Day 1: Black Coffee, White Snow, and Red Rocks

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When you wake up in a warm, comfortable bed knowing that you’re leaving on a long road trip where you’ll be sleeping in a tent most of the time it’s pretty hard to get up. To that point, we took our time starting the morning. Eventually we got going and packed up the remainder of our stuff into the car and headed out. One of the challenges to living in Salt Lake City is you’re technically not allowed to leave a vehicle parked in any one spot longer than 48 hours so we had to drive my car to a friend’s place to leave it there for the length of our trip. I also stopped to get two cups of my favorite cold brew in town at Blue Copper before getting on the highway. Once the car was dropped, we got some breakfast in the form of vegan buffalo chicken wraps and an Avocolada smoothie from Tropical Smoothie Cafe (those are both as delicious as they sound) and we were finally on the road for real.

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The views along the drive were incredible as usual with the added bonus of freshly-fallen snow on the surrounding mountains. As we got farther south and gained some elevation the snow was all along the road. Luckily the sun had been out for a while, and the roads were just fine. One of the more unusual yet very Utah sights was a herd of cattle being corralled along the side of Route 89 by a couple of real-deal cowboys on horses and some state troopers for backup I guess. That was a first for me. I kept expecting one of the cowboys to start twirling a lasso above their head. There isn’t much to see along the way–that is, the amazingly beautiful sweeping views of desert and red rock stretch on for hundreds of miles and, while they are breathtaking, it does tend to just become part of the background after a while.

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So, when we got close to Bryce Canyon National Park and saw some snow on the ground we quickly made the call to take the hour detour to the park and see if the famous hoodoos were covered in snow as well. The short drive to the park was picturesque enough with brilliant red rock formations painted lightly with new snow towering around us and a couple of carved tunnels to drive through for good measure. Once we got into the park we headed right to the Sunrise Point overlook where you can see for miles into the canyon. The hoodoos weren’t covered in snow, but there was enough along the bases to create a nice accent which made the view I’ve seen many times look like new. We wandered along the rim trail for a short while taking it in from different places and enjoying the chance to stretch our legs and breathe some fresh air before hopping back in the car on our way to Horseshoe Bend.

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We quickly realized we would never make it to Horseshoe Bend by sunset, so our plans changed from racing down the road to taking our time along the way. That’s the way it should be anyway. We took the opportunity to stop at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary outside Kanab, Utah, where we were met by the lobby ambassador cat Robinson and were told the last tours had already departed for the day. There was a human there to tell us that part. He also told us we could stop at the Best Friends location in the town of Kanab and do yoga with kittens. That’s right. Obviously we headed right there, but were informed that kitten yoga was last night. As a consolation we were able to go into the cat room and hang out with three kitties for as long as we wanted. Seemed like a fair compromise. We enjoyed our time there and then drove out of town as the sun lit up the beautiful red rock formations and dropped rapidly behind the mountains to the west.

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Southern Utah at night takes on a whole different feeling. The glowing mountains become massive, ominous silhouettes against the dark sky. It is sometimes hard to even make them out on a moonless night, but you still feel their looming presence. I don’t mean to make it sound so sinister; it’s incredible to make out the outlines of jagged spires and watch stars dance behind them. As we passed by a family on the side of the road taking a photo with the Utah sign we realized we had just passed into Arizona. Page is just over the border and we had decided to spend the night here to do Horseshoe Bend in the morning. We found a hotel for $57 somehow (between the Hotels Tonight app and Google Maps) so we jumped on that and checked in. It’s definitely the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed in for the price. Can’t ask for more. We took a short walk around downtown Page, which includes a little wall of information and great photographs of the surrounding natural wonders. Definitely my favorite man-made feature of the town. After grabbing a few things from the grocery we settled in to our hotel for the night, making plans and getting excited to do it again tomorrow!

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