Monday, July 10, 2023

Grover and Capitol Reef (June 7–9)

We left the Grand Canyon around noon, stopping in Kanab around 3:30 for our traditional lunch of peanut butter and jam sandwiches, as well as a quick grocery run so we could eat while we were at Grover.

Here are the kids enjoying their food:

And here's Benjamin and Phoebe by the mural that was just across the street from where we were sitting:

We didn't roll into Grover until the sun was setting. Alexander sure panicked when we turned off the highway onto a gravel road and again when we turned off the gravel road onto the driveway for the cabin (which is nothing more than some ruts on the ground)! But he eventually settled into the idea of staying at the cabin and had a wonderful time.

Here's Miriam helping set things up before it got too dark:

Here are Rachel and Andrew, who started a fire for dinner:

We roasted hot dogs, which Benjamin and Zoë were excited about because they don't remember ever doing that. Evidently we need to "get out" more (the pandemic sure put a cramp in our camping style).

Here are the littles playing a game called "Time to eat? No! Time to pray!" Phoebe thinks it's hilarious.

Grover was...colder...than we expected it to be. It was fine during the day when the sun was up, but much less fine at night when the sun went down. I think only the cabin-sleepers were comfortable; the rest of us suffered outside. Benjamin, Miriam, and Rachel slept in hammocks.

Grandpa slept in his car, and Phoebe and I slept in the van. At first I thought I'd sleep on top of my sleeping bag (so I could have more padding underneath me (we had limited camping supplies with us)), but in the middle of the night I had to rethink that idea. Phoebe and I ended up snuggled up inside the sleeping bag, on a reclined chair.

We were up early, but not as early as Benjamin. He actually scared me because when I first opened my eyes, they immediately settled on a figure lurking on the hillside. Of course, I didn't have my glasses on so I couldn't tell who it was...I pulled my glasses on in a hurry, but it was only Benjamin (phew).

Here's a picture of the hammocks all set up in front of the cabin:

And here's Benjamin up on the hillside; he woke up early (and cold) and decided to set about fixing up a fort for himself on top of the hill.

Here's Phoebe being educated on Grover fort-making:

And here she is testing out how prickly this little variety of cactus is (turns out it's not very prickly, though other kinds are):

The hill is rather steep (and covered in cactus), so I took Phoebe over to the swing set, which is a much safer place for babies. I love this swing; made out of an old tire and my grandparents had one just like it on their swing set in Raymond.

Phoebe spent forever in the swing. She learned how to say "no" on this trip and has used the word liberally ever since. "Phoebe, are you ready to get out?" "No!"

Here's a view of where Zoë and Alexander were sleeping all cozy and warm in the cabin:

We had cereal for breakfast and then Phoebe played in the sandbox while we got everything ready to go hiking.

Well, she also plopped herself down right here and helped herself to someone's notebook:

Here are the girls all ready to leave for our adventures:

We had big dreams of hiking Capitol Gorge, the Grand Wash, and Hickman Bridge...but we ended up only doing Capitol Gorge (and Goosenecks), and that was just fine. We probably would have been able to do more if we hadn't gotten lost trying to find "the tanks," but we did get lost trying to find the's that.

How did we get lost while hiking a trail that is literally just a dried up riverbed...that we have hiked more than once before?

100% pure talent. We are just that good.

(Though to be fair I think the last time we hiked it was 2011, so it had been a while).

We also might have been able to accomplish more if the kids weren't distracted by every... 

Look! A lizard!

Sorry. I meant to say, we might have been able to accomplish more of our plans if the kids hadn't been distracted by every rock and cavity they came across. You're about to see a billion pictures of the kids saying, "Take a picture of me here!" Consider yourselves warned.

The hike itself is only a mile in (and a mile out), but with the amount of scrambling the kids did, I'm sure they covered at least five!

They had a blast (even if it made the hike take longer) and that's all that matters.

