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ARCHES NATIONAL PARK

ARCHES NATIONAL PARK

 Moab, UT February 2017

 

Arches National Park is located just outside of Moab, UT and is neighbors with Canyonlands National Park.  This park is well named.  There are so many beautiful and different arches to see.  The come in all different size and shapes too.

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We did this Park after the South Canyonlands park.  This park was much busier than Canyonlands.  Which equaled lots of bored kids complaining about being there and more foreigners with selfie sticks.  It was still pretty windy and cold when we went to Arches.  This park had more variety of trail lengths though.

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James still didn’t feel good about his knee.  We did a few hikes together to some great arches.  The Landscape Arch is one worth mentioning because in 1991 a huge piece of rock at the bottom part of the arch fell!  There was a visitor who managed to catch a picture of it falling.  Can you imagine being there when that happened?  This trail had a really cool tree on the path also.  We are suckers for pictures of interesting trees.

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Before we ended the day I hiked to Delicate Arch.  James stayed with Xander in the van to give his knee a rest.  This hike was 3 miles round trip and 480 feet elevation gain, all on the way to the arch.  The way back was all down hill.  It seemed like it just went straight up the side of the mountain.  It was all one giant slab of rock.  It is crazy how a trail gets worn into the rock from all the people.  The views up to the arch we spectacular.

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When you’re almost to the arch you walk on this path that they blasted out the side of the rock to make.  It got my stomach turning a little bit.  I don’t like being up on the edge of cliffs like that.  It was totally worth it though.  The Delicate Arch was like a piece of art work that had its own gallery dedicated to it.  When you come around the corner, there it is standing tall all by itself with an amphitheater in front of it.

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After Arches National Park we finished up Canyonlands then headed to Green River, UT.  Talk about a dieing town.  We had researched a landscape called Crystal Geyser, so we added it to our pit stops.  It is near Green River.  We found the route to get out to the geyser.  It was all dirt road.  Well after a few wrong turns and almost getting stuck a couple times we decided it wasn’t meant to be.  The van made some pretty impressive ruts in the super soft sand sections that crossed the road.  I really don’t know how we didn’t get stuck.  You could tell when you hit the sand because the van almost can to a complete stop.  Finally the road just got to rocky for us to safely navigate.

Here is a video

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And a picture of where we almost got stuck.

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While we didn’t get to see the geyser (which who knows if it would have erupted when we were there), we had a blast trying to get there.  This pit stop was about the journey not the destination!  Its important to always remember that.  Utah hasn’t let us down so far.  Cant wait to see more of it.

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HIGHWAY 101

Oregon coast
April 13, 2017

 

Well as expected the weather wasn’t the best on the coast. It could have been worse though. Turns out I don’t melt if I get wet! While it was raining most of the time, the temperature wasn’t to cold so we decided to grin and bare it. As long as you are prepared and dressed for the rain it wasn’t so bad.

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Turns out Xander LOVES the beach. He was emotionally torn with his hate of rain and love of the beach. One advantage to hitting the coast this time of year is that we had the beaches to ourselves. It was so fun to see Xander run like a crazy dog up and down the beaches.

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Most of this part of our journey was spending anywhere from 10 minutes to a few hours on the beach. One of the beaches had a light house that you could walk up to. We spent a lot of time on this beach. The weather was good in the morning when we stopped. It was fun walking the beaches looking for interesting rocks and shells. I had a goal of finding a whole sand dollar and I did! Well James actually found it, but I was happy.

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A lot of the beaches blend together on the southern part of the coast, mostly because we didn’t spend much time on them. The Oregon beaches are so different from California beaches. They have these crazy rock formations in the sand and ocean. It really adds some character to the ocean. We have a ton of pictures of amazing beaches and waves. The sunsets on the beach are like no other. The way it reflects off the water is so beautiful.

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Once we got up to Florence we cut in to Eugene for a pit stop. I have family in that area that I haven’t seen in a very long time. It was great to be able to see them. We spent a few days here then headed out on Easter day.

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I can’t believe all the perfect beaches we have seen so far. The Oregon coast is amazing and we can’t wait to see more of it. Next stop is Tillamook and I’m pretty excited about it.

JOURNEY TO THE OREGON COAST

April 9, 2017

 

After leaving Bend, OR we decided to head south and then cut over to the coast and drive hwy 101 all the way up Oregon. Being that it was early April we knew that we might not get the best weather, but we had to push through so that we could be in Alaska by mid May.
The plan was to stop at Crater Lake first. Well that will have to be for another time, there was 18 feet of snow at the visitor center. You have to be open to change when living on the road, so we just kept driving. Klamath Falls is just south of Crater Lake, which is where we stopped for a break. There isn’t much to see here, but we did find a nice park and a small lake. The lake was peaceful after the kids on their ATV’s finally left.

