Sunday, December 1, 2019

Tales of the Traveling Tote #21: Fall in Utah's National Parks

Hey there, travelers - armchair or in real life - it's time for yet another instalment of the Traveling Tote, and a giveaway! To see all my past travel instalments and background info of our tribe's beginnings, you can start here.

I hope you've enjoyed your Thanksgiving, but before we jump head first into the Christmas season, let's savor fall one last time. It was the season that seemed to take its good 'ol time coming, and hasty exit out, am I right? Today, I'm sharing my fall adventures, the highlight of which was more than a week spent in Utah. Traversing the "Life Elevated" state's all five national parks (and two state parks) in late September, early October proved to be a perfect time to be there. Pictured below are the brochures of the parks we visited in Utah, in order visited (top to bottom).
Mr. P. & I live in West Virginia, where a couple of perfect fall days also prompted day trips (I'll share later in this post).  Grab a drink, lots of photos are coming. Oh, wait, one more thing! Be sure to read to the end of this post for more about our tote tribe's giveaway. It's easy to enter. Also, catch all my tribe sisters' travels with their post links provided. Ready? Let's go!

Our Utah adventure began by flying into Las Vegas as our jumping off point. We're NOT Vegas goers of any sort, but we did stop long enough to rent our car, have lunch with former neighbors who retired there, and snap a few photos with my tote, Miss Luna C. 😉
Zion National Park
From Vegas, we moved on to Zion National Park, the first of five national parks visited. Of course, Checkerboard Mesa was the key photo op for Miss Luna C.
Below is a highly magnified view of the bottom L photo frame from the collage above.
In each park, we chose different trails to explore the vistas. In Zion, one trail hiked was the Riverwalk, but only to the headwaters of the Narrows. Warmer weather would have enticed us to go further along the trail into the water, but not this trip. In the photo below, you can see a person heading into the water near where we stopped. Mornings were cold (near freezing), some days very windy, but most days warmed to low 70s.
In Zion, you can only drive a car to the visitors' center, at which point you must hop their shuttle buses to come and go to various points of interest. For that very reason, we blew off Zion (for the most part) in our 2016 trip across the country. Actually, the drive on the opposite side of Zion (considered the exit, see map further in this post), heading toward Bryce Canyon, showcases some of the best views in Zion. The Zion / Mt. Carmel tunnel is just one of those views, where windows are carved out of the rock walls of the 1+ mile tunnel (see two of those windows pictured below, and shots of the views from within).
From Zion, we drove Route 89 toward Bryce Canyon.

Bryce Canyon National Park 
We cannot say enough about Bryce Canyon. It is, hands down, our favorite of all the national parks in Utah! We first drove the scenic route, slowly, about 18 miles, and jumped out of the car for photo ops along the way. It was windy and cold early in the day, good fall weather and color. Even amid previous areas scorched with wildfires, there was color on the hillsides that we weren't seeing at home in late September.
The canyons in Bryce are just gorgeous. Just a couple notable ones are Agua Canyon...
 ....and Natural Bridge.
Starting from Sunset Point, we hiked the Navajo Loop/Wall Street Trail. Again, fantastic rock formations, vistas, and vantage points for photos. The bottom left frame in the collage below shows tiny specs of people on the trail as a matter of perspective.

After some good grub and a very rural drive through what felt like someone's private ranchland with an easement running through it (and hardly any cars passing), we arrived at Capitol Reef, our third national park in Utah.
The road from Bryce to Capitol Reef
Capitol Reef National Park
We planned to stay at Capitol Reef for a few days, and it was a good decision. On our first full day there, we arranged for a Jeep tour with a personal guide, so we'd be sure to see all the key points of interest. Our guide, Mason, is a native Utahn, and was 100% familiar with the park and its history. Views captured in the collage below are (clockwise, L to R): Miss Luna C and us at the park entry sign; Egyptian Temple; one of several canyons (with the Jeep, Mr. P., and Mason standing outside as perspective); Mason; the capitol dome, for which the park got its name.
In this park we explored and hiked on our own the second full day, taking in the Grand Wash trail. It felt like we were engulfed by the canyons, and we saw petroglyphs believed to have been carved by the Hopi and Zuni Native American tribes people between 300 and 1300 CE (Common Era, or AD).
Famous for its fruit orchards within the confines of the Capitol Reef canyons, there is a museum house established within the park, and they serve hand pies from fresh picked fruit during season.
Mr. P. and I each chose our own pie and ate them after our nearly 5 mile hike.
Oh, and one more thing about Capitol Reef....Butch Cassidy hid in these canyons, often referred to as Robbers Roost. Word has it that Butch Cassidy named one of the rock formations after a girlfriend. Pictured below is Fern's Nipple within the park. 
Our stay was spent outside the park boundaries, at the Capitol Reef Resort, and the collage below captures our views from our private porch from our suite off the main lodge. The covered wagons, teepees and one room cabins were all options for lodging, although the winds were gusty the nights we were there.
Coffee on the porch was a morning and/or evening ritual, with great views, and there was a firepit for s'more-making at night.
What a great place this was, and with great, great views!
Once we departed Capitol Reef, we were heading toward the town of Moab, from which we planned to explore the last two national parks. Along the way, however, we made a stop to a state park recommended by Mason (our guide on the Jeep tour at Capitol Reef).

