Slowly but surely, we started finding a groove. In Bryce, we parked at Yovimpa Point, shouldered our packs, and dropped past golden hoodoos into a forest of Douglas fir. We woke to a frosty morning, spent an hour shuffling around camp mumbling and inhaling coffee, and then tackled the short, steep hike out. I was enjoying scrambled eggs and a sink-shower by 9 a.m.
From there on out, the miles of hard driving unveiled shiny little gifts. A real cheeseburger at a real drive-in. That rollercoaster of rock and sky between Escalante and Boulder–perhaps the nation’s sweetest stretch of pavement–with Jack Johnson spreading all the hope of the summer solstice. The small-town hotel that doesn’t lock its swimming pool.
We started diving into the backcountry, too. In Capitol Reef, we hiked into Upper Muley Twist Canyon, walking beneath arches etched into the Wingate Sandstone as the walls got tighter and higher. We dropped our packs and scrambled up the Waterpocket Fold to see the Henry Mountains light up. We dined on fajitas as moonlight poured over the lip of the canyon. Other than a minor scare involving a jackrabbit, you could say it was a perfect outing.