Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Jen's Epic Road Trip: Utah

Yes, nearly two months after the conclusion of my epic road trip, I am still getting around to recapping the trip. 

It's a shame I've waited so long to talk about Utah because I absolutely loved the state, despite the terrible thunderstorms we hit driving through. I thought Utah had an incredibly diverse landscape, friendly people, and some of the coolest places to run of my whole trip. 

If I could sum up Utah with one word, it would be: GO. Seriously, go visit Utah. If you like to hike or climb mountains or go bike riding or run or do anything in the outdoors, then go to Utah. The state is truly picturesque.

We left Sedona in the middle of a torrential downpour, which was not fun to drive through. We had a long drive ahead of us, including a few hours in Zion National Park to break it up, so I was not happy about the storms. Thankfully they cleared up enough for us to see the views as we went over an extremely high mountain pass that took us along Route 89A toward Utah.

This doesn't look high up, but it was nearing the top of a roughly 2,000 ft climb. You could see out over a large valley to the red rock cliffs on the other side.

In fact, those red rock cliffs were the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, only we weren't able to get a good look at them due to the heavy cloud cover. Guess I'll just have to go back!

The promised land! Zion National Park was one of the places I was most excited about on the trip. I'd heard that it was an incredibly stunning place, and I thought it met its reputation, despite the overcast skies.

Unfortunately, photos don't capture the scope of the rock walls or how neat the formations were -- this one looked like a chess board!

The colors of the rocks also varied from one end of the park to another, changing as we drove along the main road from east to west.

We took a break to stretch our legs and climbed around on these wave-like formations for a bit. They looked like ocean waves that had been calcified.

Then, the best part of the park: driving through a long tunnel and emerging into a deep canyon.

Unfortunately, the pictures simply cannot convey the scale of the canyon. As soon as we exited the tunnel, I started laughing at the sheer massiveness of the rock walls. Unlike the Grand Canyon, where you're looking down into a canyon, at Zion you're surrounded by canyon walls. It's a totally different experience and somehow seems a lot more "grand" than the Grand Canyon.

Mason was unimpressed, however. Really, he's not impressed by anything that isn't edible.

Part of the reason I loved Utah so much was the fantastic experience Sourabh and I had exploring one of its state parks. When yet another day of thunderstorms was forecast for Bryce Canyon, the next national park we meant to see, we decided to stay close to St. George -- where our hotel was located -- and check out a state park.

And as it turned out, Snow Canyon State Park was awesome! There were many trails, two of which were open to dogs, and I was able to get in a gorgeous run in the morning while Sourabh walked Mason.

We liked the park so much that we decided to go back after dinner! It was only a 15 minute drive from our hotel, so we took Mason along the other dog-friendly trail in the park.

We have so few pictures together from this trip since I was more concerned with getting shots of all the mountains and canyons. Oops. Luckily we got one at Snow Canyon!

We were lucky enough to see a beautiful sunset light up the canyon walls in the distance as we walked back to the car. I can only imagine how gorgeous the park would be in sunny weather!

The next day, as we left St. George, UT, we stopped at Starbucks for breakfast and made sure to get Mason a pupacinno -- a mini cup of whipped cream. Mason had never had one before but judging by the whipped cream on his snout, I think he liked it.

This was also the day that I was set to try for 20 miles, but the thunderstorms got in the way. I ran 5 miles on the hotel treadmill then we headed off toward Park City.

Along the way, we saw this gorgeous dirt road in the middle of a valley, so I got in another 5 miles. At roughly 6,000 ft elevation. I listened to superhero movie music to help motivate me (it worked like a charm and the run felt fantastic).

Finally, I fit in the final 10 miles of the 20 miler along a paved path in Provo. This is another place I'd love to go back and explore further. Provo was nestled into these mountains and seemed like a fantastic place to run or hike. I don't ski, but I'm 99% sure it's also a fantastic ski destination.

Sadly, we didn't get to Park City till 8:30 PM, and by then all we wanted to do was eat then sleep. And since we had 470 miles to drive the next day, we didn't really get to see it the following morning. Add it to the list of places I need to go back to!

Leaving Park City, we drove through another area of Utah: the flat ranch lands.

Looking back through these pictures has me missing the expansiveness of the west and the jagged topography of the Rocky Mountain states. I need to go back ASAP! Anyone want to plan a trip with me?

Have you been to Utah? Where else should I go if when I make another trip out there?

1 comment:

  1. Who knew Utah was so beautiful? (Not me--that's for sure!) A few of my teammates are doing a 70.3 there in May, and they've been pestering me relentlessly to come. Your pictures only complicated my dilemma. ;)