Goblin Valley State Park
This place was a bonus stop! Imagine a shallow inland sea floor dating back to the Jurassic Period 140 to 170 million years ago and you get a sense of what this place is like. Hundreds of tidal deposits of sand, clay and silt created these 'goblins' among the flat edge of the tidal basin floor over millions of years. Just about 90 minutes is all one needs to explore this unique area.
From Goblin Valley, we reached the town of Moab, our stay for the next two nights.
Another state park recommended by an antique collector friend from Utah was Dead Horse Point State Park.

Dead Horse Point State Park
Legend has it that cowboys of the late 1800s wrangled herds of feral horses along this narrow piece of land - most notably across the "bottleneck" (no wider than two lanes that leads to the end point) - with steep cliff walls as the only a sort of corral on the mesa. Supposedly the wranglers chose the best horses and left the rest without food or water on the mesa, with no exit or chance of survival. The legend continues that those who found the resulting carnage gave the area the name Dead Horse Point. In the collage above, look closely at the bottom left frame. Can you see a shape of a horse in the rock formation that's circled?
Just about 90 minutes is worth the time of exploring this mesa, with marked trails for viewing both east and west rim cliff walls (opposite sides of the narrow road, or bottleneck. Shortly after, we were off to our next planned stop.

Canyonlands National Park
Our least favorite of the national parks visited, we stayed long enough to drive through the entire park and sought advice from the park ranger for a recommended trail to hike that would be around 4 miles. He suggested Murphy Point Trail, which we found rather boring until reaching its end point for views. We made the best of it, though, and enjoyed another short trail, Mesa Arch, which was a preview of the next (and final) park to come, Arches.
Arches National Park
Our second favorite national park in Utah (Bryce Canyon our #1), Arches, was the final park we explored on our Utah trip. We hiked several trails. We loved this place in 2016, again now in 2019, and we would go back again. Just a quick summary of some of the more notable features......

Clockwise, L to R: Arches gate entry, Landscape Arch, Tunnel Arch, Skyline Arch
Clockwise, L to R: Balanced Rock, Sand Dunes Arches trail, Sand Dunes Arches
Broken Arch, and view looking up to the arch
Double Arch
North, South Window Arches, and plein air artist painting same
Turret Arch
Elephant Butte and Sheep Rock
In summary, we spent 10 days driving out of and back to Vegas, traveling through all the national parks in Utah (and two state parks). We logged over 1,200 miles of driving, and had a blast. It was the perfect place to chase fall when summer was dragging its feet back home.

West Virginia Day Trippin'
A couple of (separate) nice days in West Virginia had us out chasing color. Color was so very late in West Virginia, as it was across most of the country this year, but we still enjoyed our outings.
New River Gorge, Fayetteville WV; Hawks Nest State Park, Ansted WV
One day was spent hiking in the New River Gorge park in Fayetteville, WV (about an hour's drive southeast of us), and another day was spent hiking in an area about an hour northeast of us (Stonewall Resort), then looping south and west again toward home on rural, country roads.
Fog lifting on WV I-79; Stonewall Resort Lake; the "Mystery Hole" in Ansted WV; Babcock State Park, Clifftop WV
The best way to see almost any of our country is to take a country road whenever possible! I hope your fall included some country roads and regional flair, too.


The Traveling Totes Tribe is offering another giveaway. Emily at the French Hutch is our giveaway sponsor this time. One lucky reader who leaves a comment on Emily's December 1 post will have their name thrown into the hat for an opportunity to win this set of MacKenzie-Childs dish towels! Hurry over now!
NOTE:  This giveaway may be closed by the time you read this post (sure hope not!), but tune in to our future tales for another chance in our giveaways.