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From Klamath Falls we cut over west to Ashland. I really liked this little town. It is tucked away in the mountains. We found a park that had a Japanese garden in it. Dogs weren’t allowed in the park and it was raining so we just did a quick walk through. Of course the landscape was beautiful. After having a beer at the local brewery (every tiny little town in Oregon has a brewery) we decided to call it a night. In the morning Xander and I went for a run on an awesome paved path that passed by some llamas, which Xander wanted to play with.

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The next town was Medford. Our first impression of this town was that is was a shit hole. It seemed liked no one took any pride in the town or themselves. I realized that I didn’t file my taxes yet, so we got that taken care of. Taxes are always so painful so we went to have a drink after that. James found Opposition Brewing. It was such a friendly place. Just a small family owned brewery that was getting ready to expand. They are dog friendly and weren’t very busy so we asked if anyone would mind helping us work with our beast. Xander actually did amazing. He even made friends with one man, who told us great stories about traveling on his motorcycle. I’m always so grateful when we find places and people like this. It takes a lot of understanding when it comes to a dog with anxiety, like Xander.

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Next stop was the coast. The highway we took dipped down into northern California and we caught hwy 101 from Crescent City. The highway in California followed a beautiful river, the water was so blue. We also stopped at an amazing waterfall right next to the highway.

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So far our weather wasn’t too bad. I hope the weather on the coast holds out this good. This leg of the journey was uneventful, but a nice drive with lots of green. It is so refreshing to see so much green, and so many different shades of green. With any luck we will get to see a whale on our coastal drive.

SMITH ROCK STATE PARK

Bend, OR
April 8, 2017

 

Smith Rock is a little state park packed with an abundance of rock climbers. There is a small stream that runs through it and rock faces of all different sizes. I’m not a climber, but I could spend all day here just watching everyone climb.

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We spent a few days in Bend and got to catch up with friends there. Bend is a fun little town. Lots of great breweries and activities. There is a spot in town that a river runs through and has rapids that people surf in and practice kayaking. Our friends, Erica and Trevor, let us use their shower and made us a delicious dinner. We also went to Deschutes brewery and first Friday with them. First Friday is an event where shops downtown host entrepreneurs trying to sell their products. Some shops have music and drinks too. The great part about the van being our home, we don’t have to worry about driving after having a few to many drinks. Which we took advantage of that night.
Trevor and Erica recommended Smith Rock so we went there before we headed out of Bend. I’m glad we went. There were a couple of different trail options with different degrees of difficulty. You hike down into a small valley to the stream and the trails hug the rock faces. Xander got lots of practice being a good boy on this trail. It was narrow and lots of people and dogs. He did very good with the people but he struggled with the other dogs.
It seemed like every turn you made there was a rock wall with people all over it. They looked like little spots of color on the rock. Every other person we passed on the trail had their climbing gear with them. On our way back we came across a guy who had his climbing gear with him and his dog. He was trying to cross the bridge over the river. This was a challenge because his poor dog was afraid of bridges. We watched him try about 3 or 4 times. I finally asked him if he wanted me to hold is bag so he could carry his dog across. He declined the offer, guess he was trying to work on the dogs fear.

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UTAH

Utah has so much to offer. We never knew how amazing this state is. There is no shortage of things to do and explore in Utah. We found some very quirky things to do in Utah as well. I’m pretty sure Utah has something for everyone.
If hiking, biking, and just being outdoors is your desire then southern Utah is for you. We easily could have spent three or four months here is time permitted. The difference in landscape from Bryce Canyon to Zion National Park made it seems like there was no way they were so close geographically. Angels Landing in Zion National Park left the biggest impression. That hike was a huge accomplishment for me and something that was on James’ bucket list. Places like Zion and Arches are much more enjoyable if you hit them in the off season. We were lucky that we hit these places before huge summer rush, even still some of the places we stopped were crawling with people.
Some of the more peculiar places were things like the Mummum church and Zaqistan. The Mummum church is a place that mummifies people and pets. When we pulled up to this place I instantly made up my mind that I wasn’t going in. It just seemed to creepy, and it looked like it was some guys house with a pyramid in the yard. Apparently that is a tomb and the guy who came up with this religion is in there. Zaqistan, which is it’s own country ,is located north west of Salt Lake. This was like a treasure hunt, but the treasure was a bunch of junk in the middle of nowhere. It took us most of the day to find Zaqistan but it was worth it. “What the hell” is the best way to describe this place.
Salt Lake City is a great place. Sometimes it’s a nice break to visit a city for a while. The dinning, though we try not to do to much of it, gave lots of variety. We even took time to stop and catch a movie while in Salt Lake City. There were two gardens that we went to and they were free. The bar scene was plentiful also, even though they have 4% abv draught in Utah! Just on the east edge of The Great Salt Lake we stopped to see the Spiral Jetty. This is a huge earth sculpture that can be seen when the water level is low enough.
I have to say that we were pleasantly surprised by Utah. I really didn’t we would find so many amazing adventures here. Having the annual National Park/Monument pass paid for itself in Utah alone. Now we are heading to the wet state of Oregon.

