We woke up early on Day 4 and drove back into Capitol Reef National Park to finish up two more hikes and a scenic drive. It was actually on the way to the second hike where we saw the one (and only) signto pay anything to use the park and finally found some people. Not a ton of people, mind you, but at least half of the pie eaters from the day before. After we finished that hike, we made our way back to the car and took off for Canyonlands. Quickly might I add, because I'd just discovered the pie shop also had cinnamon rolls the size of your face and we really didn't have time for another one of my "baked goods stops."
The drive from Capitol Reef National Park to Canyonlands National Park wasn't really that far (given we'd already driven through over half of the state by then) but it was mostly just through the desert so it seemed endless. The kind of endless where you both just silently stare out over the vast nothingness and you really really hope you don't break down because there is nothing within miles of you. We eventually made it back to I-70, hung a right, and booked it on over to Canyonlands National Park.
The plan had been to arrive at Canyonlands, grab a campsite there, explore it some, stay the night, and then finish up the next day along with Arches. As soon as we started driving it though, we hit a few snags. First, we thought we'd camp in the park. (Apparently the week we were there it isn't super busy so it's a possibility.) Looking at the map, we decided that if that didn't work out we'd just grab a spot in one of the campgrounds along the main road in (and since not one of them had water available, it's not as though any were better than the other.) That plan didn't exactly pan out. The drives between each spot were so time-consuming, that we pretty much had to decide right then and there if we wanted to just drive all the way back out and find a site in time to set up and get situated before dark, or just do everything possible on that side of the park within 1-2 hours and figure out camping later (which could also mean ending up having to drive into Moab with our fingers crossed.)
Of course we went with the whole "let's do all the things" option.
So again we looked at the map and planned out the most logical route so we wouldn't have to back track too much and then proceeded to do everything. While staring out over a huge (HUGE) canyon, we briefly talked about being a little worried that we were going to miss something by not doing a really long hike. As if answering our question directly, we then overheard a ranger telling a couple that they'd never find better views than the small hikes around where we were. That everything was just "so vast" that you wouldn't really be able to appreciate it's splendor from on the canyon floors and unless you were trying to bike the entire White Rim trail (we didn't have time, but it's that trail running right alongside the cliff above) it was in their best interest just to hit the main points. Perfect. Worries dissolved.
So that's exactly what we did. (At one point we were following this white suburban who was hauling it up the park roads- which was fine by us. We both arrived at the same place and out jumped 2 couples around 65-70 years old. Walking down to the view point, the driver playfully said "Oh look! Another big ass hole in the ground!" I pretty much died laughing. Because well, yea. It was.)
We also made it to Mesa Arch where we stumbled across a couple attempting what looked like a personal photoshoot. iPhones out, DSLR out, hair flips- the works. At one point he started giving her directions on how to hold her head which reminded me of the days of school photos. All that was missing was the little black plastic brush. Anyhoo, after we stood around awkwardly for over 10 posed photos, we realized they weren't moving anytime soon so we kind of just stepped in, said excuse me, and took our photos. They weren't shy about huffing and puffing about having to "share the stage" but we didn't really worry too much given we'd already given them more than enough time to wrap it up. (Or at least take a break.) Luckily, it didn't seem to hurt the mood too much. As soon as we left they began shooting a series I like to call the "let's act like we're pondering our existence while looking out over the distance and some stranger just happened to capture the moment perfectly. On our iPhone" series. That sarcastic attitude is precisely why my photos aren't "pin-worthy" friends. Apparently you aren't supposed to actually look at the camera so people can "envision them in your shoes." Personally I think that just means I have a lot of photos where it looks like I have extreme ADD and can't concentrate on the camera. Or else I'm just fascinated by my new shoes. Either could be plausible.
So yep. After the arch, we'd hit everything we'd really wanted to see in Canyonlands (well the top portion. The park is huge and we knew we might not have time to see the bottom portion) and started to drive back out towards the campsite. Maybe 2 miles from our destination-just about the time we see the "no water here" signs again- J. looks at me and says "What would you think about grabbing a hotel tonight?" It took me maybe less than 2 minutes to hit "book" on booking.com's website.
Technically, it took like 10 minutes because I had to wait for cell reception, but I was on board within 2 minutes. (Which was precisely how long it took to discuss that we were going to go ahead and somehow see Arches in that same afternoon- because we're crazy- as well as drive to Grand Junction so our drive would be even shorter the next morning.)
So... off we went to Arches. Where we saw... more rocks. (You thought I was going to say arches didn't you? Well those too.) Very pretty rocks and arches that may have prompted me to ask "why didn't George Lucas come here to film Star Wars?" because seriously- they could have saved so much money on sets if they'd shot there instead of Africa. Actually, he could have done the whole movie in Utah and gotten everything he needed. But I digress.
At one of our stops in Arches, we ran into a nice couple around our parents ages that were taking photos of each other when J. asked if they would like him to get one of the two of them. That led to them taking on of us and because we're Southern, an entire conversation about their daughter, our family, where we are from, why we live in Denver, how we met etc. After learning that we met at the University of Georgia, the woman got all kind of animated so I just assumed she was a crazy Florida fan or something (or Ohio State and I was in for a lecture about how the SEC isn't the best conference. Which it is, do not be mistaken.) Turns out she coaches baton twirling and one of her closest friends is the baton twirling coach at UGA! See? And that is why you talk to (nice, non creepy) strangers. Because the world is super small and we're all connected somehow.
Okay on with the trip.
After Arches, we set the car towards Grand Junction and arrived there just as it was getting really dark. And while it wasn't dinner over a campfire, we did split pretzel bites for an appetizer and watch the tail end of a Broncos preseason game so I'm still putting it as a win in my book.
Missed any of the other days? Catch up here: