Utah with Kari, Finally

So…the trip started off great. Planned to leave at 7:00am, actually left about 7:15, so about 45 minutes early.  :-)

Kari gets very excited about tumbleweed.
Kari gets very excited about tumbleweed.

Stopped at Horseshoe Bend. Because of the ‘rona, they weren’t collecting the entrance fees, and there were relatively few people. BTW, the new infrastructure generally looks really good. I hate that they put a concrete slab over part of the edge, but otherwise everything is tasteful and solid, so if there has to be something, I feel they did a good job.

Sunshine through tumbleweed

Made it to Alstrom Point about 4:00pm AZ time, so nine hours including stops. Silver lining of COVID-19: no dilly-dallying at Gabriela’s or multiple grocery store / beer stops.

Everything was good.

Then it wasn’t.

The sweet spot at the actual point was taken by a group that grew to five vehicles and…unknown number of college-aged kids. The spot way to the left was even more full. We were the first to arrive at the middle spot, but another guy drove up almost immediately.

He seemed nice – and he asked if he could join us. Promised that he’d be quiet. Cool, it’s big enough for us both, we don’t own the place, etc.

Then another group drove up. They asked the second guy if they could join (didn’t bother asking us). At this point the area was basically “full”, but things still seemed ok.

The two trucks in the back were the assholes.
The two trucks in the back were the assholes.

Then at sunset two trucks roared up, parked on the desert (i.e, on undisturbed ground) and the occupants ran out, raced THROUGH our campsite to the edge, and started to set up their tripods to photograph what was left of the sunset.

We hoped that they would pack up and leave after sunset, but no, they were Night Photographers.

Asshole tracks across the desert.
Asshole tracks across the desert.

After sunset, and before the Milky Way came up, they set up camp. One of them DROVE HIS TRUCK ACROSS THE DESERT TO EDGE, passing within 15 feet of our tent. Not sure if somebody told him that wasn’t cool, or what, but he then drove back to their original spot – by backing up to within 10 feet of my tent to K turn (and trampling more undisturbed ground).

I think it was a workshop – the head dude seemed to be checking their work and offering advice (which we could hear, clearly, until 2am, which was 1.5 hours after I said “hey it’s well after midnight can you guys keep it down some?”) They would have the cargo lights on their trucks on – illuminating the whole area – except when THEY were making their night photos. There were other night photographers there – like the first guy that talked to us – but screw them!

Mark and Kari at Alstrom Point, with Gunsight Butte and Navajo Mountain in the distance.
Mark and Kari at Alstrom Point, with Gunsight Butte and Navajo Mountain in the distance.

So they sat on their trucks and talked, or walked through our campsite to the edge to make photos, all evening and night, at least until well after the Milky Way rose behind Navajo Mountain.

Aside from the assholes I felt awful – too much sun at Horseshoe Bend, altitude change, etc. I had a massive headache. I finally managed to get to sleep around 2am, woke up with the sun at 6, and rooster tailed out of there with a middle finger salute.

The drive up the Kelly Grade and onto Smoky Mountain was beautiful, and we had a good drive along that. Left Hand Collet was fine, but I could see where it could be bad after a storm. 

Devil’s Garden was ok. I was still feeling sick – my usual stuff, but it was persisting longer than normal – so we didn’t feel up to an expensive pizza from Escalante Outfitters. They reduced their menu because of the ‘rona situation, so no quiche. In the end, my long-anticipated order of pizza, quiche, and lemon berry cake – not to mention fresh draft Utah beers on the terrace – turned into just cake.

Two of Kari's favorite things: coffee and Christmas saguaro long johns.
Two of Kari’s favorite things: coffee and Christmas saguaro long johns.

From there we drove down the Burr Trail and found a nice spot to camp there at the top of the hill on the border of GSENM and Capitol Reef NP (where the pavement ends). Had one other camper nearby, but they were silent, and we had a good night’s sleep. Thank goodness.

The hike out to the Strike Valley Overlook.
The view north from the Strike Valley Overlook.
The view north from the Strike Valley Overlook.

The next day we hiked out to the Strike Valley Overlook, then down the switchbacks and up the Notom road. Looked at the petroglyphs near the Capitol Reef visitor’s center, and tried to do the scenic loop drive, but it was closed for the ‘rona.

Petroglyphs in Capitol Reef National Park.
Petroglyphs in Capitol Reef National Park.
Capitol Reef's solution to stamping your passport during the pandemic.
Capitol Reef’s solution to stamping your passport during the pandemic.

On around to Factory Butte for a picnic lunch and Hanksville for milkshakes. The stacked up over the cup was cool…until we went outside and they went from solid to liquid in about 1/2 a second. Really weird. One minute we had yummy shakes, the next minute they were flowing all over everything.

I didn’t get any exciting photographs of Factory Butte this time, for reasons/excuses, but I did fly the drone for a few minutes during a lunch break.

Once we got the ice cream cleaned up we headed down to the Poison Spring road. We saw the petroglyphs and the awesome holes in the rocks. Drove out as far as where it really opens up and that inner canyon starts, then decided to turn around. Various reasons. Anyhow, looking forward to going back and exploring the rest of the loop!

We got to drive down into Glen Canyon at sunset, which was nice, and we camped out around White Canyon very close to where Shane and Austin and I had lunch that one day. A herd of cattle came through in the middle of the night – pissed off that our camp was blocking one of the routes they wanted to take – so that kept us up a lot. And it was very windy, which was loud and blew grit into the tent.

So, two nights of three with bad sleep. I knew I was in trouble.

In the morning I wanted to back the truck into some shade to fix breakfast. I moved Kari’s chair from behind the truck and set it off to the side…under a tree. Kari went to sit down and slammed her head into the broken end of a very thick juniper branch, and that was the “I’m never going camping again” end of our trip. She’s fine, just with bad sleep, no shower, a bump on her head, gnats, etc., she was done.

Natural Bridge's approach to stamping your passport during the pandemic - you actually get a physical stamp, which I thought was a great solution.
Natural Bridge’s approach to stamping your passport during the pandemic – you actually get a physical stamp, which I thought was a great solution.

We drove through Natural Bridges National Monument quickly, drove out to Muley Point for a picnic, then hauled ass home.

Kari is not a fan of jumping over cracks out at Muley Point.
Goosenecks of the San Juan River, as seen from Muley Point.
Goosenecks of the San Juan River, as seen from Muley Point.

In general there were a TON of people out there. Alstrom Point was packed. (I was totally alone for almost two days my first time there.) We were the first to park at the Strike Valley Overlook, but by the time we got back to the truck there were four more vehicles (there was one my first time out). Stan’s Gas Station / Burger Shak was overflowing. Looked like mostly boaters from Lake Powell. Most also not wearing masks or practicing any social distancing at all.

This is pretty much the "I'm ready to go home now" face.
This is pretty much the “I’m ready to go home now” face.

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