ZAQISTAN

Zaqistan, UT
March 19, 2017

 

First, let me start by telling you that what I’m about to write is 100% true! While Zaqistan is physically located in Utah, it is actually attempting to become it’s own country. That’s right! Some guy on the east coast bought this land on e-bay and then applied to be his own country. It was the strangest and most entertaining thing we visited in Utah.
We wasted a whole day trying to find this damn country. If you search for it on google maps, it does come up. The problem is that there aren’t any roads that show up on the map. It is all shity dirt roads and they all have roads that shoot off of them. So once again we were stuck with some vague internet directions on how to find this place.
As we are driving and trying to guess which road to take next by comparing directions we had and GPS we came across a sheep farmer in the middle of no where on the rocky mountain. It seemed like he was just a random guy who decided he was going to post up on the side of the road. The sheep were all over the road and there were also about six or seven huge sheep dogs. We scoped it out with our binoculars before we decided to proceed. As we press through the road blanketed with sheep, the dogs were very upset with us. Making it through that we find that the road leads nowhere. So no we are on the side of a rocky mountain and have no idea where we are or need to go. We talk about throwing in the towel and heading back before it gets to late and we run out of gas. Before we give up I take out the binoculars and scout the land. As I’m scanning the desert below us, BAM, there it is! It is so far away that I can’t make out what I’m seeing but I know that its what we are searching for. I catch a glimpse of red and something shinning in the sunlight. I yell for James to come verify. After he does, we are in the van and on our way to another country.
Finally we arrive at Zaqistan, after traveling all day! Pulling up to the boarder of this country there is a very official wood shack with a fake drop gate ( its just a piece of wood painted red and white). A big red sign welcomes you to Zaqistan. That was the red that I spotted with the binoculars. The object that was shinning in the light was a huge robot sculpture made out of metal. There are several other robots but not near the size. In the wood shack we find a log book and make sure we sign it.
As we walk around this desolate country we find a half built bunker made out of sand bags, Cody’s point, and Mount Insurmountable (the highest peak in Zaqistan). And, well, that’s about all there is to see in Zaqistan. Walking back to the van we see a sign on the back side of the welcome sign which read, bummer dude….. you’re leaving. Before leaving we decided to leave a “gift” to the country of Zaqistan. I’m sure you’ll figure it out in the picture.
This stop will go down in the books as the most ridiculous, hilarious, strangest, stop we’ve made. While it took us most of the day to find, it was something we had to see for ourselves. I’m still in awe that this place even exist.

SPIRAL JETTY

East Salt Lake, UT
March 16, 2017

 

We spent a few days in Salt Lake City. I’m not sure what I expected of Salt Lake, but I enjoyed it. It seemed to have a little bit of everything, for everyone. The city had lots of nice parks, which is great for us with Xander. We never had a problem finding somewhere to get him out. We had some very tasty Indian food, which we had been craving for months.
Just outside of the city there is a Spiral Jetty. It is on the north east side of The Great Salt Lake. The Spiral Jetty is an earth sculpture created by Robert Smithson in 1970. It is created out of mud, salt crystals, basalt rocks and water. It is 1,500 feet long and 15 feet across. This coil that starts at the bank of The Salt Lake is not always visible. It all depends on the water level of the lake. I wish we had better photos to show.

