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it was 8 30 in the morning and josh and i had just entered zion national park it was the first of five national parks we’d be visiting within the next five days we entered on the east side of the park after spending the night indoors out of the 12 days we spent traveling in wyoming and utah this was the only night we didn’t camp we were refreshed and ready for a day of exploration only shuttles are permitted on the zion canyon scenic drive luckily the family eating dinner next to us at antelope island just visited and let us know we need to get tickets ahead of time we got off at the first stop to hike the emerald pools trail so next we hiked up west rim trail that bush it was a warm day the switchbacks had us sweltering in the sun refrigerator canyon provided some much needed shade after yet another series of steep switchbacks we made it to scout lookout the views were stunning but the trail up to angel’s landing was closed because of covid then back down the switchbacks we went undoing our previous hours efforts as we descended to the trailhead so on your phone rip to whoever phone this was neither of us have spent much time recreating in this kind of canyon filled desert terrain so concerns about weather hazards had us feeling a little out of our element it’s that rain in the distance they see you gotta watch out for flash flooding the vaguely threatening clouds were downstream and in the opposite direction of our next destination the narrows so we decided to continue on as planned walking in the river was fun for a couple of wet foot portagers like josh and i but it was later in the day and i was feeling a little uneasy so we turned around after passing a few bends dinner was gourmet and we had a view to match bryce canyon national park was next on our route here was our first glimpse at the famed hoodoos we found out that bryce actually contains the largest collection of voodoos in the world

we enjoyed scenic overlooks galore but we’re ready for a closer look is that the one we’re doing we traded our bird’s eye view for a perspective more similar to that of a mouse in a maze this narrow section of the hike is called wall street towards the end of it there are a few strikingly tall douglas firs growing in a seemingly unlikely place look at that one these three rock formations reminded me of me and my sisters part of the fun of this canyon is looking at all the formations that weathering and erosion has cracked and chiseled into bizarre shapes that with a little imagination can resemble people items and creatures the distinct central hudu here is called thor’s hammer done that yeah there’s no way that’s even possible i’m sure it is well possible is one thing you know i like that the trees here we are at the end of the queen’s garden trail where hoodoo here resembles a statue of queen victoria this is the mossy cave trail a desert stream and here’s the mossy cave that’s a mossy cable there’s a mossy cave you’re dripping and dropping before heading back to the car we made a side trip to view a nice waterfall then we drove all the way down the scenic southern drive to get to rainbow point

we would be able to hike down to our campsite at uvimpa pass whipped up some rice and beans for dinner josh did a good job draining the bean juice it’s really enough right we woke up early the next morning so we could break camp hike back to the car then drive to sunrise point to catch the sunrise we returned the bear canister we were able to borrow for free then hit the road after a bit of a drive we made it to capitol reef national park and by like it’s cool this genus hike would take us up to cassidy arch there it is in the distance aha i was reacting to spotting a few climbers below the arch be silently moved capitol reef has quite a few petroglyphs all over the park i don’t know what the original reference for that one is we accomplished all the sightseeing redeemed safe given the nearby thunder we had retreated from our attempt at viewing the hickman natural bridge and decided not to go down the grand wash trail or into any slot canyons we were still determined to camp in the back country that night and the backcountry camping permits are even free at capitol reef a park ranger at the visitor center helped us pick a trail that she thought would be the safest for the night if per chance the weather got worse the lower pleasant creek route runs through a wide canyon so in the unlikely chance that a flash flood did occur we would be much less likely to get trapped huh to follow the route we hiked along the footpath running parallel to the creek the footpaths are unmaintained so we had to use a bit of route finding in an attempt to stay on the main trail it would have been hard to get lost though since we were basically just following the creek as far down as we wanted unlike the other parks we had visited there were no permanent back country sites that we were required to stay at it was up to us to find a spot that was suitable and minimized impact we had to cross the creek many times to stay on the already established footpath and because sometimes the creek would run right up along the canyon wall we’d be forced to move to the other side i think josh was successful in finding the best spots to hop across to not get his feet wet i was out of the game from the start because at the very first crossing a rock moved when i wasn’t expecting dampening my foot i had been wondering why this park was called capital reef and found out it’s because the whitish dome-shaped rock formations reminded people of the u.s capitol also white and topped with the dome reefs the kind you find in an ocean inspired the second part of the name ocean reefs are obstacles for sailors just as the 87 mile long ridge that runs through the park was an obstacle for travelers we were lucky to spot

