Spring Break in Goblin Valley

A little over a week ago, my older kids had their annual spring break from school, so, as we've made a tradition of doing, we headed south.  This year, I took my family down to Goblin Valley.  It was a first time visit for all of us.  

It would also provide a great opportunity to test out a new ultralight and pocket sized point and shoot camera I had recently boughten for about $80, a Pansonic Lumix DMC-SZ3.  It wasn't my first choice, but was all the budget could afford at this point, and for now, I was simply just looking for something that would offer extended and improved range of quality over my phone in addition to sparing my phone's battery.  On the agenda was, of course, exploring the unique formations that make up the "goblins" in addition to hiking the nearby and popular Little Wild Horse Canyon and the Wild Horse Windows.

Once we had our campsite set up and dinner in our bellies, we took advantage of the remainder of the daylight to hike along the Entrada Canyon trail connecting the campground to Goblin Valley proper.

The next morning, we awoke to find an uninvited visitor in our tent.

After containing the spider, I released it across the street. Here's a comparison for size.

 And one more glamour shot...

 After the excitement with the spider was all over, we packed up for a day hike up Little Wild Horse.  As we made our way into the mouth of canyon, we were greeted by this guy keeping the way.

It didn't take long to see what makes this canyon such a popular place to hike.  It is certainly not a place to go if seeking backcountry solitude, but I think it's still a "must do" for any first time visit to the area.  

Had all of our kids been older, we would have opted for a full loop hike of Little Wild Horse and Bell Canyon.  Instead, we picked out a turn around spot after all making our way through all of the "good stuff" and rested up with some lunch.

And made our way back down...

After the hike, we returned to the park and turned our kids lose among the goblins.  They thought it fun to pretend each little cluster of goblins was their own little castle.

After exhausting the kids to ensure another good sleep that night, we returned to camp and had dinner.  There had been another trail, the Curtis Bench Trail, extending off of the Entrada Trail from the night before that supposedly led to some alternative views of Goblin Valley and the surrounding area so I set out with the camera to see what I could capture from the "golden hour" as the sun prepared to set.

Later that night, I wanted to experiment with my camera's "Starry Sky" mode that enables exposure options of 15, 30, and 60 seconds.  I set the dial to a full 60 and mounted the camera on the tripod. With about 15 seconds left, I looked and beheld a shooting star streaking across our camp.  I was excited to see if I cold just get Orion overlooking our camp, but then I couldn't wait to see if the shooting star's trail would make an appearance.  After raising the fill light with Picasa a bit, here is the result...

Before breaking camp the next morning, I had to get a shot of our camp from above.

After a good night's sleep we decided to spend the morning seeking out the "Chamber of the Basilisk" as it's known among some canyoneering and climber circles and otherwise called "Goblin's Lair" by park officials.  When we arrived near the base of it, the trail grew quite steep with some Class 2's.

Deciding it wouldn't be smart to take the kid carrier pack up with our youngest nor try to make our 3 year old do it, my wife said she'd be OK sitting back with the two youngest while I pressed on with our two oldest daughters (ages 7 and 5).  Once we reached the lower entry into the cavern, it went from Class 2 to Class 3.  I tried to persuade my daughters that we ought to turn around and we'd have to settle with just some pictures from that point but they insisted on going all the way down and in.

So, of course, as any good dad would, I gave in and began to make my way down each boulder before lifting each of my them down to my level.  Once we reached the bottom, they were instantly excited to be inside such a big and giant cave.  There was also a high adventure scout troop rappelling through the hole in the ceiling 90 feet above.

Boulder by boulder, I lifted each of my two older daughters back out and met back up with my wife and the younger kids where we rested with some water and snacks while my wife climbed up to have a peak into the cavern as well.

On our way out of the park, we stopped at the Visitor Center so that the kids could be sworn in as Junior Rangers. 

Our last adventure in the area would be Wild Horse Windows.  Already a bit tired from the hike up and into Goblin's Lair, I had to motivate our daughters with promises of a slushy and candy of their choice once we got down to Hanksville.  That, and being able to see the destination from the parking site would help them agree to venture down and up one last trail.

After Wild Horse Windows we made a brief stop in Hanksville to top of our car's tank and fulfill the candy and slushy promise to our kids.  We were disappointed to find that the slushy machines were not in operation so we all had to settle for a standard drink.  Still, you gotta love that Hollow Mountain store there in Hanksville.  If you count that, we entered 3 caves or cave-like structures in one day. 

We concluded our trip with a bit more R and R time at my in-laws property in Torrey where they have a little cabin they recently built and plan to live out their retirement in the near future.  I had also recently sewed together some little DIY hammocks for my girls in addition to a more versatile one for myself that I'll be posting on at a later time.  My wife hasn't converted to hammock camping yet, so she gets the Walmart branded Equip hammock I bought for testing purposes last year.  Torrey is full of nice, big, shady trees and my in-law's property is no exception.

On Saturday, we had hoped it would be warm and sunny enough to head down for a hike through Sulfur Creek in Capitol Reef.  Unfortunately, as is often the case when we are in Torrey, the weather had other plans for us.  Due to cold, gusty winds and stormy clouds circling the area we opted to stay put.

On Sunday, while still a bit on the cold side, the weather did clear out a bit on Thousand Lake Mountain and it called my name.  My father-in-law, wife, and I set out for a hike along the GWT up Sand Creek.  We were looking for a waterfall I had seen posted elsewhere on the Internet and labeled as being Sand Creek near Torrey, and after looking over a map, I figured it would most likely be up near the top its canyon.  Unfortunately, time was not on our side and clouds and snow flurries started moving in on us before we could find any waterfall, if any really does exist up there.  However, the trail proved to be very scenic with some great views all around from up near the top of the mountain.  

All in all, it was a fantastic trip.  I'm also impressed by all my little point-and-shoot camera was able to handle and produce for being only $80.

A full gallery containing these highlights and a few more can be viewed here.

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