Utah 2023: Catching Up On Missed & New Opportunities

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Day 5 (Tuesday, October 10, 2023)

Taking a walk down memory lane to get to today’s program:

Back in 2019, I had planned a trailer/RV trip with my parents – in May 2020, we were going to travel through Utah & more for about 2 weeks, exploring National Park, Monuments & more.

By late March 2020, I had to cancel it all, as we were all in lockdown globally due to the COVID pandemic. Always the optimist, I rescheduled for October, and was able to get some of the great campsites and tours re-booked for 5 months later than originally planned.

Well, by mid-summer, I knew that international travel wasn’t going to be allowed yet come October 2020, and my parents were not going to be able to join Kirk & I on this trip.

But ready for a serious break after having worked all through the height of the pandemic, not having had a moment off as we were both doing our jobs and covering for our team members on furlough or not able to return to the office, we left Livermore to get away for 2 weeks that fall.

Page, AZ with its Slot Canyon Tours and the Horseshoe Bend was on our itinerary for this trip back then – but all Navajo Nation sites were still closed due to COVID. Even when we drove through the area again during our first (and long) Getting Away in May 2021, we had to skip these attractions as they had remained closed well beyond a year after the start of the pandemic. But now, in the fall of 2023, we finally got to do the tour we had originally planned to do 3½ years earlier – the Secret Canyon & Horseshoe Bend tour. Check them out here: https://horseshoebendtours.com/

I booked the Sunset tour, which starts just after 3pm, and goes through sunset – providing great light for the slot canyon (which is part of the Antelope Canyon) and a spectacular sunset atmosphere while at a private overlook of the Horseshoe Bend. With a group of only 12 people (plus our guide Geri), it was as if we had the canyon and the overlook just to ourselves! After getting some amazing photos inside the slot canyon – while learning more about the Navajo culture and some of their challenges during the pandemic – we enjoyed sunset over the Colorado River. Even Kirk was impressed!

While we enjoyed our tour, J.T. had been spending the afternoon with a doggie-sitter (Rover), as we had not wanted to leave her alone in the trailer at the campground. Needless to say, she missed us fiercely, but all was forgiven once we picked her back up before heading to dinner (with a dog-friendly patio).

Day 6 (Wednesday, October 11, 2023)

Leaving Page. AZ the following morning, we headed east on a familiar route – crossing into Utah about 2 hours later. But rather than continuing straight on, we decided to detour to the Monument Valley Navajo Park, where both Kirk and I had not been in decades. Wanting to get to Valley of the Gods in the afternoon, only visited the overlook points and gift shop, before traveling on – with the knowledge that we’d return in the next days to do the scenic drive.

Less than an hour later, we arrived in Mexican Hat, UT, our gateway to the Valley of the Gods (BLM). We quickly found that there were more – a lot more – campers out here today than at any of the 3 previous times we had been here! Now we all know times have changed, more people travel in their RVs, and have discovered this off-road gem – but once main factor adding to the draw this week: the upcoming Annular Eclipse on Saturday, with Valley of the Gods right in the center path of the eclipse! We were surrounded by (mostly) eclipse fans, eagerly awaiting the coming spectacle!

Well, we were here for that, too – but purely by coincidence or luck cosmic guidance maybe (?) – as we hadn’t planned this trip around the eclipse – the eclipse happened to fall into our travel plans/route!

So after finding our previous spot (from May ’21) no longer an eligible site (closed for restoration) and many other great spots already taken, we ended up in one roadside spot just a bit further west from where we had camped back in Oct ’20. We ended up having a great set up – and no other campers squeezing into our spot next to us, only a couple that drove their car not the Valley day-of for the eclipse joining us in our large turnout spot. (but ‘m getting ahead of schedule here…)

Day 7 (Thursday, October 12, 2023)

After almost a week on the road and finally all settled in for a 4-day stint in the Valley, today was all about relaxing!

Well, in the afternoon, we did take the truck out for a drive up the Moki Dugway, to explore off road trails on the mesa, but that was all the action we were up for that day.

Day 8 (Friday, October 13, 2023)

Taking I slow again today, we decided the only thing on our agenda should be a drive back to Monument Valley, to complete the Scenic Loop Drive. Spectacular views of the various buttes, mesas & more as we explore Navajo lands.

Day 9 (Saturday, October 14, 2023)

The day of the Annular Eclipse is here! Kirk had the GoPro set up for time lapse video and his big camera for zoomed in photos every few seconds to capture all stages of the eclipse. It was phenomenal to watch – especially as it approached the “Ring of Fire” around 10:30am MT.

It most definitely got a lot colder as the sun disappeared behind the new moon, and temperatures took a while to recover. But since there are (almost) no animal noises to be heard during the day in Valley of the Gods, it didn’t go all quiet during the peak (unlike what we experienced back in 2018 at the total eclipse in Oregon).

Once it was all over, it was time to relax again. After all, this was going to be our last day n the Valley!

Day 10 (Sunday, October 15, 2023)

After a well-deserved break at Valley of the Gods, it is time to pack up again and move towards our next destination. Just like many other remaining stragglers left over from yesterday’s eclipse, we’re heading out of the valley and onto more improved ways. But no better way to get a last look over the whole valley than by climbing up the Moki Dugway, this time with the trailer in tow. From here, we head north to my all-time-favorite National Monument: Natural Bridges. We’re only doing a quick drive through along the loop drive today as we still have the scenic drive through Glen Canyon National Recreation Area ahead of us, which will then drop us into Hanksville, UT.

The drive along Hwy 95 is beautiful, especially in the fall, and – just like last tine – we vow to spend more time here (between the Colorado River and the Henry Mountains) on one of our next trips to the area!

Once we arrive in Hanksville, we check into Duke’s Slickrock Campground (site #16), for a 2-night FHU stay to get all cleaned up and refueled.

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