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The drive out to Spiral Jetty was horrible. It was about 20 miles on a washboard dirt road. It was dry out as well, so every passing car left you in a cloud of dust. We were told a lot of people get stuck out on that road and there isn’t cell service. When we arrived there were two other cars there. They didn’t stay to long. We walked up opposite the lake where there is a podium that gives information about the Spiral Jetty. Since there were other people there we decided to cook some lunch and hang out for a while. We actually ended up spending the night there. As we were almost done cooking a sheriff pulled up and was checking on the area. He caught a glimpse inside the van and pulled over to chat with us. He is the one who told us about people getting stranded out on the road, actually that was why he was out there. He was very impressed with the van and had lots of questions. He also informed us that it would be ok to spend the night there. The sunset that night was a wonderful display of yellow, orange, pink and purple. It looked like a water color painting.

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In the morning Xander and I went for a run on the lake bed. We didn’t get very far though. Even though it looked dry, it was pretty soggy. I did find some big salt crystals. This was a great spot to have the drone. The Spiral Jetty is so big that its hard to capture it in a picture standing on land. We had some awesome footage of the drone flying over the Spiral Jetty and Xander running around playing in the sand, but we lost all of those files.  It still makes us sick thinking about all the photos we lost.

DELTA SOLAR RUINS

Delta, UT
March 12,2017

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James’ nerdiness was calling him to this place. It is an old solar plant that was suppose to be a cost effective way to provide solar power. This was back before today’s technology with solar panels. The material they used couldn’t withhold the wind and sun, in the long run and the plant was abandoned.
I’m really glad that they left these crazy looking contraptions up. They were very ancient and modern at the same time. You could almost hear the life in them when the wind would blow and they squeaked and moaned.
It was very windy out here so I could see how that would have been a major factor with these solar “panels”. This was just a quick stop for us. You can’t go on the property so we just had a quick look from the road, had some lunch and snapped a few pictures. I wanted to write a little about it because the panels are an interesting site.

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MYSTIC HOT SPRINGS

MYSTIC HOT SPRINGS
Monroe, UT
March 11, 2017

 

Upon first arrival of Mystic Hot Springs my thoughts were, “nope, we’re leaving.” As you drive up to the office there are a bunch of old run down buses. (Some of them had very artistic paint jobs on them.) Walking into the office was interesting. It was very hippy, which I expected. There were bathrooms where you could change and it seemed like the owners/employees lived there because they had cabinets marked and it looked like it was all of their personal toiletries. There used to be a pool next to the office, but it is now just a shallow mossy duck pond. So we pay our $16 each and go off to find the hot springs.

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We are told that there is a big community pool to soak in and if you walk up above that there are individual tubs that you can soak in and they all vary a little in temperature. So we follow the signs to the hot springs and walk up to the individual tubs. That is exactly what they were! They had diverted the hot spring flow into bathtubs. The tubs had been there so long and had the hot spring water running into them for so long that minerals built up where the water flowed and it looked like the tub was part of the rock. It was awesome.
James and I found a tub that was off by itself and we shared that one for a little while. This tub was hot! We had to keep taking turns sitting by the water that flowed in. It was really hot right where it flowed into the tub. We also had to get out and cool off every couple of minutes. Moving on we went to another set of tubs. There were three tubs side by side here. Of course I had to get a photo of us both soaking in the tubs. It was a pretty funny site. I propped my phone up set the timer on the camera and ran back to the tub and hopped in. This scene was repeated several times so I could get just the right photo!

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On the way out we discovered that the buses were actually “cabins” that were rented out to guest. I thought that was a pretty cool idea. Different if nothing else. Mystic hot spring was a rejuvenating experience and was much better than the first impression it gave. If you get the chance to visit here, do it! You wont regret it.

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FRISCO GHOST TOWN

****WE LOST A TON OF PHOTOS, SO THERE ISN’T MUCH FOR PICTURES ON THIS AND UPCOMING BLOGS. SORRY****

FRISCO GHOST TOWN
Frisco, UT
March 10, 2017

 

This trip was a little out of the way but we wanted to check it so we made the drive. This old mining town was at the base of the San Francisco mountains in Utah. The town was formed in the late 1800’s by the miners and their family. They mined zinc, copper, lead, silver and gold here. After a major mine cave in the town started to dissipate and by the 1920’s it was all but memories.
As we drove up to what looked like part of the town we discovered we were at the cemetery. We parked here for the night and had a look around. It was strange to see that the majority of the graves were of children, and really young children. Makes you wonder what happen here to have so many children die at young ages. While I thought it might be creepy to sleep right next to an old cemetery, it really wasn’t. There were no ghost haunting that night!