We made it to what the National Park Service calls "historic inscriptions," but which I've always heard everyone refer to as "The Pioneer Registry" (which is just a place where a bunch of people carved their names into the cliffside in the 1800s):

And then we decided to push on to the tanks...which required a bit more of a walk down the riverbed...which required a whole lot more (technically optional) rock climbing:

Here's the part where the hikes to the tanks begins—you climb out of the riverbed, and head up the steep walls of the canyon. Gratefully, Andrew carried Phoebe in the backpack the entire way (even though everyone was teasing him about having fallen off a cliff with Alexander in our (trashed) backpack the last time we went hiking in Grover):

(PS. I'm still moderately sad that we didn't get to hike Sulphur Creek because it's one of my very favourite hikes, but...we had a baby in a backpack...and limited clothes/camping Sulphur Creek was cut from our list of potential hikes).

Here's Benjamin climbing up a rock wall up in the canyon while everyone yelled at him to get down (because it's not necessarily safe to go bounding around like a chaotic mountain goat when you're however many feet above the canyon floor; much safer to behave that way when you're just aiming for a cavity four feet off the ground):

And here's Rachel looking out at the vast expanse of nothingness ahead of us and declaring, "I think we're lost."

And here's Miriam pointing off to the distance at the riverbed trail and saying that we can't get too lost because no matter where we get to we just have to hike back down to the river (and she wasn't entirely wrong).

We stubbornly forged ahead. We began following what we were sure were the official rock cairns (stacks of rocks used to mark the trail), but soon the cairns disappeared and we realized we'd been following cairns that had been built by other lost hikers, not the official cairns set up by the NPS (and that's why you should't build rock towers on hiking trails). The hike got harder and harder and it took us a ridiculously long time to realize that the strenuous path we were on was not the "short climb to waterpockets" (what everyone calls "The Tanks") that we were promised in the trail guide.

We'd hiked so long and so far that we weren't exactly able to turn around and follow our same path back, so we just found a high place, located what we were pretty sure was the actual trail, and headed that direction. 

Eventually we made it to the tanks, but it was a pretty pathetic journey, especially when we finally made it back to the actual trail and a couple standing there said, "Ah, so that wasn't the way. We saw you leave that direction so confidently, but weren't sure it was really the path, so we just figured we'd see how you'd do..."

"Yeah, that wasn't the right way!" we laughed. 

Here's Benjamin and Rachel exploring the tanks, which were dry as a bone! Only the lowest tank had any water in it—and that was just a little puddle (with the teeniest tadpoles in it). The other two tanks were dry, dry, dry.

Here we are heading back down to the riverbed trail:

Here's Benjamin adding a rock onto one of the official cairns:

A lot of the cairns have a metal pole driven through them (somehow), which helps them remain upright. But there are also a lot of cairns that are just balanced rocks.

Here's everyone enjoying a little break in the shade of the canyon wall:

It is so dry in Utah!

We have become accustomed to Georgia's humidity, where sometimes we feel like we're practically swimming! Utah's aridness really sucked the life out of us. We were all so thirsty and our hands were crying out for moisture. 

Every morning on the road when we'd make our sandwiches, we'd just load them back into the bag the loaf of bread came in—to save on plastic use, of course, but also because we'd use practically the entire loaf making enough sandwiches for everybody. 

All that is to say that when we stopped in Kanab on our way to Grover, Andrew went inside to do the shopping while I fed the kids. And then he decided he'd just eat his sandwich while we were driving to save some time. So, I packed up everything in the cooler, except for his sandwich, which he carried to the van...which was only a few car lengths away in the parking lot. 

By the time we got to the van the bread of his sandwich was all crusty, dried out. It was incredible to think that it happened so fast. Something like that would never happen in Georgia.

Oh, and breakfast cereal! I asked Aunt Linda how she wanted us to put the breakfast cereal away—roll the bag down, clip it, what? And she was like, "Oh, it doesn't matter. I usually just don't do anything."

