The Moving House does not travel light. We carried an inflatable kayak, a small tent for side trips, unread books and unwatched movies for entertainment, nature guides and maps, cookbooks, lots of food, clothing that we hoped would meet our needs in the variety of climates we might encounter, and more. Still there were some days when it was chillier than we had prepared for.

In 2017, we volunteered as camp hosts at Escalante Petrified Forest State Park in Utah. While at Escalante Petrified Forest, we had lots of recreational options. This park is located in southern Utah, between the national parks of Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef. It is also on the border of the Grand Staircase- Escalante National Monument. Zion National Park is within easy driving distance. We visited each of these national parks, but spent most of our time in the monument and in the neighboring Dixie National Forest and state parks. Our co-workers, and new friends, at Escalante Petrified Forest State Park provided lots of ideas for interesting activities.

Meandering our way home, we visited Goblin Valley State Park in Utah, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, a friend in Fort Collins, the Brushy Creek Recreation Area in Iowa, friends and relatives in the Twin Cities, Gail's classmates from Badger High School in Lake Geneva, and Al's classmates from Iron River High School.

Escalante Petrified Forest State Park is located on the shores of Wide Hollow Reservoir, an irrigation reservoir which is stocked with fish and which has a diverse population of waterfowl. The park includes a 250-foot-high mesa with two trails, the Petrified Forest Trail and the Trail of Sleeping Rainbows, having colorful examples of petrified trees.

As camp hosts, we mostly functioned as janitors for the campsites: picking up litter, cleaning picnic tables, removing ashes, etc. Sometimes we gave information to campers and other visitors. Occasionally, we sold them firewood. We also worked in the office: welcoming visitors to the park, taking their entrance fees, and selling souvenirs.

Our campground was full nearly every night with visitors from other places in Utah, other states, and around the world. Visitors from Germany and the Netherlands were especially common. Most of the foreign visitors rented a Class-C RV in the USA for their travels, but one Swiss couple converted a Swiss ambulance into an RV and shipped it to America for their adventure.
The new campground hosts on duty A view of the park entrance and reservoir from the mesa

One of the colorful logs along the Trail of Sleeping Rainbows

Claretcup cactus with blossoms on the Petrified Forest Trail

An Eared Grebe on the reservoir

A pygmy forest of pinyon pine and Utah juniper above the campground

Smoke from the Brian Head wild fire, 70 miles west of us, darkens the sky and water at the Wide Hollow Reservoir

Sunset with smoke from the Brian Head fire
with two paddle boarders on the reservoir

Gail and our co-worker Jen with a huge Petrified Log on the
seldom visited east side of Escalante Petrified Forest State Park

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and More

The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument surrounds the town of Escalante so we had plenty of opportunities to visit it. Nestled next to the monument are the Dixie National Forest, the Box-Death Hollow Wilderness Area and two Utah state parks - Anasazi State Park and Kodachrome Basin State Park. We also visited them. In fact, we had originally come to this region to see the national parks, but the crowds in them turned us off and most of our adventures were in the National Monument and surrounding areas.

The excavated ruins of an Ancestral Pueblo
dwelling at Anasazi State Park

Excavated and partially reconstructed pithouse
at Anasazi State Park

After a 3-mile hike to the 126-foot high
Lower Calf Creek Falls

Pictographs on the wall of Calf Creek Canyon
made by Native Americans of the Fremont culture

Calf Creek Canyon has beaver dams as well as well as pictographs,
ruins of ancient granaries, and waterfalls

Desert varnish on canyon walls along the Burr Trail Road.
Black color is manganese-rich varnish produced by microbes

Hole-In-The-Rock Road goes through the monument southeast from Escalante to the Colorado River. Hole-In-The-Rock is where Mormon pioneers used blasting powder and picks to widen a crack in the Colorado’s canyon wall to allow wagons and families to be lowered 900 feet to cross the river. The road is washboard and people are warned not to try to drive it after a rain storm. It takes you past a number of locations for hiking and adventure.

When you are in Escalante, check out the Hole-In-The-Rock Heritage Center on the east end of town. It is a nice little museum that tells the story of the pioneers.

A western traffic jam on Hole-In-The-Rock Road

Formations at Devil’s Garden

Devil’s Garden scenery

Gail at Devil’s Garden

Posey Lake, in the mountains north of Escalante and 2,800 feet higher, was much greener and cooler

Hells Backbone Road, constructed by the CCC and winding through the mountains north of Escalante, was washboard all the way, as were most of the best roads in Dixie National Forest and in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The road took us to the Hells Backbone Bridge and a grand view of the Box-Death Hollow Wilderness.

Box-Death Hollow Wilderness

Death Hollow Canyon, at sunset, where it joins the Escalante River Canyon

The region of the Monument a little southeast of Bryce Canyon is home to lots of sights. We visited Kodachrome Basin State Park and Grosvenor Arch, and hiked the Willis Creek trail.

