back in action
After three weeks exploring the great Southwest, we have returned home. As with our road trip in California two summers ago, we saw a whole lot of awesome. Here’s how this trip stacks up compared to the last one.
2,222 — We spent most of our time in Utah, which is about half the size of California. However, we also dipped a toe into neighboring Arizona and Nevada. As a result, the 2,222 miles we put on our rental car was only slightly less than the 2,701 miles we drove two years ago.
17 — Because we stopped in Chicago before heading out West, this road trip was slightly shorter than our last one. We spent 17 days on the road, compared to 20 two summers ago.
126.5 — We did not keep track of our mileage last time, but it’s fair to say that we covered significantly more ground on foot this time around. We walked approximately 8 miles per day during the 16 days we spent exploring the Southwest’s natural wonders, hiking 126.5 miles (202.5 kilometers) in all.
14 — The number of national and state parks, forests, and wilderness areas was the same as during our California road trip, though this time we also added a visit to a canyon located on Navajo tribal land. We tried to count the total number of canyons we hiked on this trip, but quickly gave up because we walked through multiple canyons in most parks.
4,707 — We took a similar number of photos this home leave as last one. Of the approximately 5,500 photos from the past six weeks, the bulk (4,707) came from our Southwest road trip. Most of these are photos of various rocks, canyons, and mountains, which might be a lot less fun to sort than they were to photograph.
3 — We used three different photographic devices. In addition to our Nikon D7000, we brought along the more portable and waterproof Olympus TG-2, which proved especially useful when we hiked Zion’s Narrows. We also took some photos on D’s new iPhone.
28 — Scheduling our trip at the end of October, we ran the risk of courting cold temperatures. By and large, the Southwest’s temperate climate proved ideal at this time of the year, and we even had unseasonably warm weather at the start of the trip. In Moab, the temperature reached the mid-80’s during the day, but the high desert cooled off noticeably at night, with temperatures falling into the mid-40’s, which made for some chilly camping. Leaving Bryce Canyon before sunrise, we found a thin layer of ice coating our windows. The car thermometer registered 28 degrees — just below freezing.
8 — Number of beds where we slept. In addition to visiting friends at the beginning and end of our road trip, we camped in Moab, spent a couple of nights in a cozy little wood cabin in Escalante, and stayed at various hotels, lodges, and even a B&B.
$2.86 — Gas prices have fallen incredibly since our last road trip. Last year, we passed gas stations that charged close to $7 per gallon and were stoked to find gas at $3.30 in the Central Valley. This time around, we only saw one gas station that charged over $3, which was still less than the cheapest gas we could find two years ago. Even in the remote high desert around Moab, the most we paid for was $2.86 per gallon.
14 — We drove some steep roads last time, but none can hold a candle to the Hogback Scenic Byway through the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. In addition to sharp curves, this road features steep descents, including one section with a 14% gradient.
We have mixed feelings about reaching the end of this road. On the one hand, the end of our travels means that we only have a few days of home leave left before we move to DC to begin training. On the other hand, we had been missing Munchkin more and more as the trip progressed and are happy to be reunited with him.