I woke up before my fellow campers and enjoyed my breakfast sitting in front of the valley and soaking up the morning sun. By the time I rolled out of camp, Janet had just gotten up, so we had a quick window conversation where we wished each other well before I carried on. It was nice to be on tarmac again after doing a lot of dirt roads; it meant I could sit back and relax. The scenery remained beautiful as I drove, but I was also climbing and that meant snow. Again!
I was going over a mountain pass, which meant I had a great view into the valley I was approaching, but I was extremely discouraged by the snow flickers that fell from the sky, especially considering I’d started the day in shorts and a shirt. When I stopped at a pullout to make sure my solar panel wasn’t going to fall off (I heard a rattle from the roof), I was sad to find myself freezing in my underdressed state. Also, the solar panel wasn’t falling off, it was just my bike lock banging against the roof rack.
At the top of the pass, I froze again as I got out to take a photo into the valley. It wasn’t really necessary, I just got FOMO when I saw everyone else parked there so followed suit. I am a sheep. Thankfully, I soon started descending and found myself in the town of Torrey, just before the turn off to Capitol Reef National Park. I made a last minute decision to stop in at the visitor’s centre just before the intersection. It wasn’t the National Park visitor’s center, but I figured I could get some advice about my route towards Natural Bridges National Park. This I got and so much more.
The guy at the centre was very helpful and gave me a couple of maps to help me on my way. He was very definitive in his answers unlike most aides who don’t want to get in trouble for giving poor advice so as a result, give none. I was surprised to find the place had Wifi and a nice sitting area so that was me done for the next hour or so, I had blogs to put up. It was a sweet spot to sit in the corner and pick up on the tips other people were getting, I never stopped paying attention.
As a result, I met Matthew, a guy still at university who is touring all the National Parks of American in 1.5 months in none other than a massive RV that could fit a family of six! I got talking to him when visitor’s centre guy couldn’t recommend a hike in Bryce Canyon. I piped up and gave my suggestion and ended up walking over to the front desk to see how I could help. Such a great, enthusiastic guy, he was a rookie compared to me, not even knowing about freecampsites.net! I gave him as much info as I could and he went on his way outside. I was astounded that someone so young and alone was travelling in such a huge vehicle.
A few minutes later, Matthew returned, saying he was making himself some eggs for lunch and asked if I wanted any. I declined since I wasn’t hungry, but said I’d come out and say hi again before he left. I blogged away for another half hour. In that time, a retired couple walked in and I pegged them as Aussie, but they confirmed they were Kiwis when they mentioned New Zealand. They were perusing the visitor’s register (which I’d signed) and noticed an entry from Brisbane, Australia, so I shouted out, “That’s me!” The wife came over and had a quick chat with me, interested in what I was doing. It was nice to hear a familiar homely accent again.
When I went outside to see Matthew, I was completely in awe from the moment I stepped into his RV. It was ridiculously huge with a bathroom, double bed, full size fridge/freezer, living room, two couches and two bloody TVs! It was only him and his faithful steed, a big fluffy white dog. After I got over the shock of the vehicle, we chatted away in his living room about why he was travelling and why I was travelling. We were instant mates, with a lot in common despite our difference in age. A business major, Matthew clearly had a knack for making the most of situations. Ws probably talked away for a good half hour and in that time we decided we wanted to stay in touch so exchanged Facebook info. I’m sure he will have a happy and successful life.
I blogged a little more then was ready to hit the road. I filled up with water before I went and a half hour later, I was in Capitol Reef National Park. The clouds were looming overhead, but when I got out of my car at the visitor’s centre, the sun came out and it was beautifully warm. T-shirt weather again! The park was pretty busy, but I managed to speak to a ranger without too much difficulty. I asked about any technical/narrow canyons in the park and he told me about three and gave me some information. No permit needed, but he suggested I wait until tomorrow to do any of them because of the weather. I heeded his advice and drove off to do one of the more popular short hikes and possibly a longer one.
I didn’t really feel like hiking and so was a bit up in the air about what to do with my afternoon, stuck between following my feelings and making the most out of my time in a place. I parked in the very packed Hickman carpark then sunscreened up and put a raincoat in my backpack before setting off. Hickman Bridge was only a mile away and so the trail was packed with physically challenged people. They all stopped to let me by, more because I think they wanted a rest than to be polite. I was lucky to get to the bridge while no one was around, apparently a pretty rare thing. It might have had something to do with the dark cloud looming overhead. I admired the petroglyphs, some old, some modern, on a large boulder below the bridge. Obviously this has been a place for travellers to come to for many decades.
I walked back the way I came, stopping to enjoy the view out into the valley and to have a look under another natural bridge that was smaller and more hidden than the main event. At this bridge, I took a photo for a group of Frenchies. When I counted down their photo with “Un, Deau, Trois” they thought I was French! Just as I reached the junction that would take me on a longer hike, I got my rainjacket out to combat the rain that had just started. As I turned off up the trail to take me further, a guy coming down stopped me and said that they’d heard thunder up there and just as the word thunder exited his lips, we heard a loud crack. Right, that was my decision made for me! I head back down to the trailhead. It was pissing down by the time I got there, but I was better prepared than most people with my jacket so it didn’t bother me much. Even better, it wasn’t freezing cold to be in the rain, something I’m used to from home!
I got into my car quicksmart and decided it was camp time because of such foul weather. I’d seen some free camping just as I entered the park and with no cell service to do any research, I made for that. On my way out, the weather cleared, so I thought I’d go have a look at Cassidy Arch and the Grand Wash, getting into the “make the most of it” mentality again. After turning down the dirt road that said not to enter if a thuderstorm looms, I was surprised to see a sign that pointed out Cassidy Arch. It was visible from the ground! I didn’t want to walk up a big hill just to see it closer! Maybe Grand Wash would be worth it? When I pulled up at the carpark, I was keen, but as soon as I opened my door, I wasn’t anymore. It was windy, cold and still raining slightly. Bugger this. I drove out and went to make camp.
I did at least stop to investigate what I thought were cave dwellings and found they were uranium mines. The sign told me they hadn’t been very successful, but they must have found enough for the place to be dangerous. The entrance was cordoned off with signs warning that people shouldn’t remain in the area for more than one day.
The sun was pretty much out as I drove to camp, making me feel a bit downhearted about not doing more with my day, but I tried to shake the feeling. By the time I parked up in a secluded spot away from the other RVs in the free camp area, it was pissing down again so I didn’t feel so bad. I think I struggle more because there is so much daylight now that I feel like I am wasting the day when I stop at a normal time.
Anyway, I whiled away the afternoon chilling out in bed watching a TV series which didn’t help my mood one bit. I’m really not someone who does well doing not much. Determined to lift myself out of it, I got into the kitchen and started cooking dinner. To increase my chances of smiling, I listened to Spotify’s “Have a Great Day!” playlist. Pretty sad, I know. I danced shamelessly out the back of the van, in full view of people on the nearby highway, enjoying the good music. I really got a smile on my face when Barenaked Ladies’ “One Week” came on. Oh yeah, this therapy was working.
I started work on a new video from the passenger seat as the sun went down over Capitol Reef. Not a bad view for another free camp. By the time I was done, I was properly sleepy so crawled into bed and stayed awake awhile, missing the company I’d enjoyed recently and wondering if and how I could change my travel plans to improve my mood. I just need to readjust to solo travel I think.