Incredible! If we leave anything dry out—crackers or cereal, for example—they tend to suck moisture out of the air and get all...soft and soggy (not to mention the ants!). So the idea of just...putting a box of opened cereal into the pantry without worrying about how to seal it off from the elements  was...incredible.

Anyway, we were all very thirsty on our hike.

It looks like we let Phoebe get out of the backpack to do a little hiking of her own:

She loved this little hole Andrew lifted her into. She was pretty sure she could just move on in (and did a lot of screaming, "NO!" when we took her out).

I love these cliffs and really wish we could have spent some more time in Capitol Reef and Grover.

I am fine where I am. Georgia is lovely. 

I think it's important to be fine where you are because...changing locations typically doesn't solve any of your problems. It's tempting to dream that a change in location might just be the answer, but...having moved locations quite a bit...I can fairly confidently answer that it's not the answer to much of anything. Every place has its pros and cons and quite often the beauty that you see (or don't see) is because of the way you're looking at things, rather than the way things are.

Still, as much as I love the trees in Georgia. As much as I love our temperate winters. As much as I love the pool weather and how close we are to the beach. As much as I love our long, luxurious autumns...

I do find myself missing the wide open spaces. I miss the sky, I miss the horizon, I miss escaping into the canyon and feeling alone. Sometimes, I feel stranded in the city. Like, the feeling I think I'd have if I were out in the ocean on a boat and all I could see around me was water...I think sometimes I feel like that in the city. Like, no matter how far I go I will always have crowds and traffic and...that's fine. 

We've got great stuff going on here in Georgia, too. But I also like this:

Let's see, once out of Capitol Gorge, we headed to Fruita to have lunch (we got all fancy and had meat and cheese sandwiches, rather than PB and J, and the kids thought they'd died and gone to heave) and play frisbee. We didn't take many pictures (but I did throw a frisbee that hit Alexander in the face). Here are a couple of pictures Benjamin took of Zoë and Phoebe and I in the Fremont River, though:

After we were finished with Fruita, we stopped by the visitors center to play in Sulphur Creek. Here's Rachel attempting to get out of the parking lot at Fruita (Grandpa is directing her). It was particularly crowded there because a tree cutting crew was working and they were taking up a lot of parking spots!

Phoebe was thrilled to be back at Sulphur Creek. 

She'd spent part of her morning there with Andrew and Rachel while Grandpa, Miriam, and I were helping our little Junior Rangers work on their booklets. Because he knew we still had a full day of hiking ahead of us, he didn't let her get into the creek like she wanted to do.

Though somehow they came up with this compromise:

So at least Phoebe got to touch the water. 

Anyway, in the afternoon, we let her play in the water to her little heart's delight. And, oh, how her heart delighted!

She was running and round and splashing and screaming, "Wa-Wa! Wa-Wa! Wa-Wa!"

She really likes water.

All the kids got in (at least a little bit), but Phoebe got in the most. It helps that she's the water was (at times) almost up to her knees, anyway, while everyone else was merely wading up to their ankles.

Here's a little selfie Andrew and I took:

Now is a good time to admit that not only did I peg Alexander in the face with a frisbee, I also threw a rock at Benjamin. 

Hear me out!

Benjamin wanted to learn how to skip rocks, so he just picked up a rock and said, "How do you skip rocks? Like this?" Without waiting for any instruction he tossed that rock must have skipped a half dozen times! 

"Exactly like that!" I said, "But you have to make sure no one is in your way. You can't skip your rock toward anyone else, so just make sure everyone is behind you when you're throwing."

And then I threw a rock and...let go at the exact wrong time...and instead of going in front of me, my rock went sideways...straight into Benjamin's knee!!


The poor kid! It even drew blood! I felt so bad! 

