Today: six hours of riding, two national parks, one state park, one mountain lion, one hail storm, one award winning restaurant in the middle of nowhere and countless different rock formations and landscapes. Where to begin?
After an early breakfast in Moab we headed north west towards Capitol Reef, our third national park on our ‘Mighty Five’ roadtrip. On the way, we took a one hour detour off the main road and stopped at Goblin Valley, a state park. I’m so glad we did! I’d heard about Goblin Valley through blogs and some pre-trip research. It’s a park full of cartoon-shaped rock formations that were originally created through ocean tidal waves millenia ago, and have since been further eroded and shaped by wind and water in the desert. Although I had seen pictures of individual Goblins (the real name for the rock formation is ‘hoodoo’) I wasn’t prepared for the sea of mushroom looking rocks in the huge valley below. Walking among them was even more bizarre. It felt like walking in a smurf village, with huge cartoon mushrooms all around us. We spent about an hour and a half walking in the sandstone valley before the heat finally got to us (thank goodness it was cloudy when we were there!) and we decided to move on.
Another hour of riding and we arrived at Capitol Reef National Park. Very different from the other parks we’ve seen so far, this park is actually a ‘drive-thru’ type of park and had very few viewpoints to stop at. Instead, we drove in the green valley with high cliffs on either side of us – about twenty minutes in total from one end to the other. The least exciting park so far, but glad we saw it.
After Capitol Reef we drove to Boulder to have lunch at the Hell’s Backbone Grill, a well-known and award winning restaurant famed for its local and organic food, which is often grown on the property of the restaurant. In the one hour drive from Capitol Reef to Boulder we saw so many different landscapes it was hard to keep track. Shortly after Capitol Reef we were surrounded by landslide looking mountains and cliffs, which gave way to prairie-type grazing pastures for farming, then the road wound up a mountain range where we were surrounded by a thick forest, where we saw a mountain lion and then got trapped in a hail storm for about 10 minutes while driving. By the time we got to Boulder we were cold and wet and ready for lunch – we probably would have eaten anything, but the Backbone Grill was a perfect was to warm up with delicious food.
Our last leg of the trip: two more hours of riding to Bryce Canyon National Park. I didn’t know much about the park beforehand so it was a wonderful surprise. We checked into the Bryce Canyon Lodge (so cool to be staying in the park itself!) and then headed to the closest lookout point over the canyon after dinner. It’s like Goblin Valley on steroids. Massive hoodoos everywhere! By the time we got to the point it was sunset, so we didn’t have a lot of time to explore, but looking forward to waking up early tomorrow for some hiking and an afternoon horseback ride through the canyon!!!