We were originally planning on going to Moab after stopping Grand Junction with Lynnie and Nick, but decided to try somewhere we'd never been before: Capitol Reef! I had actually never even heard of Capitol Reef before, so luckily Ryan knew of it or we would have missed out.
And the relatively flat hike led to an amazing "natural bridge" that we got to walk through, which was pretty exciting. We even paused to let Reed take a photo of Ryan and I that turned out quite cute, if I do say so myself.
After the hike, we headed to a log cabin that boasted ridiculously amazing pie. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived at the log cabin, the pie was completely sold out for the day. Fortunately, the log cabin also sold single serve ice cream cups with wooden stick spoons for utensils. I love eating ice cream off a wooden stick spoon, which I realize is oddly specific and weird. Ryan and I commented that the ice cream was very satisfying and, after a discussion of what satisfying means, the boys agreed.
The next stop on our things we needed to see tour of Capitol Reef was a scenic drive! You know how we love a scenic drive. The drive led to the beginning of the road that led to the pioneer register hike. The road that led to the pioneer register hike was seriously the most amazing and beautiful road we've ever driven on in the history of us. The road started out like any dirt road, but gradually, the canyon walls around us grew narrower until they were only 6 or so feet away from each side of the car! (I might be off in my guess here, but to me it was 6 feet. To Ryan it was probably 15 feet.) We felt like we were driving through a hike and it was SO cool! We oohed and ahhed and oohed some more.
We eventually arrived at the trail head, threw a ton of snacks in our bag, and set out! The pioneer register hike was really interesting. The amazing path we'd driven and the trail we hiked were once part of the "highway" through that part of the state. Pioneers came through in wagons and stagecoaches and many of them stopped to write or carve their names into the rock as they went! The names are mostly stagecoach/wagon seat level high and seriously so many names are carved there! There were also names graffitied on the wall later, which was not as cool.
The sun was starting to go down at this point and we knew we still had a long drive ahead of us--and we were really, really tired of walking--so we stopped at the end of the names instead of continuing down the trail and hopped back in the car. We gorged on fruit snacks while we drove back through the drive to top all drives, then got another amazing surprise when we found a group of 8-10 deer right next to the road! The kids were super impressed.
And then it was time to start our drive to Bryce Canyon, where our hotel for the night was. You'll remember our unplanned stop at Goblin Valley and how it altered our schedule for the day. Well, we did not plan on driving to Bryce quite as late as we did. We drove on scenic highway 12 and oh my gosh, when we still had light and could see the drive was beyond scenic. We wound really high up a mountainside and just had this amazing sprawling view of mountains and streams and it was gorgeous. And then full dark fell and the drive turned from gorgeous to terrifying. The road is super windy and goes up and down through the mountain range. At the scariest point of all, we could still see just enough to know that at the peak (where we were) there was literally a 100-foot drop on both sides of the road (no mountain to hug) and less than a foot of "shoulder." And though we saw less than 10 cars the entire drive, we happened to be passing a car going the opposite direction, so we couldn't even sneak into the other lane a bit. I was gripping my door handle so tight and just praying we'd be okay. We were.
At another terrifying point, a huge elk jumped across the road only 15-20 feet down the road in front of us. If he'd jumped three seconds later, we would have slammed into him. So anyway, it was late, the road was terrifying, and eventually Ryan got sleepy. I volunteered to take over, and he had to go to sleep because my driving makes him nervous even when we're not in scary-ville. (Also, I'm not a bad driver. I'm not sure why I make Ryan nervous. Seriously.) Thankfully, Ryan got us through the worst part of the drive and I mostly just had to stay awake, focus on staying in my lane and not going off a mini-cliff (nothing compared to Ryan's cliffs) and stare down all the deer I saw and threaten them not to cross the road in front of me.
I will say that the kids were amazing sleepers through the craziness, so that was one less stressor to worry about. Finally, we pulled up to our hotel in Bryce to find the office closed and our room key taped to the office door with the room number written on it! Thankfully no one had taken it! As we "checked in" another guest came to the door looking for office help because her key didn't work. I was nervous our key wouldn't work, either, but thankfully, the key worked fine.
Funny story. After we had our key, we planned to take the kids in to lay them down before we got our bags. I tried to wake Reed up so he could get his shoes on and the poor boy was just so disoriented. First, he couldn't figure out where his shoes were, even though I'd set the shoes on his lap. His hands were literally touching his shoes. Then he tried to stand on top of his car seat to put the shoes on. Finally, we got the shoes on his feet and got him standing outside the car. Asher, meanwhile, is spouting off gibberish and cracking up. Finally, we had all the children. We carried/prodded them inside and laid them all on one bed. Then we went to grab our bags and the pack n play. Our hotel was quite cheap and the room was quite tiny, but thankfully it had a "closet" that was big enough to put the pack n play in. After everyone was in and situated, Ryan and I fell asleep to a show that was on one of the five channels the TV received. We certainly had an adventurous night!