa so can't comment on the food, really, but they had some good Utah beers. Overall I was not particularly impressed with Green River - it was a bit "rednecky" (I'm sure the car show didn't help) and the vibe of the town made me feel like I was thrust back into the 1970s. The dinner was a nice way to end the night, though, and thanks to SWT and SJG/DH for the Firestone Walker beers!
Sunday, Sept. 28
This was a whirlwind day that turned out great - I saw so much varied terrain and weather that it's hard to believe it was all the same day on the same continent!
I left Green River right after sunrise and it POURED rain so hard on I-70 that at one point I pretty much stopped dead because I couldn't see an inch in front of me. Thankfully the rain tapered off gradually and stopped along Highway 24, and it got beautiful by the time I hit Goblin Valley. This was a nice little stop though I think I expected too much from it after reading so many great reviews. The area as a whole, though, is really pretty and I lingered for a few hours, going for a little run on a trail across the street from that huge butte at the turnoff for Little Wildhorse Canyon, which was inaccessible from the flooding. In fact, the ranger at Goblin Valley said someone had been trapped overnight in Ding or Dang canyon, and he suggested to some of us to head a couple miles on the LWH road to check out the road flooding there. Pretty intense stuff.
Stopped in Hanksville for gas at the Hole in the Mountain service station (the desert's version of a man cave) and then began the sunny drive to Capitol Reef National Park, a drive that got more and more stunning with each mile. I also got to see my second ghost town on the trip - I knew about Cisco near Moab but this one was a surprise.
Got to Capitol Reef mid-afternoon - my third trip to this gem of a park - and picked apples for a while. They were absolutely delicious, and I'm not a big apple fan. Stopped in the visitor's center and then drove three miles up the road to Panorama Point, which leads to the short walk to the Goosenecks overlook, which was very impressive and - with off and on rain in the area - included a double rainbow that floored another couple and I. Wanted to see Sunset Point, too, which is another very short walk from the same parking area, but from the parking area you could look across the way and see a big patch of rain moving over Boulder Mountain, where I was headed, so I figured I'd better get to it. Two years ago I waited too late to go over Boulder Mtn and wound up hitting a deer on the backside of the mountain.
In addition to House on Fire, the one sight I was most excited to see on the whole trip were aspens on Boulder Mtn, which totally blew me away in 2012. I was beyond crushed on Friday when I was told by the woman at Boulder Mountain Ranch where I was staying that the aspens would be all gone by Sunday because of the wild storms they had there the night before, but I had hope after hearing reports to the contrary from a couple people at the Capitol Reef visitor's center.
And, oh, were there aspens! A little at first, then more as I climbed higher. By that time, the spotty drizzle turned to a steady rain, which then mixed in with wet snow, and before I knew it, I was in the middle of a blizzard. By the time I neared the summit, the snow was sticking big-time, and it was pretty much white-out conditions, with the brilliant yellow aspens glowing amid the white snow, cows walking in the middle of the road, and me jumping out of the car every five minutes in shorts and sandals to capture it all. It was totally surreal. And a little nerve-wracking, until I crested the summit and started the descent back down in my little Ford Focus. What an adventure!
Wound up driving four miles in the pitch black on Hell's Backbone Road to my lodging for the next two nights, the Boulder Mountain Ranch. Could tell even in the dark that this was a really cool place, the young woman there was awesome, and the fresh-cooked meal I had was delicious. Was appreciative that they stuck around to cook it so late for me.
"Checked in" to my tent, which had no space heater so I had to really bundle up with temps in the upper 30s.