We all have our own way of vacationing. Some love to stick to a tight timeline and hit every spot they can, while others may be more like me; breezily enjoying the subtle disconnect from the material world. Often, I’m just very happy to enjoy travel and the joy of creating spontaneous memories with my family, so I try my best to relax and be as present as possible. For spring break this year, I brought my kids along so my goal was to go out and create memories with them.
When it was time to go pick them up from school I told them to pack their bags and bring 4 changes of clothes (knowing very well they may only change once.) Our primary objective was to find warmth, and when you’re from Salt Lake City, heading to southern Utah is a great diversion away from the spring time blues.
As we prepared to leave I made sure we had plenty of time to make it to St. George before nightfall, even with the occasional snack and food break, but In the end I didn’t assume we’d run out of gas! When we pulled over in Meadow, Utah, I didn’t notice my tank hadn’t filled all the way up until we were miles out. At first, I was hopeful we’d make it to the nearest station ahead but our luck and gas for the day had run out about 2 miles before Beaver. It certainly wasn’t something I’d planned, but in a way, it was good to experience running out of gas with my kids for the first time. They were absolutely terrified by the idea and didn’t know exactly what would happen.
After calmly talking to them, giving them a phone, and explaining the importance of not leaving the vehicle, I began the heroic run to the gas station and back. Fortunately, a mile into the run, I got picked up by a guy and his daughter from Logan who were also headed to St. George. It’s always amazing to experience the kindness of people firsthand who are willing to help someone in need! With a quick refill, we hit the road yet again. Since our time was cut short, the kids wanted to find a place to camp before we made it to St. George: I pulled out my BoonDocking app and drove to the closest marked spot I could find. The utility of Bean never ceases to amaze me. Within minutes, I dropped the rear stabilizers, pulled out our camping box and chairs, unfolded the bed, and tucked my kids away into our safe and comfy home on wheels.
In the wake of a good night rest, our daily breakfast ritual was unscathed and I was easily able to cook up oatmeal and eggs under Bean’s convenient back hatch. As early as I can remember, my kids and I have said “See you in the morning for oatmeal and eggs,” before bedtime. Over the years I’ve brought up alternatives to them, but there’s something they deeply love about a yolky egg on toast, and oatmeal that includes Dad’s random buried surprises. Turns out, camping in our Bean is no exception, It just amps up the good vibes and adds sausage.
With breakfast on it’s way out and a beautiful sunrise on the mountainous horizon, my oldest son built a fire for us to enjoy our steamy meal around in the great outdoors; now this is what camping in all about. I mean come on, it was a wildly intoxicating moment for us! Waking up in the mountains to a beautiful view and connecting around the campfire is something I’ll cherish up until our next adventure together! We ended up exploring the area and dodging cacti all over the mountain hills. This again provided some uncommon additional learning and first aid memories (Ha!). As time got away from us we felt lunch approaching, so we packed up just as fast as we settled in so we could hit the road. As we headed down the bumpy backroads, It wasn’t long before my son said, “I’ve never been to Lake Powell,” and that was all that was needed to be said. I reached for my phone to find the holy grail of travel, Google, and quickly found out that you could camp on the beach at Lake Powell. So it only made sense to add it as our next location to visit.
A stop at In-N-Out Burger in St. George for lunch, and shortly we were stabilizers deep into the sand on the beach watching the kids swim in the chilled water of Lake Powell along with our dog, Wes who seemed to be searching for a new canine friend. The beach is an infinite playground where kids can just be kids. They become rulers of their imagination, from castle building, to exploring every nook and cranny of the diverse landscape that is Lake Powell. Our fun together was locked on repeat until dark, this time closing out the day with a movie and some custom turkey and ham sandwiches. We grabbed the portable DVD player and in a couple of minutes the 5 (if you met Wes, you’d know he counts) of us were snuggled up laughing until we fell asleep to the antics of Herbie in The Love Bug, LOL. Well, they fell asleep. I enjoy being outside at night, especially when I’m camping, so I found a good spot in the sand with my chair, set the mood lights in the galley and found peace while listening to the relaxing hum of the waves below. Again, another nostalgic moment with Bean, and to have my kids with me is what made it all so worth while. Just a man enjoying the fruits of adventure with his family on a beach under the moonlight, I tried to soak in that moment completely.