As promised, here are all the links to the rest of tribe members' travels since our September 1 post. There are some very seasoned travelers in this group, and you won't want to miss the tote antics!

Debbie with Miss Aurora @ Mountain Breaths
Emily with Miss Courtney Childs@ The French Hutch
Patti with Miss Kenzie and Miss Taylor @ Pandora's Box
Jenna with Miss Coquille @ The Painted Apron
Linda P with Miss Lola @ Life and Linda
Rita with Miss Luna C @ Panoply (you are here!)
Sarah with Miss Merri Mac @ Hyacinths for the Soul
Jackie with Miss Madi K @ Purple Chocolat Home
Ricki Jill and Countess de Monet @The Sketchy Reader
Cherry Kay with Miss Carrie Ann Hall @ Entertaining Women

We have a very special instalment of the Traveling Tote coming to you on January 15, 2020 with a giveaway you won't want to miss! Be sure to mark your calendar for that date!
Then, we'll recap again on our regular quarterly instalment, coming to you on March 1, 2020.

Thank you so much for dropping by the blog today. I love reading your comments, and don't forget to leave one on Emily's blog for a chance at the giveaway! 
Rita C. at Panoply


  1. What a wonderful trip and such gorgeous scenery...especially at the time of year when summer wouldn't quit. That's not a part of the country where we have visited and you're my go-to tour guide if we plan a trip in the future. I can't get over those arches and the stunning contrast of blue sky and golden rock formations, beautiful photos! Happy December.

  2. WOW...I loved reading this and I have to go back and read again...You did a fabulous job journaling all these photos and stories of your trip. This makes me want to go to Utah! - however I don't think I would have the energy to hike as much as you did! Your photos are superb and the colors you captured are gorgeous! Thanks for sharing such a grand trip - Happy December!

  3. Oh wow Rita, you've had an amazing time this fall. So many parks with breathtaking views. You make it look so relaxing but I'm sure it was exhausting with all the travel and hiking. Your photos are stunning and will require me scrolling back through so I don't miss anything. I love your last photo, such a gorgeous spot. I can only imagine the gorgeous views you enjoyed. Happy December dear Rita.........

  4. Rita, I think you have seen more of our parks than I have! Hubby has done all of this with the Boy Scouts over the years, but I still have some more to do! I just love Bryce too!! Zion's gets so crazy with all of the visitors, but they have great food. It is just an hour from St. George where we have a condo and spent Thanksgiving! You guys put in the miles! Sad it was soon cold in the morning, but you didn't let that stop you! Those teepees look fun to stay in some time! What a marvelous trip - you adventurers!!!

  5. Wow Rita, what an adventure! Your photos are just beautiful, and I really enjoyed exploring these amazing National treasures with can almost feel the history and the severity of those tough early days for the settlers, horses and Indians. You definitely deserved a personal pie after all that hiking! Thank you for taking us along on your incredible trip!

  6. Wow, Rita, your trip is impressive. I haven't been to that area in decades, but fondly remember the beautiful canyon lands of Utah. We were driving, not hiking! Totally different experience. I think you and your guy did it right. I admire your adventurous spirit and physical ability to make this kind of trip. Thanks for letting me be an armchair traveler! Your photos are stellar. This is wonderful travel journal for this trip. Stellar!!!

  7. What a wonderful trip with so much natural beauty. I want you to follow me on a hike in Utah and take photos and journal it! Thank you for all the tote fun Rita, and it is an honor to blog with you amazing ladies!

  8. Oh Wow! Such a fabulous trip out west. Your pictures are fantastic!
    Your pictures reminded me of some of the scenes in the old series," Centennial" that we watched again recently.

  9. Such a Beautiful adventure Rita. So much to see and it looks like you have really taken advantage of the parks. I visited when I was 15 with my family. Love the arches. Such an exciting adventure. Thnks for taking along on your awesome trip.

  10. this trip is on my hubby's wish list. such gorgeous photos too, Rita, it looks like so much fun. Miss Luna has such great adventures!

  11. Rita, what a fabulous trip, one that Butch and I are thinking about. Your photos are outstanding and of course, the scenery is just beautiful. We love to hike and our National Parks are perfect for hiking and enjoying nature at its finest. I will show your post to hubby! Thanks for letting me tag along!

