Wild West Road Trip {Days 23-26}


After two and a half years of planning and saving, we finally took our big Wild West Road Trip in July! We drove 8,775 miles over 35 days, spent 203 hours in the van, stayed in 26 different hotels/cabins/Airbnbs, and visited 12 national parks, 1 national historic site, 4 national monuments, 2 tribal parks, and 16 states! It was a crazy awesome trip - of course there were a few rough patches here and there, but overall it was amazing to spend so much uninterrupted time with my favorite people and having such gorgeous views made it even better!

I'll eventually get through blogging the whole trip, because so many people have asked for details, but it's going to take a while to get through it all! By the way, some of these photos I'm posting were taken by my husband - he has a great eye and he took a TON of photos! 

If you want to see more of the story, start here for Day 1!

Select landscape prints are available here

Day 23

This was the view from the back yard of the house we rented in Moab, Utah. I didn't even realize until I started this blog post that I failed to take any other photos of that house, which is a shame because it was our favorite! There was so much space, more than enough beds without any of the kids sharing, comfortable couches, a washing machine and two dryers, a hot tub, and the most comfortable bed we had for the entire trip. The only thing that would have made it even better was if it had a pool instead of a hot tub - it was really too hot out to enjoy the hot tub, and cooling off in a pool would have felt amazing. This is the only place we stayed for 3 nights - everywhere else was only 1 or 2 nights - and this was the first place we really slowed down and relaxed a little. Don't get me wrong, the rest of the trip was awesome and I'd do it all again in a hearbeat if the kids would be on board, but most of it was not relaxing - there was a lot of rushing here and there to try to see as much as possible. But by the time we made it to Moab, we were tired. And it was hot. So we actually spent some time at the house and slept a little later than we did in most places, and it was just what we needed.

We had planned to start this day off with a ranger-led hike through the Fiery Furnace at Arches National Park. We planned ahead and paid for this months in advance, but when the day came we just didn't want to get up early enough to get there. We would have needed to get up around 6:00, and we were tired and just decided to skip it. I kind of regret it, because the photos I've seen of that area look amazing, but at the time sleep was definitely what we needed!

So, we got a later start to our day than we expected and I think it was around 10:30 or 11:00 when we finally got started on our first trail - Corona Arch! This trail is around 3 miles round trip, and in better weather wouldn't have been too hard (except for a couple areas that were steep and uneven). It was pretty steadily uphill on the way to the arch, but in most areas it wasn't too steep. BUT, it was around 105 degrees that day and, humid or not, that is HOT - so hot that I almost passed out at one point. I'm sure carrying a heavy backpack full of camera gear didn't help!

Here's a tip in case you ever hike this trail - you need to cross the railroad tracks, not follow them! We had to backtrack for a bit to get back on the trail! Oops!

Even though it was crazy hot, with no shade to be found, the views were spectacular!

Teal paint marked that trail in some areas where it wasn't clear.

The photo above was our first glimpse of the arch. It's kind of hard to see from this angle, but it's right in the middle.

There's a section of this trail with footholds carved into the rock and a cable to hold on to, and right after that there's a ladder. I don't think the kids minded it, but I was a little freaked out at that section - mostly because the heat really just zapped all my energy, but I'm not a fan of heights anyway. I failed to get any photos of that section of the trail because I was just busy trying to not die.

We passed a few other people on our way to the arch (they were all heading back because they were smart enough to get there early!) but when we finally made it to the arch, there was only one other person there. She was sitting alone under the arch reading when we got there, but after she offered to take a photo for us she didn't stay long. I'm hoping we was just ready to leave and that we didn't ruin her solitude - but we definitely needed to rest for a while before turning back!

We rested in the little bit of shade under the arch for about an hour - long enough to watch the shadow of the arch move quite a bit. After lugging my heavy camera bag all that way, I really didn't even feel like getting my camera out when we got there, but I forced myself to just so I wouldn't have carried it in vain!

This is Bowtie Arch - it's on the same trail and pretty close to Corona Arch.

This is love. While we were hiking back to the van, Daniel (without me asking) took my heavy backpack off my back and carried it the rest of the way - probably about a mile or more. My bag weighed at least 20-25 lbs, and he carried it and his own in 100 degree heat, without me even asking him to. It might not sound like a big deal, but I really appreciated it and made sure the kids noticed too. Romance might look different when you've been married for 17 years, but it's no less wonderful.

After cooling off at the house and having some lunch, we headed to Arches National Park. We (of course) stopped for photos at the park sign and Jonah thought the sign needed an arch - that's why his arms are up like that.

 We were not up to another long hike, so we mostly just drove through the park and stopped at a few places. We did walk to Double Arch, but I'd hardly call that a hike - it was an easy, quick walk from the parking lot, but it was a bit of a climb from the trail up to the bottom of the arch.

