Little Wild Horse Canyon, Goblin Valley, and Capitol Reef

After I completed my hike at Canyonlands National Park, we headed out for our next destination: Little Wild Horse Canyon and Goblin Valley State Park.  With storms swirling overhead the past couple days and even forecasted for the following day, we were surprised to be granted one sunny day with scattered clouds.  The day turned out to be perfect for cruising and enjoying the scenery.IMG_685420140930_160822_Android

Boondocking in the vacant lands between Little Wild Horse Canyon and Goblin Valley State Park was recommended to us by a friend; little did we know that this area would expose us to a desert beauty beyond imagination.  We slowly turned off the smooth paved road onto a bumpy dirt road and searched for the perfect campsite that we could call our own that night.IMG_6860

After clumsily scooching across the dry plains and flattening out tumbleweed that stood in our way, we discovered the perfect campsite sheltered behind a natural wall of protection. Faded tire tracks, scattered dog prints, and a burnt out campfire proved it had been a popular campsite enjoyed by previous boondockers.  Embracing this new experience, we vigorously set up camp and explored the surrounding desert as if we were children in a newly discovered playground.IMG_6864 20140930_173827_Android IMG_6878

As we silently hunkered down in our camp chairs that faced the eastern horizon, we watched the long mountain shadows stretch out over the desert until the final speck of sunlight faded away from the distant cliffs.  The watercolor painting of a sky before us softened into a pale lavender sheet and eased its way into darkness.  Shortly thereafter the sounds of crickets strumming their acoustics filled the silent void.  And there we relaxed, just the two of us in the vast spread of the desert, gazing at the blanket of stars with a single outstretched hand pointing at the dippers and shooting stars in the sky.

We knew the tranquility would eventually succumb to advancing storms.  As we star gazed, our attention was diverted to several sparks in the distance–lightning.  Silence surrounded us when we drifted off to sleep, but the soft pitter patter of rain and turbulent winds woke us with a start in the middle of the night.  By sunrise, our chairs and table had been blown over, and a lackluster gray hue had replaced the once brilliant blue sky.20141001_082251_Android

We had worried that sheets of rain would bequeath a muddy terrain, but to our luck, only a gentle surge of rain had trickled overnight which allowed for an uneventful drive back out to the paved road.  Just a few miles down the road, and we finally arrived at Little Wild Horse Canyon, a slot canyon located in the San Rafael Swell.

Hiking to the canyon:20141001_092855_Android

Entering the canyon:IMG_6879

Inside the canyon:IMG_6895IMG_6889  20141001_095242_Android 20141001_095418_Android

We only explored the slot canyon for an hour before heading over to the nearby Goblin Valley State Park.  Earlier research stirred excitement within me–the valley of “adorable” goblin-like rocks do not exist elsewhere (to my knowledge), making a visit a unique experience.

Before hanging out with the goblins, we took a stroll to the other side of the park where fragments of an earlier storm could be admired.  Dark, ominous skies served as a backdrop against the brightly-lit sculptures of nature; who could ask for a more beautiful site?IMG_6902 IMG_6905 20141001_115903_Android

And finally, the valley of goblins:IMG_6921IMG_6916 20141001_122742_Android 20141001_123247_Android

Shortly after noon, we bid farewell to the goblins and headed southwest to Capitol Reef via Utah 24, a historic and unbelievably beautiful highway that leads drivers on a tour through southern Utah. IMG_6926

Campsites were full which ended up working in our favor; we randomly found land right outside of Capitol Reef National Park for some more boondocking.  Nothing will ever top the previous night of boondocking in the middle of the desert between Little Wild Horse Canyon and Goblin Valley State Park, but our new campsite worked out just fine:IMG_6933

We had just enough time to set up camp and for me to wander off again for a solo sunset hike along the Chimney Rock Trail.  The bright red canyons were illuminated by the steep angle of the sunset:IMG_6935IMG_6938

Not bad for a single day! The dismal, wet morning started off with our first visit to a slot canyon in Little Wild Horse Canyon, then proceeded with an excursion to Goblin Valley State Park beneath scattered clouds, and ended with a memorable drive along Utah 24 to a crystal clear evening at the charming Capitol Reef National Park.

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