At the KOA we hooked up the batteries to shore power. With such little sun during our week in Aspen the batteries had depleted so much they were now out of sync with the inverter. We also took this opportunity to do laundry. That night our heater pooped out on us. We have an Airtronics Espar D2 heater under the passenger seat. It gave a few fault codes, mostly for overheating. This perplexed us since it has been functioning perfectly for about a month (since we installed it), and all of the sudden was overheating. The next morning we took the passenger seat off to have a look at the heater, found nothing out of place so put the seat back on and headed out.
We made our way out of Colorado towards Moab. There’s a year round camp site in Arches National Park, so I set the GPS for it and Google must have really been struggling that day because it tried to take us on BLM back roads through a giant rock wall. By the time we realized what the GPS was trying to do, we were already pretty far into some serious 4×4 off-roading. We decided the van really shouldn’t go any further on these roads, despite managing great so far, so we turned around and found a spot to camp on the BLM lands.
The next day we set the GPS for Moab and back to normal paved roads. We did some shopping, filled up on diesel, and headed into Arches National Park. We spent the rest of the afternoon in Arches, which luckily was still fully open, with only 3 Rangers. We were a little worried about the accessibility of federal lands since the government shut down on December 22nd. The Rangers gave us suggestions for BLM camping in the area, which is where we stayed for the night. It was a dispersed camping area just past Canyonlands and Arches.
Christmas Eve we headed into Canyonlands National Park. They had no staff and the visitor center was closed, but all the roads were open. We drove around Canyonlands and hiked up the Whale looking rock then headed to Dead Horse State Park. We didn’t stay for long, but got a fantastic look at the Canyon. Our journey needed to continue to Bears Ears National Monument. One last stop at the State Liquor Store in Moab for Christmas libations and we were off. (Utah has some funny laws about alcohol) On our way to Bears Ears we saw a stunning sunset. Eventually we made it to the Campsite, it was pitch black and visibility was awful since the moon hadn’t come out yet. We were going to have a Christmas surprise as to where we were.
Christmas morning we woke up to see we had colorful rock walls near us. We got ready to go and thought we turned onto the 95 in the correct direction. We did not, and went all the way back to the turn off from the 191 before realizing we had gone East instead of West. Turned around and continued our drive through Bears Ears. Made a few stops to take pictures and go up some rocks. Road signs kept indicating we were in a free range area for cows, but the only cows we saw were a few dead ones in Glen Canyon off the side of the road. It was a little disturbing. While the scenic drive for Bears Ears on 95 took a few hours, mostly due to our stops, we did get some amazing views. By the afternoon we had made it to Hanksville, where we went to the only open gas station and convenience store, which was also in a rock. No joke, this store was like some Hobbit hole, literally inside a giant rock. We headed into Capital Reef National Park.
This Park clearly has been affected by the government shut down. The Visitor Center was very much closed, with signs stating so and the contingency plan for the area. The camp site was open in the park still, and oddly all the envelopes and iron rangers were gone. We weren’t too sure what to make of it, since even with the annual pass you have to pay for camping inside a National Park. There were a few other vehicles already parked and camping, so we figured it was fine. Christmas night we had some leftover Mexican Burrito Bowls, Chocolate Cake, and watched Battle Los Angeles. Possibly the least Christmassy Christmas we could of possibly of had.
This morning we were greeted by a pack of deer, which had Eric as giddy as a young school boy with his camera. As you can see all of the deer photos. We took a little hike to Hickman Natural Bridge, a stunning Arch in the National Park. Ogled at some petroglyphs then headed on our way to get some cell service. We stopped in Torry for a little bit to get reconnected with the world. We haven’t had good cell service in a few days.
We headed through Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument on SR 12, the “scenic route.” Which truly was quite scenic and had some slightly concerning roads with no guardrails, where there really should have been guardrails. Decided not to stop in Grand Staircase and headed straight for Bryce Canyon National Park. Which we quickly discovered is very closed due to the snow and storm coming in tomorrow, but also the government shutdown.
Tonight we’re staying just outside of Bryce, since the supposed “year round” campsite is closed. This place is much busier than we thought it would be, but I think the snow has something to do with it. Not to mention the town just outside of Bryce National Park has 2 massive hotels and that’s it. The town also appears to be basically owned by someone named Ruby. Either way, we were a little confused about where to stay since there are RV parks here, but one is apparently only for Ruby’s employees (and is basically empty) and the other is a first come first serve (behind the Best Western Ruby owns) and appears to have turned into a permanent RV camp with all the spaces taken. So we just parked where all the other RV’s parked. We’re heading to Zion tomorrow before the storm really hits so we’ll finally be leaving snow and cold weather.
Resort skiing: 12
Getting lost/in sketchy area: 2
Wipe Outs: R 2 & E 1
National Parks: 4