a family of desert bighorn sheep we finally reached what we presume to be a slick rock chute lifted on the map at this point we were decently hungry and tired and not too sure how soon we would find a safe low impact spot for setting up our tents this backcountry trail to me felt like the most remote thing we had done yet which i was thoroughly enjoying but mountain lions were on the line reading the topo lines on the map it looked like just past this shoot the canyon would open up significantly this was correct and we found ourselves a decent looking spot the next morning we did make it up to see the hickman natural bridge then started driving towards canyonlands national park until we realized it would actually be closer to go to arches first plus there didn’t seem to be quite as much to do at arches so we figured with a later start it would be better to spend the rest of the day there is it friday nice i’m gonna be here all night baby you are oh here we are on a hike up to the delicate arch so cheers we concluded our visit cooking some quinoa at a picnic area it was day five and we had one final park to visit we kicked off our visit to canyonlands with the hike to mesa arch this looks suspicious maybe it was both i see some steps there it is the aztec butt that’s a big boy oh it’s a brave look at a little pause granaries were used for storage by the ancestral clay blue wings

wow that is awesome wow this hike takes us up the formation known as whale rock and was one of my favorites imagine running up the back of a ginormous whale here we are atop the head of the beached whale lousers we hike to view the upheaval dome maybe formed from a salt dome or maybe from a meteorite we check out the green river overlook and hike out to see murphy’s point so we were feeling pretty satisfied with all we had seen here at the island in the sky district so we took in one last view of the canyon and then would be driving just over two hours to get to the needles district of cambridge now that is a canyon there’s my cute little car now at the needles cave spring trail brought us by what used to be a campsite used by cowboys cowboy camp josh yeehaw like sleep you know under it you know not in you know just like in my sleeping bag i love those cute oh this one’s wobbly good job josh and leap we drove out to a spot where a park ranger told us we could get a good view of the needles then they go home they leave like they like we’re clearly gagged potholes everywhere don’t step in it that’s the ecosystem oh we’re gonna ruin the ecosystem of the pothole maybe some shrimp immediately the distant spires of the needles to a

cityscape of abandoned buildings in ruin all right let’s get hiking too i don’t even have water i just sound like we’re ready i bet you there’s water down there that’s my house this would be our final overlook before we’d cook dinner and then exit the park this was the perfect spot for some final moments of reflection as we spent our last few moments of our utah national park adventure it was even complete with a perfectly placed sign the sign reads you have come to the end of the road here at the end of the road we encourage you to step into the wilderness and explore what it means to you many thoughts on the mind as we prepared dinner in the early evening ants would crawl on our feet if we left them on the ground hence the squatting we made one unexpected stop after leaving the park this is newspaper rock we were interested by a sign we saw on the side of the road and we were so glad we stopped after leaving utah we spent time in missouri with our friend hunter and i took a break from using my camera we spent the night in cincinnati and the next day squeezed in a hike at cuyahoga valley national park on the way to josh’s home what an incredible trip we had been on we visited seven national parks a national recreation area a national forest and two state parks that’s a lot of nature but each place felt distinct the ingredients were mostly the same a lot of walking canyons and cliffs lakes and rivers waterfalls and arches but each place seemed to be dominated by one of those features which influenced how the place was perceived and experienced playing the part of the tourist viewing that can’t miss most popular attractions was great and we got to see some pretty incredible works of nature but for me the parts i cherished the most were getting away from the crowds hiking to places most visitors don’t typically go in the backcountry i felt they had a more meaningful experience finishing with a deeper understanding of where i was even with so much uncertainty throughout this trip could not have gone much better i got to see so much i had a great friend along with me and spent day after day outdoors exploring for me it doesn’t get much better than that

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