In Love with Bryce

With the weather being fickle, we decided to pay for two nights at a RV Park giving us the flexibility to rearrange our plans on a whim.  When the weather improved, our two-night stop to visit Bryce Canyon Country quickly turned into six nights.  And oh my gosh…. amazing!Bryce Canyon

I assure you, six nights was not enough to savor this breathtaking scenery.  If it hadn’t been for our workamp obligation in Idaho, we would’ve stayed another week.  For some reason, I just couldn’t get enough of those perplexing hoodoos or the layers of texture and colors.  Simply mesmerizing!

Where to camp?
With snow and freezing overnight temps in the forecast, we knew we wanted a site with hook-ups and chose the Red Canyon Village RV Park. It was an ok place to stay and even offers cabins as well as campsites. (restroom shown in the photo below)

Red Canyon RV Park, Panguitch, Utah

Red Canyon RV Park, Panguitch, Utah

The park is located along highway 12 just east of highway 89 and road noise can be expected.  We paid $31 a night for a full hook-up site which included cable TV. The property is owned and managed by the same company that runs the Bryce Canyon Lodge, Forever Resorts.  The location worked fine for us.  It took a Bryce Canyon national parklittle less than thirty minutes to drive to the Bryce Canyon National Park visitor center and about 10 minutes to get to the town of Panguitch, Utah.  Just a couple of minutes away was Red Canyon with some lovely hiking trails that shouldn’t be missed.

Red Canyon is also home to a national forest campground: Red Canyon Campground.  It’s basic dry camping in a wooded setting.  Although some of the sites would accommodate our size RV, we’re not fans of trees and low-lying branches, and thus this campground is not an option we personally would consider.

As we continue along highway 12 toward Bryce Canyon NP, you’ll find the Bryce Canyon Pines RV Park.  We didn’t stop in, but drove by several times.  From a distance the park looked ok nestled in the pines with dirt/gravel roads and sites.  We noticed RV’s of all sizes parked there.

Bryce CanyonRuby’s RV Park seems to be the most popular spot with its close proximity to the hoodoos, but definitely the most expensive.  This RV park is located just outside the national park boundaries which means it offers location, full amenities, and is big rig friendly.

Want to camp even closer to the hoodoos?  Bryce Canyon National Park offers two campgrounds, both with no hook-ups, dry camping only.  The majority of the sites look sloped and mounded.  There were one or two sites at the Northern Campground we liked that we would consider if available.  Sunset and Northern Campgrounds appear to be best for tents, small Class C motorhomes, pop-ups, and small travel trailers.Bryce Canyon

Boondocking – There are a bunch of places off highway 12 east of highway 63 to boondock (boondocking means dry camping on public lands – no campground or facilities).  The land is located within the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument and a free permit is required for any overnight stay.  Along highway 12 from Red Canyon to the town of Torrey, there are six visitor centers to assist you, provide permits, maps, and answer any questions.

There is also a fair amount of national forest land in the area with boondocking options and no permit needed.  Here’s a helpful post on dispersed camping.Bryce Canyon National ParkDuring those times when Al and I do boondock, after about a week we like to refresh and find a RV park with full hook-ups.  From a budgetary point of view the Paradise RV Park might be the perfect place to refresh. This somewhat basic and rustic park offers full hook-ups for $15 a night.  It’s located a few miles north of the town of Panguitch and about 30 miles from the Bryce Canyon Visitor center,  We actually did our laundry there since the Red Canyon RV Park offered one staked washer/dryer on the outside of a building.  Not ideal, especially in 32 degree weather.

Joe's MarketGroceries?
Since we were staying in the Red Canyon area, the town of Panguitch was an easy ten minute drive away.  Joe’s Market in Panguitch, Utah, is a great place to resupply.  We were impressed with the quality of fresh meats, veggies, and eggs that were reasonably priced.  Other items were a tad pricy though.

sour dough breadAcross the street from Joe’s Market is a Chevron Gas Station with a fast food place inside.  We don’t eat deep-fried fast food so I can’t help you there, but with the oven availability, the owners of the gas station bake fresh bread and rolls daily.

Our first stop at the Chevron was late one afternoon.  We filled up with gas and when we stepped inside, we noticed the hand written sign on the window noting fresh-baked sour dough bread.  When we asked about the bread, we were informed they were all sold out, but the gal behind the counter was quick to suggest placing our name on a loaf of sour dough bread for the next morning.   Yes!  It was still warm when we picked it up and perfect for our picnic lunch.  I wouldn’t normally recommend buying bread at a gas station, but this is small town America and it’s similar to enjoying a loaf of bread your mom made.

bakeryAnother place we tried was a bakery on highway 12 just east of highway 63.  The groceries and baked goods seemed a little pricy in my opinion, but we still ended up buying some fresh-baked baguettes for our sandwiches which were delicious.  And of course, hubby had to sample a blueberry turnover which received a two thumbs up as well.

One of our favorite little stops after hiking amongst the hoodoos, was stopping in at the General Store located within the national park just around the corner from the Bryce Canyon Lodge (btw – the restaurant in the lodge had a menu that was tempting, but our sandwiches made with fresh-baked bread won out).  This General Store along with a lovely picnic area is within walking distance to the Sunrise overlook and trailhead to the Queens Stewart'sGarden Trail.  After a somewhat steep hike back out of the canyon, we managed to work up a thirst.