The sculpted walls of Willis Creek’s slot canyon

Gail by Willis Creek
Flowers grow wherever water is available along the canyon wall. By the time Willis Creek reached Sheep Creek, just two miles from the trail head, we saw that all its water had disappeared, soaked into the ground. But during flash floods, this canyon likely is torrent and the flowers need strong roots in the cracks in the rocks to avoid being washed away.

Grosvenor Arch is actually a double arch

Kodachrome Basin State Park features spires
of hard, grey stone that penetrated the softer red sandstone

The Box Trail follows Pine Creek in the Box-Death Hollow Wilderness. It requires multiple crossings of the fast-flowing, cold Pine Creek. We went wrong at the very beginning, following a fake trail into the rocks, but found our way down again and enjoyed the creek-side trail.

It is easier to go up the wrong trail than to come down

Fording the cold creek felt good on my twisted ankle

Most of the trail was on land

Many visitors to our park spoke of having visited the Peak-A-Boo and Spooky slot canyons or of wanting to visit them, so we did too. They are 26-miles down Hole-In-The-Rock Road and on our way we saw two badgers on the roadside. The side road leading to the trail head is quite challenging, drivable only with high-clearance vehicles and featuring a large boulder before the parking lot at the end of the road. After parking, the visitor must first descend 300 feet into Dry Fork Coyote Gulch and the adventure begins there.

The badgers, new mammals for our “life list”

The do-it-yourself slick rock trail into Dry Fork Coyote Gulch

The entrance to Peek-A-Boo was too strenuous for us

Spooky is more accessable than Peak-A-Boo

... but it gets narrower

and narrower.
Imagine tons of water rushing through every second.

The 100 Hands Trail was not marked on any of the maps we got from the Interagency Visitor Center in Escalante and there are no trail markers until after you already are on the trail. Jen told us about it.

Near the start of the 100 Hands Trail

The first petroglyphs on the trail were damaged by looters

Not all of the trail borders vertical drops

The 100 Hands Petrograph, for which the trail was named

Soon you reach the Shaman petroglyphs

Details of the central figures in the Shaman petroglyph panel


Bryce Canyon National Park is about 50 miles west of Escalante along Utah Route 12. The park is 2,000 to 3,000 feet higher than Escalante, and the weather is proportionally cooler.

We made a day trip to the park on May 18. On the previous day, the park had had snow and the weather was just about freezing, so we were surprised to find the parking lots within the park filled with cars. This was the middle of May! What were all these people doing here?

There is a shuttle bus system that carries visitors between the most popular sites in the northernmost three miles of the park. We parked at the shuttle lot outside the park and rode the bus around. By the afternoon the buses had standing room only. Welcome to a popular park!

We braved the crowds once more, on June 7, to see the bristlecone pines at the south end of the park.

Bryce Canyon scenery from the rim

Hoodoos - pinnacles - below the Queen’s Garden Trail

More Bryce Canyon hoodoos

A John Wayne western? No, tourists taking the “easy” way.

A gnarled bristlecone pine tree at the edge of the abyss
Lower down in the canyon and later in the day
Yes, the trail ended there, but we still had to hike back up!


Zion National Park is different from the other canyon-based parks we've been to. At the other parks - Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Dead Horse Point, Canyonlands: Island in the Sky, Black Canyon of the Gunnison - the typical visitor, such as us, arrives on the rim of the canyon and looks down into the void. At Zion, you come up the the river valley in the bottom of the canyon. The valley floor is lined with massive towers, some with flat tops, some cone-shaped, many so tall and close to the river that they are seen through the vents on the top of the shuttle buses

We made a side trip to Zion from May 23 to 25, taking our camping tent and leaving our Moving House at the state park. The journey took an hour longer than expected due to road work and one-lane traffic through the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel, but we got there. It was clear to us that Zion was even more crowded than Bryce Canyon had been the week before. Trailer buses, full of people even early in the morning, shuttled people between eight stops in the park. Welcome to the world of the mega-park!

We had a good morning, starting early, eating our breakfast in the park, and hiking the moderately rugged trails to the Emerald Pools and back before the crowds arrived. After lunch, we took the paved Riverside Trail to the northern-most point you can reach without wading in the Virgin River. Having easily done the more rugged trail in the morning, I tripped on the flat, paved one and twisted my ankle. I was able to finish the walk and return to the trail head, but it put a damper on further hiking during our visit and on hiking during the next couple weeks.

Early light strikes Watchman Peak, near the south end of Zion National Park.

On the Kayenta Trail to the three Emerald Pools

Palmer’s Penstemon blossoms on the Kayenta Trail

Zion Shooting Stars growing against a moist cliff

At the Upper Emerald Pool

A Desert Spiny Lizard on a stump near the Virgin River

Typical scenery in the upper canyon, near the Big Bend

Towers upon towers near the Temple of Sinawava

Golden Columbine clinging to a cliff side

With the afternoon crowds at the end of the Riverside Trail

At 7 PM, nearing the end of our day at Zion


Capitol Reef National Park features richly colored rocks, grand geological formations, challenging hiking trails, but also orchards planted along the Carson River by the early Mormon settlers. The people at the Visitor Center told us we could buy a pound of freshly picked cherries at the campground store, but they were sold out by the time we got there. Oh, well. We spent little time in this park because it is a couple hour drive from Escalante and because we'd already spent the morning navigating the Hell’s Backbone Road.

