Team name: Crayons & Cairns
Team Crayons & Cairns will start in the southwest with kayaking in Lake Powell, off-roading in Sedona, and canyoneering in Utah. They'll then head to Idaho to uncover hot springs and rock climb at City of Rocks.
Gear that got them through
Recreate their trip
The optimal road trip for us is a balanced blend of the unknown, a taste of familiarity, and mental removal from the status quo. This summer adventure of 2019 had all of that as we cruised through overlooked destinations, remote wilderness, and extreme climates all found in a handful of states in the American West.
We wanted this trip to have moments of adventure and exploration as well as times of relaxation and reflection, which helped us craft the journey from the deep forests of Idaho down to the barren desert of southern Utah, high mountains of New Mexico and red rocks of Arizona. This was a trip of approximately 2700 miles, 14 days, and dozens of fruit snacks, but a family experience that won’t soon be forgotten.
By early May, the weather had turned optimal for us to begin our trip in the southeast corner of Utah, where we set up camp at our first destination just 26 miles south of Hanksville. This remote area is known for some very impressive and physically demanding canyoneering. We opted for a fantastic beginner slot named Blarney Canyon. With three rappels up to 40 feet, plenty of tight squeezes, and a relatively short hike, our family of five (with three children 7 years and under) had so much fun exploring every twist and turn down this canyon.
The next day, we moved on further south with a few hours stop in Natural Bridges National Monument to see the immense sandstone bridges spanning the river far below. An easy ½ mile hike took us down below the Sipapu Bridge to truly get a sense for the grand scale of these formations. Onward south we forged with our evening destination of Lake Powell in sight. Our desire for this next portion of the trip was to explore by kayak, the narrow waterways of Lost Eden Canyon. By camping at Halls Crossing, we were able to launch our kayaks from the closest point possible and save ourselves a lot of paddle strokes. We spent about 7 hrs on the water floating in the skinny canyons and enjoying lunch on our own private beach at the end of the main fork.
With an early alarm the next morning, we packed up camp in mere minutes thanks to our Tepui Kukenam tent, and hit the road as the sun crested the eastern desert plateau. Our long day of traveling took us into northern Arizona, with an afternoon arrival at the Canyon de Chelly National Monument. We set up our sleeping accommodations in less than 8 minutes, and chose to spend our extra time before sunset hiking down to see the White House Indian ruins before calling it a night. This was the only formal campsite of our trip, which gave us an appreciation for the little things in life, like an elderly woman wandering about trying to sell us jewelry at 10pm, and a flushing toilet.
The high, gorgeous mountains of eastern New Mexico entertained us the next day as we took the scenic way around to Petrified Forest National Park, and then on to Sedona, the southernmost point of this expedition. After finding a secluded spot amongst the pine trees, we unhooked our camp trailer, put the Land Cruiser in low gear, and hit the Broken Arrow off road trail for some more excitement. Nothing seriously challenging for most SUVs, but just enough spiciness to get the heart pumping a couple times. Our appetite for red rock towers and deep green vegetation was nowhere near satisfied before we had to leave, but the high elevation forests northward beckoned us to explore. Be advised, May is usually a very pleasant month for road trips most anywhere, but there are no guarantees when passing through the 9,000 foot passes of Kaibab National Forest just north of the Grand Canyon, where we got hit with a snowstorm that dumped 4 inches of fresh powder on us overnight.
The last part of our adventure took us north to the elevated mountains of Idaho as the summer heat began sinking into the valleys. We passed through Craters of the Moon National Monument, then Sun Valley, and finally found one of the best campsites of our trip at Pettit Lake. Sheer granite peaks surround this mountain lake of ice cold fresh water, creating views and colors that continually change as the sun moves across the sky. Another excellent destination for kayaking and letting the family experience nature in its purest form.
From here, we spent the next couple days hitting up as many natural hot springs as we could manage, including: Boat Box Springs, Bonneville Hot Springs, Sacajawea Hot Springs, and Kirkham Hot Springs. All of these were relaxing, rejuvenating, and pleasant - which is not an easy thing to experience when you have three children that need what feels like constant supervision.
After spending 18 days on the road, our ‘regular’ lives called, wanting our attention again. The creature comforts of air conditioning and video games made the transition a little easier, but we brought home with us memories and learnings that we simply could not have found anywhere else.