We try to keep our soft drink intact to a minimum, but when we discovered the General Store stocks Stewart’s….. well…. there was no resisting the cream soda and orange cream.

We enjoyed this little splurge so much that when we received an impromptu email from some fellow full-time RVer’s letting us know they were in the area, I knew exactly where to meet up.  We hadn’t seen this couple in nearly two years and certainly had plenty to talk about.

Enjoying a picnic with friends at the general store was perfect.  It was awesome reconnecting, catching up, and sharing some of our favorite Bryce Canyon sites with this delightful couple.

me and Al enjoying our sodas while our friends prefer to stay behind the camera ;-)

me and Al enjoying our sodas while our friends prefer to stay behind the camera 😉

Cheers to friendships, breath-taking scenery, amazing hikes, and cold beverages.  It’s official, I’m in love with Bryce Canyon National Park and am already scheming my next visit.

Bryce loves me back. Can you see the rock heart in the center of the photo?

Bryce loves me back. Can you see the rock heart in the center of the photo?

 

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From prairie to suburbia

After exploring waterfalls, cornfields, and indulging in root beer floats, it was time to leave the Illinois prairie and head into Chicago’s suburbs to visit family.IllinoisWe’re quickly reminded about the Illinois tollway.  With the two additional axles on the Fifth Wheel (toll fee based on number of axels), our first toll was $7.50 and we only  used this stretch of road for about 10 miles.  (Thank you Hildi.  Once again hubby listens to the GPS instead of the wife.  Wife would’ve saved the money by rerouting)  Oh well 🙂  Before leaving Colorado, I considered purchasing the Illinois I-Pass but didn’t think we’d use the tollway enough to make it cost effective, plus I had concerns there would be a mail delay and the darn thing would arrive at our daughters home after we hit the road.  Illinois I-Pass

Sycamore IllinoisHaving the I-Pass makes it very convenient since there’s no stopping involved.  You get to pass the toll plaza without slowing down as the little contraption is scanned through the windshield.  Also the cost of the toll in most cases is half price with the I-Pass.  And trust me, those tolls add up real quick.

Hildi has us exit Interstate 88 shortly after the toll plaza and takes us through some small towns.  It’s a fun drive.  Al nor I have driven through this part of Illinois in nearly twenty-five years.  With the exception of a little growth, much has remained the same.

We pulled into the Paul Wolff Campground with low expectations considering we were rather disappointed with the Starved Rock State Park Campground.  Wow, what a pleasant surprise.  There’s 89 paved sites with 50 amp electric and 10 primitive walk-in tent sites.  Water spigots are scattered precariously throughout the grounds.  We snagged a large pull-thru site with a water spigot nearby to hook up to.

Elgin Illinois

Paul Wolff Campground, Elgin, Illinois

The more popular RV loop offers shaded sites amongst a grove of large trees.  We chose the open meadow loop to optimize TV and internet reception.  This is a Kane County run Forest Preserve and is maintained impeccably.  It’s located on the far west side of the city of Elgin in northern Illinois.

Paul Wolff Campground

9 miles of trails meander through the Burnidge Forest Preserve/Paul Wolff Campground. This is one of the mowed meadow trails. I loved all the wildflowers.

I grew up east of Elgin, Illinois, and my dad still lives in the house where I was raised.  Thus, the Paul Wolff Campground was a great find and the quick 15 mile drive to dad’s house made for lots of enjoyable visits.

gardening in Illinois

picking cucumbers and tomatoes with my dad in his garden

My dad’s house is within walking distance to the train station and usually we never pass up at least one sojourn into Chicago anytime we’re back in the area.   The Metra train even has a stop near the campground; Big Timber Road.  After serious consideration, we took a pass on the day in the city opting to focus on family visits, especially since our son, Logan, surprised everyone with a visit.

Illinois farm stand

Logan and I visit the local farm stand to pick up dinner

Logan had flown to Chicago from Phoenix earlier in the week for a business trip and ended up extending his stay so he could spent some time with his Illinois relatives.  My dad was thrilled to see him, as were his aunts.

When it was time for Al and I to drop Logan off at O’Hare Airport, I did the driving.  I was a little nervous driving the big truck through congested traffic, especially at Chicago’s O’Hare.  When I lived in the area years ago, I always had little cars. I managed the big truck just fine, but was relieved to get that drive out of the way.  We encountered stop and go traffic, insane road construction, heavy congestion, and mean pointing police officers at the airport, and of course tolls.

Al and I decided it was best I drive since this was my old stomping grounds and I know the roads better than he does.  Hubby doesn’t like it when I give him directions (aka – tell him how to drive).  Hildi (the GPS mistress) can tell him how to drive, Ingrid (the wife) cannot.  Must be that marital thing!

Next up, we move over to Al’s sister’s place……

Gardening

88 year old Dad says, “Oh no. What happened to my flowers?” In the foreground, you’ll notice the weight of the blooms toppled the limbs. With a little attention, they’ll be upright in no time.

Perennial Vegetables: From Artichokes to Zuiki Taro, A Gardener’s Guide to Over 100 Delicious and Easy to Grow Edibles