I made sure to leave the blind in Bean open because the angle of our trailer was positioned perfectly to catch the sunrise over the lake; It didn’t disappoint! With morning in full swing, you know what time it is, it’s time for oatmeal and eggs. Making breakfast in the Bean galley with a sublime sunrise was even more intoxicating than the morning before. I noticed some other campers, mostly in tents and vehicles who started the extensive process of packing up their camps. It was fun to be able to play with all the canine friends Wes had made (through persuasion of ham) while we enjoyed the always-ready-to-go luxury of Bean. Once the other campers were finally ready, it was fun to be able to crank up the stabilizer jacks and still leave before the others.
The next suggestion made was to find a cool hike, so immediately I thought of my cousin who has lived in the St. George area for some time and knew he’d have a great recommendation. The suggestion and hike-to-be was Elephant Arch. He said it was 1.9 miles each way. Perfect for the kids. When we arrived, I packed a few water bottles, plenty for a short ramble. Well, if you’re following the theme of my story, of course the markers weren’t entirely visible, and we found ourselves on the longest possible route to the arch. The kids grew weary and proposed heading back about 4 miles in. The risk to reward line had stretched considerably but I knew this could be used as another parenting opportunity to show how implementing a little determination can forge great results. We didn’t turn back, we rationed water and collectively decided we would make it to the end! When we arrived, the arch was entirely worth it. We found some fun rock formations in the shade that the kids loved playing and exploring along. Even Wes had a smile on his face after making it that far in the heat, but I guess he always has that grin plastered across his face.
Since sandwiches and beach camping were a hit the night before, we found another reservoir that fit the bill in Sand Hollow State Park, UT. They had a primitive area my cousin said would be “fine” to camp along the south end of the reservoir. After driving about ten feet out into the sand, I found a differing opinion. Unexpectedly, the sand was crazy soft and as soon as I tried to turn out we were already stuck. I didn’t tell the kids we were stuck, just that we had just found our camping spot for the night. Fortunately, the kids had gotten their energy back and played on the beach until bedtime again, watching another movie to close out the day. After oatmeal and eggs the next morning, my daughter found a gorgeous butterfly that had passed away and built a place for it to rest in the sand. We admired the amazingly intricate features of it’s wings in a way you can’t entirely appreciate when they are full of life, dipping and dodging phantom predators in the air. She labeled her resting spot with R.I.P. It was a cute moment.
Before setting out on this journey, I thought the kids would be ready to get back home to their friends and screens after being away for a few days but to my surprise they motioned for more, immediately begging, “Can we stay one more day, please!” I couldn’t argue for a second. For one, we were still stuck in the sand and I’d knew I’d have to figure it out sooner than later. For two, when you have three young kids asking for more time out in nature, you oblige.
I ended up using their plea to garner energy and their help to dig the tires out. We made it a few feet, but it was going to be a long day if we continued with this process. Looking for other options, I had my son flag down a truck from a parking lot of ATV enthusiasts. He impressively recruited a guy with a truck who also got stuck with us, LOL. My son and I pushed the truck out and then targeted something with a little more power, we found a bobcat that was working construction within our site. We persuaded him with buying lunch to pull us out and he did with ease. It wasn’t part of the ideal plan, but the memory of trying to dig the trailer out as a team, recruit help, and meet some amazing humans willing to help us out was an amazing experience as a parent.
After roughing it, I wondered what the most popular campgrounds were in the area that we could hit to make the trip even more amazing. The highest rated campground around was Red Cliffs Campground. We took a drive to check it out and the stars aligned as there was an unclaimed campsite we were able to use. We pulled in and claimed, quite frankly the most beautiful camping spot I’ve ever been to. It was right next to some popular hiking trails that had amazing accessible rock paths that the kids explored for hours. We even found a hike that had waterfalls and places for the kids to jump into, we tested the water and to no surprise it was still freezing cold! My daughter slipped on a rock by the waterfalls and hurt her knee so I carried her down the trail on my shoulders, but she recovered to play hide and go seek with headlamps with her brothers during night games on her last night of the trip. We enjoyed one last amazing night, an amazing morning, oatmeal and eggs and with the crank of the stabilizers, our journey had come to an end. The memories we made with our Bean will last a lifetime and will be a focal point to look back on and smile about for years to come!