Our canyoneering adventure in Dirty Devil was the most physically demanding part of the Utah trip. The next day we started off with breakfast at Mesa Bakery – a place that our adventure guide, Chris, had recommended.
Mesa Bakery is a tiny farm and bakery in Hanksville, Utah where they make their own breads, cheeses, and juices.
We had a raw carrot, beet, and apple juice, and some goat cheese with homemade bread, and we shared a giant cinnamon roll.
It was just what we needed to revive ourselves after canyoneering.
Next we drove to Capital Reef National Park for a quick 1 hour hike. This hike was a breeze compared to the mountain climbing we had done the day before.
We hiked to Hickman Natural Bridge, an arch that was cut by a river. The natural beauty of Utah’s National Parks was unlike anything I had seen before.
Hiking worked up our appetites and we drove to Torrey for lunch at Cafe Diablo. I had the most amazing chicken enchiladas.
Then we continued driving to Boulder, Utah to visit the Anasazi State Park Museum. Mike, the park manager was exceptionally kind and knowledgeable and he told us all about the Native Americans who had lived in the area. The park is the site of archaeological ruins from the Ancestral Puebloan and Fremont cultures. The museum has examples of pottery, as well as exhibits depicting recreations of the homes discovered on the site. Considering the fact I majored in Art History and minored in Anthropology – I could I spent an entire week exploring and learning!
The tour continued with a trip to Mike’s house where we met his horses, dog, hawk, falcon, and ducklings. And we saw the stunning house he build himself by hand (he said that he just needed to go to the library to get some books to learn how to do the electrical work). It was a really fun detour.
By then it was time for dinner, and we ate at Hell’s Backbone Grill. This was the culinary highlight of the trip. The restaurant, and it’s organic farm, is owned by two women, Blake Spalding and Jen Castle, and they are seriously awesome.
Throughout the trip we kept commenting that we wanted to bring the amazing people we met along with us on the rest of our journey. People like Mike and Blake are what really makes Utah special, they love what they do so much, and have so much respect for the natural wonder around them.
Of course, dinner at Hell’s Backbone Grill was phenomenal. The black bean dip was the best I have tasted.
Then I had the “Jenchiladas” which were filled with spinach and cheese and topped with a spicy sweet corn habanero cream sauce. They had just the right amount of heat. If you can’t make it to Boulder, Utah, you can buy one of Blake and Jen’s cookbooks here.
After dinner we drove to Escalante, and stopped to admire the sunset on the way to our motel.
Our fourth day in Utah started off with a quick breakfast at Outfitters, a little restaurant/outdoors gear shop. I had a wonderful quiche, while others in our group raved about the baked oatmeal.
Then we headed over to the Petrified Forest State Park. Although the park’s name doesn’t make this clear, there is a lovely lake at the park. First Kendall, the park ranger showed us his new exhibit of a petrified tree. Don’t know what that is? Yeah, I didn’t either. It’s a tree that has absorbed minerals to the point where it has become rock. The tree we saw was 135-150 million years old.
Our tour of the park continued with stand up paddle boarding. The lake was almost perfectly calm, and the paddle boarding worked our muscles in yet another way. I think that this trip was the first trip I have taken and lost weight.
After paddle boarding we had a picnic. Outfitters was nearby, so we grabbed lunch from there and enjoyed it beside the water. I had an incredible BLT on homemade wheat sourdough.
Our next destination was the Kodachrome Basin where we went horseback riding with the cutest couple, Steve and Gerri – who after knowing each other their entire lives, got married 8 months ago. Together they run horseback riding tours through the hoodoos in the Bryce Canyon area.
A hoodoo is a rock formed in the shape of a thin spire. According the legend hoodoos are people who were frozen and turned into rocks when a hex was placed on them.
Steve was judging the rodeo that night, and we changed our schedule so that we could go. I had never been to a rodeo, and to say that I was excited would be an understatement. The rodeo takes place every night all summer long at Ruby’s Inn.
Being from Maine, I have been to the fair, and witnessed events like tracker pulls, and when they grease up a pig and make kids run after it, but I had never been to a rodeo. It exceeded my expectations, and I can’t wait to find a time and place to bring Charles to a rodeo. I had never felt more American than when I stood with one hand on my heart, and another holding a bottle of wine (the rodeo was BYOB), as the National Anthem played the cowboys on horses rode around waving the American flag.
After the rodeo we had dinner – with the most incredible view – at Stone Hearth Grill.
We loved the spinach artichoke dip with crispy pita chips. And I had the most incredible gnocchi for dinner.
We spent our final morning admiring the view at Bryce Canyon before driving back to Salt Lake City to fly home.
I didn’t know what to expect when I embraced on this trip to Utah. I honestly don’t know many people who have visited Utah’s State Parks and National Parks, but I was blown away by Utah’s natural beauty and vastly different landscapes. And Utahans couldn’t be any nicer. Have you been to Utah? I would love to hear about your experience in the comments!