It’s January. You’ve just been through Christmas- one of the busier times of the year. You’re taking down the decorations, vacuuming up tinsel and the last of the pine needles. The days are darker and colder, scarves sit at the door, ready to be wrapped around neck and face on the day’s errands. Night comes quickly, a perfect blue sunset to sip hot chocolate and wonder if you’ll make some New Years resolutions. Most importantly, you’re breathing a sigh of relief , welcoming this quiet month from the hustle and bustle of December.
Errrrrkk. STOP! Stop relaxing. You’re allready running out of time. Cause it’s time! Time to begin planning your summer camping!! Get out of that heated recliner and start wondering where you’re going to hike and explore this Spring.
It’s the awful truth. These days, if you don’t reserve 6 months in advance, you most likely won’t get a spot- at least to the State and National Parks, which is where we love to camp. I remember growing up, my parents would decide they wanted to camp at the beginning of the month, call for reservations for the end of the month and they never had a problem booking a sight. Nowadays, the park ranger chuckles in the receiver, if you think you can get a spot with such short notice.
I don’t understand WHY the campsites are so full all the time. We don’t know any families that camp as much as we do- very few of our friends even camp once a year. It seems like people camp less, not more. Is it because there are more people in the world, from when I was a kid??? It’s a mystery.
This Summer, I knew we wanted to take the kids out hiking all over Utah- to my favorite spots as a kid. We haven’t been in Utah for the past ten years, and aren’t sure if we’ll be here next Summer, so this was it! I figured I wanted to camp at least twice a month and seeing as our kids are older now, we can wear them out and not loose our marbles. Kids pass a certain age and instead of exploding into uncontrollable screaming fits when they don’t take naps and get worn out, they actually just fall asleep faster at night. It’s a wonderful thing.
Every summer, we like to camp. But to sit down…. you know: take the time…, figure out WHERE we want to go and WHAT we are going to do when we get there, then finding a place to stay,etc. etc, is a pain.
Where to go, what to do? Where to go, what to do? Seems like there’s always places and ideas we think we want to go, but when you actually have to make plans, the mind blanks out. Yep- remember writing those school papers- you had to come up with your thesis- the main idea of the whole paper. Man! that took forever. It was by far, the hardest part of the entire paper.
The thesis of camping, is the WHERE. Once we have that, the rest isn’t so bad. But that thesis can leave me sitting fruitless for hours and days on end. Seriously- just taking the time to figure out what we want to do is a killer. If I was rich, I’d hire my own personal events planner. How sweeeeeeet would that be.
This year was different. I knew exactly where, and happily,it was a matter of limiting the choices. And then I got to thinking that someone else might want their own personal events planner, and here I am: sharing my ides with you, so you don’t even have to fret! A gift. ( your sitting there, smile on your face, thinking “and I’m not even rich”)
With four kids, ages 6-13, we have requirements: the hikes can’t be too long or too hard, but we want to push our kids. We like to have one big, all day hike with a destination, like a waterfall or arches or something really memorable. We camp Friday-Sunday to limit days off work and it seems to be a perfect amount of time for lots of trips.
Goblin Valley In May, we drove 4 ½ hours south to Goblin Valley. You want to camp Southern Utah in May and no later than June, as July and August are too hot hot hot. Even though I called in March, there were no reservations available at the State campsite. However, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has land available to first come/ first serve and it’s free! No water, showers or toilets- but beautiful sites right up next to the red rock swells. We stayed off of Little Wild Horse Road- just past the gravel pit. We came down Friday afternoon and there were plenty of spots- even better than the state campsite, except for the toilet situation. But not such a situation if you don’t mind driving a few extra minutes to the state campsite and using their toilets: once in the morning, once in the afternoon, once before bed. (could you do it?) And if you’re a woman- stick to your guns. Men don’t know what they’re talking about as they belittle you for wanting to drive to the state site to use the potty.
Our day hike: The Little Wild Horse Canyon and Bell Loop– round trip 8 miles. Yep- 8 miles was a bit too long for the little ones. My recommendation to you (if you have kids aged 8 or under), would be to just hike Little Wild Horse Canyon, which is an up and back slot canyon. You could hike for an hour and a half, turn around and hike back. Little Wild Horse is the best of the two canyons- beautiful narrows that everybody will love hiking. It’s an easy, flat hike through the slot canyon with a little bit of scrambling. These are some of the best narrows in Utah! If you enjoy a longer hike and seeing beautiful country, than take the whole loop- just know kids get tired of the same scenery very quickly. To them, it’s a lot of looking down at the trail putting one foot in front of the other.
Additional hike: Goblin Valley. This isn’t a hike, but an exploration. Totally cool valley, you have to visit this place. Lots of red rock shaped as mushrooms and melted ice cream cones lined up across a huge flat sandfloor, surrounded by red rock walls. We played hide and seek here during the day and came back in the evening to play flashlight tag. Really really fun- kids loved it.
This is the first installment. Next time, I’ll write about Zions and Calf Creek.