This morning we got up at 5:15 am, got all of our stuff ready, and were out of the house by 6:30 am. We drove to Kingsburg, a little less than half an hour away, to meet up with my best friend Michelle and her husband Eric. They are joining us on our travels through Utah.
We left Kingsburg around 7:30 pm, driving south on Highway 99 through the Central Valley, then heading east from Bakersfield on Highway 58. Dave and I stopped briefly at Murray Farms, a large farm stand just before climbing Tehachapi Pass. When we were entering, a guy started talking to us. “Do you believe this place?” he said. “This was just a couple of tents three years ago!” It was hard to believe – it was now a full farm store, petting zoo (including some quite noisy peacocks), and miscellaneous other attractions. We were really only interested in the indoor plumbing.
We got to Barstow at 10:30 am and rendezvous’d with Michelle and Eric. It was, as expected, hot and dry.
From there we took I-15 to Las Vegas. Daytime isn’t the most interesting time to approach or pass through Las Vegas. Even so, the city is gaudy and glitzy, even from the freeway. It was lunchtime, and we chose to bypass the craziness of The Strip. We drove through to North Las Vegas and stopped to eat at Subway.
We were back on the road around 2:30 pm, crossing the Arizona border not much after that. It’s only 30 miles through Arizona to Utah, so we didn’t see much there. We did drive through the Virgin River Gorge, which was pretty interesting – there are spots where the gorge seems very narrow, and the rock walls hug the freeway.
When we crossed the Utah border, we lost an hour by crossing into Mountain Time. We continued along I-15, passing the entrance for Zion National Park (which we visited on our first cross-country trip in 2001). The highway took us through a valley dotted with juniper and pinyon pine, typical of the Utah desert.
We exited the highway after 5:30 pm at Cedar City and met up again with Michelle and Eric. We stopped at Lin’s Supermarket to buy a rotisserie chicken for dinner (to save the hassle of cooking at our campsite, since it was getting late), and then headed up a windy highway to Cedar Breaks National Monument. We arrived there at 7 pm and admired the view of the canyon just below the visitor’s center, which at that point was closed.
The campground was just around the bend from the visitor’s center. There were plenty of spots, and after some discussion, we chose a nice large spot at the edge of the campground that overlooked the meadow below. It fit both tents with plenty of room. As we set up camp, it started to sprinkle. This happened a few times, but it never turned into real rain. We were relieved when the dark clouds blew away.
We ate our dinner of rotisserie chicken, pasta salad, and french bread, as the sun was going down. We had heard there was a ranger talk at 9 pm, but there was some confusion about whether it was at the visitor’s center or at the campground amphitheater. As the sky grew darker and darker, and the full moon began to rise, we hiked over to the visitor’s center and found it completely empty and dark. We hung out for a while, taking pictures of the canyon in the moonlight, and admiring the stars (which were abundant despite the brightness of the moon). We hiked back to the campground and were in bed by 10:30 pm.