  12. This was a trip back in time for me. As a child, we used to take a month each summer for a road trip. Each summer we would travel one pre-determined segment of the United States. The names of the Utah parks eluded my memory, but the pictures of all those arches and rock windows brought back all those amazing vistas for me. Thank you! I treasured our family trips, and I absolutely am thrilled that you took us along with you through your wonderful pictures. What camera were you using? Did Miss Luna C. make all those long hiking treks with you? If so, you are quite a strong lady...those puppies of ours can be quite heavy. Thanks for memories revisited! CherryKay

  13. Wow, I saw some of these on FB, but to see them all in a row is just breathtaking. I have been feeling the lust to wander lately, especially after I get through the rush of family visitors for the holidays. Those arches are my favorite, I could stare at them for hours. You both look so happy during your travels, glad you two got away from yard work and took time for the fun stuff!

  14. What a fabulous trip, Rita. You rocked it in the park department and what grand photos! I've seen two of those -- Brice and Zion, both of which took my breath away. To add to it with the others would be just divine. Loved the little pie shop and so many other lovely photos. I'd say you had a pretty wonderful trip!

  15. First of all, Rita, you and your hubby are the cutest couple in the world. Love all your pics! What an incredible Fall you had!! You make retirement look so darn good. Have a great week!

  16. Hi Rita,
    I wish I was tiny enough to jump in Miss Luna C and travel with you. The pictures of your trips are always so fun and beautiful. You and your hubby are enjoying retirement like we all should. Let's see this beautiful country and all it's beautiful places. The pies look pretty yummy too. Have a great new week ahead.

  17. Quite the trip. Great photos. You captured memories.

  18. I LOVED touring along with you and Mr. P, Rita!! My late beloved and I always wanted to visit all the National Parks, so at least I was able to visit some with you, and some state parks, too. We used to love hiking. You and Mr. P. make such a cute couple and it's so nice that you're able to have such fun in life. The pie place looks like my kind of stop!

  19. What a wonderful trip you and your bag took. I enjoyed looking at the awesome photos and such a beautiful place to visit.

  20. Oh wow! I am so jealous; those parks have been on my list for some time but we have yet to make it there. We just went to Mount Rushmore this Sept.-- I love travelling in Sept. and October when kids are back in school and places aren't as crowded.

  21. Oh my....I didn't want your story to end! I had no idea there were so many parks in Utah, and that was a lot of hiking!! Perfect fall vacation, my fav time of year. By the way....I white water rafted down the River Gorge back in the day!!!

    1. Susan, thank you! I wish the trip didn't end when it did, either! We loved Utah! And more power to you for whitewater rafting the River Gorge! You mean WV? I haven't even done that, but Mr. P. has.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Yes was a blast. Us girls got all ready for our day with makeup, hairdo's etc and we were soaked soon after we left the dock. The 'rafts' had water battles from the get go. We had raccoon eyes and drenched hair...but it was fun. Our guide was a college student and I can't imagine having that responsibility. We had 5 couples in our raft. We ate our lunch in the woods, had to built a fire etc. Would I do this now (at my age), NO!!! We got pretty banged up but never actually flipped. Close though about a 1000 times! Thanks for the memories!

    4. Love your memory! Thanks for sharing. Your description sure made me smile!

  22. Rita, this was one of my favorite posts of yours ever! Thanks for all the great information and photos. All of these parks are on my bucket list and someday I hope to take a road trip and do them all. I had no idea it got that cold there so early so I will have to remember that. How bad were the crowds that time of year tho?

  23. What beautiful places you have traveled. I must go west! I love the horse formation that you showed. I will add that to my list of places to go.

  24. Rita, what a beautiful trip you and Mr. P had. The scenery is gorgeous and your photographs are stunning. Of course, I am partial to your lovely photos of our Mountain State. Happy December to you and your family!

  25. Great post, I'm glad I followed the link, I hope to travel to Zion (and more) within the next 5 years and I'll try to use your notes!

  26. Wow, what a fabulous trip and great read and pix! Took me back to our summer trip years ago with our sons. We stayed in park lodge or cabins at both Zion and Bryce. It was part of a trip that included the Grand Canyon and renting a house boat in Lake Powell. Most of the other stops you visited are new to me. With our niece now living in Moab where her husband is in the air force, I'm definitely going to use your travel blog to guide us on other parks to visit.

  27. Wow! Looks like such a fun trip and what beautiful photos, Rita! Thanks for sharing at Vintage Charm!