One of the richly colored cliffs in Capitol Reef

At the end of Scenic Drive, near the Ephram Hanks Tower


Goblin Valley State Park is filled with “goblins”, hundreds of short pillars capped with a harder stone that delays their erosion. Visitors can wander among the goblins. There are also hiking trails outside of the valley of goblins. One trail took us into the Carmel Canyon slot and then to a location called Goblins Lair. This was a place where at the top of the steep scree pile were caves going down between the scree and the cliff face. The “trail” to these well-like caves went steeply up gravel, sand, and rock. Rocks were covered with sand and handholds were frequently dried mud, not stone. The scariest aspect of the Goblins Lair was trying to go up and, especially, down the slope without slipping and breaking our necks.

Posing with three of the goblins

Two baby pronghorns near the park entrance

Getting down to the Carmel Canyon trail

Climbing to Goblin’s Lair was hard, but descending was riskier


16 percent down grade! Lots of switchbacks! That's the route from the canyon rim to the river at East Portal. Gail drove it on the second of our three days at the park. Down by the river I got a photo of an American Dipper bird, a diving bird smaller than a Robin, that I had been stalking for three years. Thanks, Gail!

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is located in western Colorado and does not attract the hordes of visitors who visit the parks in Utah. We hiked along the rim and visited view points in addition to our journey to the bottom. It made us nervous when other visitors would climb on top of or around walls constructed to protect people from falling. It's a long way down.

View of the canyon from Rim Walk Trail

At the Painted Wall, 2,300 feet high
with huge veins of pegmatite punctuating the darker gneiss

View of the river and canyon from the East Portal

An American Dipper near the East Portal

View of Gunnison River at Wagner's Point

Gail at Tomachi Point

MEANDERING OUR WAY HOME After the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, we visited a friend in Fort Collins, CO, hiked in a recreation area in Iowa, visited friends and relatives at the Twin Cities, and had reunions with classmates in Lake Geneva, WI, and Iron River, MI.

Eddie and Gail marveling at the exotic flower colors
at the Flower Trial Garden at Colorado State University

No bridge over Brushy Creek in Iowa?
Not a problem after our experience fording streams in Utah

With my sister, Terri, and some of my third cousins
in the Turnblad Mansion of the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis

With Gail’s classmate Carolyn, and her sister, Janice,
after a school reunion luncheon in Lake Geneva, WI

Some members of the Iron River High School class of 1962
55 years later

At the house my grandfather built more than 70 years ago,
with my brother, Carl, and the current owners, Steve and Lori

On the road for 90 days, we pulled the Moving House 5,697 miles and drove the truck an additional 2,366 miles. We travelled through thirteen states, and visited four National Parks. We visited with family, former classmates, and newly-found cousins. We visited with old friends and made new ones. We had a good time!

The only significant problem we had traveling was when a tire blow out on Colorado highway 14. We quickly recovered from that and were on our way again, thanks to a polite young man with lots of tattoos and an NRA patch on his shirt.

After living in Escalante for two months with its tiny four-aisle Griffin's Grocery Store, it was a shock to return to the big cities and their massive supermarkets where the amount of goods and food nearly was overwhelming. We survived very well with the limited shopping options in Escalante, getting our food from Griffin's, our dark chocolate from the Escalante Mercantile Organic grocery, and our beer from the state liquor store housed in a closet of Escalante Outfitters. However, it felt good to be able to get haircuts when we got to Montrose, Colorado. The only barber shop in Escalante had gone out of business and the woman we were told gave haircuts had moved out of town.

Here are a few more scenes from our summer.

Bryce Canyon’s Natural Bridge, elevation 8627 feet,
32ºF and snow flurries on May 18
Moonset over Wide Hollow Reservoir
at Escalante Petrified Forest State Park
A Dickcissel at Iowa's Brushy Creek
State Recreation Area

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Inspecting some petroglyphs on the 100 Hands Trail

Cedar Draw Arch in Grand Staircase-Escalante

The Natural Bridge in the Escalante River Canyon

The Natural Arch in the Escalante River Canyon

Chicagon Falls in Iron County, Michigan

Stained glass window in the Turnblad Mansion

Refining our fording skills at the Escalante River

Crawford Arch at Zion National Park

Two Bridges in Bryce Canyon

Gooseberries in Brushy Creek
State Recreation Area

Navajo Trail switchbacks
in Bryce Canyon

Mahogany mantle clock
in the Turnblad Mansion

Gunnison's Mariposa Lily

Sego Lilies at Kodachrome Basin State Park

Pasties, comfort food in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Al Holm, 3 August 2017; updated 13 September 2017