Jonah was pretending to be Spiderman and he insisted that I take a photo!

We skipped the 3-mile trail to Delicate Arch, even though it was on the top of our list for Moab. It was just so dang hot. Yes, I knew it would be hot before we went, but this was the only time we could go. I'm still glad we went, but I just didn't realize how much the heat would zap all our energy! So anyway, instead of hiking out to it, we just walked out to one of the viewpoints. This photo was taken with a long lens, it was actually pretty far away. If you look on the left side you can see a crowd of people - nothing against other people, but I think I'd prefer having Corona Arch to ourselves over being at the iconic Delicate Arch with hundreds of other people.

This is Fiery Furnace - it's named that because someone thought it looked like flames, not because it's any hotter than anywhere else in the park. If we ever make it to Arches again we'll make sure we do the hike through there.

Abbie and Jonah were pretty much inseparable on this trip. It was adorable. She thinks he's cute and hilarious and he thinks she hung the moon.

Joey and Jack got along better than normal - most of the time! There was definitely some bickering, but not as much as normal, and they bonded over Pokemon Go.

Day 24

The next day was Sunday, so we slept in a little then went to church. We didn't love the church we picked - it was ok, but not great. After church and lunch, we checked out Hole N The Rock. It was kind of lame honestly. They give tours of the house built in the rock but we decided not to pay for that. We took a few photos outside and had some ice cream in the general store (huckleberry for me - it's my new fave).

Canyonlands National Park was just a maybe on our list, but I'm so glad we decided to go! We hiked the short trail to Mesa Arch and patiently waited for our turn for photos in front of it. I got a kick out of watching who I assume were travel bloggers or Instagrammers doing full on photoshoots, complete with fake laughs, there. Forget malls and cities - national parks are the best place for people watching! (Nothing against photoshoots in beautiful places - we did plenty of that - they were just interesting to watch!)

I'm not sure what this part of the park was called, but it was pretty so we stopped for photos!

This shot was somewhere along Hwy 128.

This is Castleton Tower and The Rectory, where the Bon Jovi Blaze of Glory video was filmed back in 1990.

This is the petroglyphs that were close to the house we rented. They're just by the side of the road and they're called the Golf Course Rock Art Site.

Day 25

The next day, we drove from Moab to Twin Falls, Idaho, with stops at Great Salt Lake and Bonneville Salt Flats. It was a rather salty day!

Our first stop was the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite just north of Moab. When we were in Colorado back in 2017 we saw dinosaur tracks at Skyline Drive, but those were different - we actually saw the underside of the tracks in the side of the rock. These in Moab were the normal, in-the-ground type. It was a small site but pretty interesting and there were lots of signs to explain what we were looking at. I definitely recommend stopping if you're ever in the area - it's interesting, free, and a pretty quick stop.

Our next stop was Great Salt Lake in Salt Lake City. It was really pretty, but super smelly and there were a ton of spiders and flies. I don't think we spent more than 10 minutes there because the smell was so bad!

The Bonneville Salt Flats were a bucket list thing for Daniel. This is where they set land speed records and there are races and I guess it's a big deal. And it's really pretty!

I guess the boys were not as impressed as we were. They checked it out and then sat at the picnic area while we took photos.

I think these were the last dance photos we took on the trip, and they're my favorites!

We took the van through a car wash after this, but there were still chunks of salt falling off when we got home a week and a half later.

The sunset was gorgeous that night!

Day 26

The next morning we made a quick stop at Shoshone Falls before driving to Wyoming. They call this the Niagara of the West. I've never been to Niagara Falls to compare, but I googled it and Shoshone Falls is actually 45 feet higher than Niagara Falls, but not quite as wide. It was a pretty impressive sight and a fairly quick stop - no hiking required and the drive only added a few extra minutes.

After Shoshone Falls, we drove to Jackson, Wyoming. The drive was gorgeous and we stopped at a little roadside place for ice cream on the way.

This is my favorite of all park sign photos we took. I love how you can see the mountains in the background.

We stayed in a cabin in Grand Teton National Park for the next two nights, but we didn't see any of the park in daylight this day because we went to a chuckwagon dinner in Jackson. If you've never done this and you ever have the opportunity, do it! It was a little pricey but I don't regret it at all! There are several of these in the area, but we went to Bar-T 5. We checked in at their ranch and after a short little introduction and history of the area we loaded into wagons and rode 2 miles up into Cache Creek Canyon. The guides were amazing and answered everyone's questions and told us all about the area, the company, and the horses.

The food was just ok, but the experience was great! I think we were up there for about an hour, maybe longer, and there was singing, comedy, and fiddle playing the whole time.

That's it for Day 26! Finally getting close to the end of blogging this trip - up next is Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.

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