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In the morning James took the drone out and got some great pictures of places and things that we wouldn’t have been able to walk to. Some of this area is still being actively mined, which left a lot of areas off limits. There were a lot of big open concrete pits that had been covered with an iron grate. The drone also found a few buildings, some in better shape than others. At the top of the hill we could see an old mine shaft and what looked like a conveyor belt that might have loaded rock into trucks to be processed.
We hiked up the hill to have a closer look at the mine shaft. It was surprising how much equipment was left there. The conveyor over the shaft was in pretty good shape also. There was also some type of big motor that maybe ran the conveyor belt from the shaft to the loading area. The mine shaft also had and iron grate over it to keep people from falling in. There was also a couple of buildings still up there.

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Moving on to another part of the town we found more old buildings and equipment. We also came across what looked like it used to be the kitchen. There were old rusted cans everywhere.
Utah is know for their beehive structures that were used to produce coal. We came across a spot that had five of them still standing. These giant structures are made out of big rocks and mortar. The whole thing is enclosed besides the door way and what seemed to be a vent hole at the top back. The inside of all of these beehives were completely black from all the fire and heat. A few of them were partially collapsed.
Well after hanging out with the ghost we hit the road. Next up is Mystic Hot Springs!

A DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH

St. George, Utah
March 2017

 

We were pleasantly surprised by St. George. Neither of us had ever spent any time in St. George. Its always been a place we drove through to get somewhere else. The town was larger than we thought and had a cozy feeling to it. I could see the appeal to living here if you liked a small town that still had lots of things available to do.
On the way to St. George we stopped in a tiny town for the night. In the morning I looked on Google maps and found a way down to the river so we could let Xander out to run and play. As we got closer to the route that I thought would take us there, it seemed to be a pedestrian path. I told James to just turn on it and drive off on the dirt shoulder. About 5 seconds after he does this we hear the dreaded sound of sirens. Yep, sure enough we were getting pulled over for driving down a pedestrian pathway. Luckily the police officer was cool and told us that the way we were headed would have got us stuck and gave us directions on how to get to the river. No ticket for us!

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One of our stops in St. George was Snow Canyon State Park. The fee was only $6 to enter and it had a couple of pictures of a slot canyon that we wanted to check out. The first stop in the park was a very short, small slot canyon. Next we wanted to stop at the one trail that dogs were allowed on so we could get Xander out for awhile. I decided on way back to do some running with him to help burn off some energy.

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This park was pretty small. We walked to Pioneer Names rock, which was a rock that had a bunch of pioneer names and dates written on it with axle grease. We did another hike that led us to a lava cave. The cave entrance had collapsed in so you couldn’t get in it. The hike that caught our attention for this park was not on the map they gave us at the ranger station. Upon more research we discover that the park discourages people from doing this hike. I think it might be because of the petroglyphs that are not protected from people doing harm to them.

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After finding some very vague directions on line we wandered around the desert for a long time. We did find two sets of petroglyphs but started to think that it was a lost cause looking for the slot canyon. Finally we decided to throw in the towel and head back in the direction of the van. Boom, wouldn’t you know it, we stumble upon the slot canyon. After we gave up on it, there it was.

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There is a lot of petroglyphs on the tight canyon walls. Some are hard to see because the canyon is so narrow. Right in the middle of the canyon there is a tree growing tall up through the top of the canyon. Eventually the canyon gets so narrow that it is impassable. We made it back to the van and had a good laugh about how we managed to find this slot canyon in the middle of nothing.

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We stayed the night on BLM land and had a wonderful campfire all night. You could hear the frogs croaking all night down by the stream. It was a perfect night. This apparently was the parking spot for the vortex hike that we wanted to do. Upon returning from the hike we walked up to what looked like a parking lot. Spending a second night was not so appealing anymore.

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This hike was another one that wasn’t marked. Again, we followed random internet directions to the vortex. It was unmistakable once we found it. Right in the middle of the huge mass of rock is a giant hole that looks like a corkscrew made it. The bottom of the vortex had a little bit of water in it. People somehow had climbed down in there and etched their names in the rock. James and Xander hiked up higher to get a better vantage point. The drone was able to get a picture of three different vortexes, the giant one and two smaller.

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One the way back we stopped at the stream that we had to cross, and put our feet in the water and cool off. It didn’t take long! The water was freezing. Xander played around, blowing bubbles in the water and jumping back and fourth across the stream. After getting back to the van we had lunch and headed out.

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St. George has some pretty great hidden gems. Small towns often hold wonderful surprises. It just goes to show that you shouldn’t always pass through the little guys. Take some time to experience something different on the way. I love how our life affords us to do this now.

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