He was a champ, though, and mostly just walked it off. And then we skipped more rocks. And I was much more careful about exactly how the rock was leaving my hand. I honestly don't even know how I threw it as badly as I did (because I know how to skip rocks!!), but I just did, and poor Benjamin was literally the only obstacle around me (and he was beside me)!

Anyway, here's Phoebe just screaming with sheer joy:

She wanted nothing more than to lift up a big heavy rock from the creek bottom. Alexander did it!

But try as she might, she could not find a rock that she could lift. Pebbles and stones? Plenty of those. She wanted a boulder. Her inability to lift a big rock was upsetting, but nothing that couldn't be cured by splashing about for a little while.

Oh, look! It's Rachel!

And Phoebe (no surprise there).

Ignore the blur on all the pictures from here on out. I got a splash on the lens that I didn't notice.

She didn't mind getting muddy one bit!

In fact, getting all dirty gave her the fortitude she needed to...pick up a boulder!

And here she having fallen down because that rock was really too heavy for her to be carrying around:

Soon after this, Phoebe decided she'd had enough. It was a like a switch went off in her brain and she realized that the water was cold, her diaper was soggy, the rocks were poking her feet, and she was covered in mud. She started crying, "Brrrr! Brrr! No!" and was just mad about everything. 

So we rinsed her off, changed her diaper, got her dressed, and headed to the Goosenecks, just so we could compare the view to the Grand Canyon.

The Grand Canyon is much bigger.

We could hear some hikers down below—hiking the whole Sulphur Creek trail—and the kids tried shouting down to them so we could wave, but they didn't hear us. The kids wanted to know how it was possible that we could hear the hikers, but they couldn't hear us. The answer I told them (and I'm assuming I'm correct), is that their voices are trapped inside the canyon and have no where to travel but up to our ears. We, however, were not able to project our voices down into the canyon; instead our voices were stolen by the wind and carried off to who knows where...

The Goosenecks is a quick little hike, which was good because by this time we were all about ready for the ice cream Grandpa had promised.

There's a cute little burger joint in Torrey called Slacker's that sells ice cream cones:

After that we just went back to the cabin to have dinner and relax:

The kids enjoyed the sandbox (where they didn't get dirty at all):

Benjamin practiced using the camera:

And figured out how to take a decent selfie:

He also took a picture of the interior of his fort:

And these pictures of the little kids swinging:

And this portrait of Rachel looking moody (she's not...she just has resting...moody...face):

And here's Grandpa pretending he's an old grump (he's not, but this face was not a resting face issue; this face was very actively made):

Phoebe and I slept a lot better our second night in the van. The hammock sleepers had largely decided that pillows in hammocks are irrelevant (and made them feel like their head was in a taco), so they gave me their pillows to use as a mattress, which was lovely. It freed the sleeping bag up for warmth. Starting the night inside the sleeping bag meant that I didn't wake up freezing in the middle of the night and it was just altogether a better night for me. 

I can't say the same for everyone else. Apparently Andrew had a rough night in the cabin with Alexander and Zoë. And the hammock kids still complained about being cold. Grandpa was cold in his car, too (he didn't even have a sleeping bag like the hammock kids and I did)!

We spent the morning cleaning up camp and getting ready to hit the road again. Here's a view of Phoebe's glorious bedhead while she and Alexander were waiting for me to help them with breakfast (we brought our water boiler so we could make oatmeal, and I'm glad we did because having something warm in the morning was lovely; had we known how cold it was going to be at night we would have brought hot chocolate or something).

In monumental news, Rachel and I both drove from the cabin in Grover to Goblin Valley. That's the longest stretch of time either of us have driven. I made Andrew take a picture of me so that I could prove that I was driving...and then he fell asleep! He took an actual nap in the car! 

He woke up in a panic because the car was moving and he wasn't driving and...that just never happens. 

I'm not sure when it will happen again because while I can manage the empty highway between Grover and Hanksville...I just don't know about the bustling highways here...

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