Reptiles and Rocks

Some desert, some snow, some lizards, some rocks: 3 national parks, 3 national monuments, 1 national conservation area, and 2 state parks. Vacations are not for resting, even when it's 110 degrees.

After providing behavior support and crisis intervention in an elementary school for the last 10 months, I was in great need of a vacation and some time off. It’s been too long since I’ve seen lizards and red rocks, so out west we went. We landed in Las Vegas late at night, but we were up and out looking for adventure first thing in the morning. We started in Valley of Fire State Park, where Ted found a chuckwalla, and we woke up in the middle of the night to a kit fox screaming right outside our tent. We hiked around sunrise and sunset and spent the hottest part of the day in the visitor center staying as cool as possible.

Next we headed up to St. George, Utah, and visited Snow Canyon State Park, which was a really cool place. The petrified dunes we beautiful in the soft light, and we blocked traffic while a big gopher snake crossed the road to safety.

Next we headed out to explore the national parks, spending a few days at Bryce Canyon. Looking down into the amphitheater at dawn and hiking up and down through the hoodoos, it’s hard to believe this is real life. While browsing the gift shop, I saw a “Utah Rocks” magnet that had all five of Utah’s national parks on it, and I collect park magnets whenever we go on trips. I said to Ted, “We’ve been to Arches and Canyonlands, we’re in Bryce right now, and we’re heading to Zion later this week. Maybe we should do a side trip to Capitol Reef so I can buy this magnet.” I may have said it as a joke, but Ted’s reply surprised me: “I don’t hate that idea.” It was 12:30pm and Google Maps said it’d be a 2.5-hour drive through the middle of nowhere. When Ted hesitated given the very limited time we’d have to spend there, I laughed, “20-year-old Ted would do it.” Apparently that’s all I had to say and we were in the car driving north, with Ted still feeling young and spontaneous. We didn’t even check the weather before we left, and when cell service came in, radar indicated thunderstorms were hovering over Capitol Reef, meaning we were driving 120 miles to potentially not even see anything. We continued our good weather luck and arrived just as the storms drifted off and the clouds cleared, and we set out to cover as much ground as we could before dark.

A few days later, we ran into a couple I worked with in Colorado years ago in the Zion visitor center. Turns out, we were sightseeing in many of the same places, and we both made unplanned, spontaneous side trips to Capitol Reef to buy that magnet. Zion is an incredible place and we saw a California condor hanging out over Angels Landing. The downside was that rockfall and trail damage had closed several popular trails and the Narrows were closed due to high water, so we were limited in how much we could do. The only way into the canyon in the summer is via park shuttle, and that shuttle fills FAST in the morning. We expected to be on the first shuttle at 6am, and arrived to find a line so long that we didn’t board until the 3rd shuttle. In a way, Zion’s crowds helped prepare us for our return to “civilization,” since we were heading back to Las Vegas after 3 nights in Watchman.