Family Trip: Canyonlands & Goblin Valley!

Two of our favorite places with two of our favorite people!

Once upon a time, my mom and youngest brother planned a trip to see us in March 2020 — not knowing that the COVID pandemic would hit right about then. All of our plans were up in the air right up until the week they were scheduled to fly out. They ended up being able to fly here and we proceeded with our trip as planned.

Everything ended up being shut down the very next week, so in retrospect we probably should have cancelled this trip — but we had no idea how everything was going to go down and how serious the pandemic was at this point. However, I avoided posting anything on social media about this trip until much later because I felt guilty that we had traveled when we should have started quarantining, and I did not want to seem like I was encouraging people to continue traveling during this time.

I am really glad they ended up being able to come. We had a great trip! It was the first time we got to spend some 1×1 time with just my mom and Christopher — probably ever! My family is a big group — often referred to as the Kemper Party of 8, or however many people are there at the time — and it is really fun to do things together as a group, but I really enjoyed this trip with just the two of them!

We booked a bougie hotel in Moab — the brand new Hyatt Place — as a surprise. It was supposed to be a low-budget weekend but at the last minute we decided to splurge a bit on the hotel so that everyone would have some more room to spread out. We drove to Moab in the late afternoon/evening and took them to Pasta Jay’s for dinner. It was amazing, as always, but we ordered way too much food. I had just found out that I was pregnant a week before, and didn’t realize it yet but I would have some issues eating for the first trimester. Not morning sickness really, just a general lack of appetite and an aversion to food. So this became a theme for the weekend — me being super hungry and ordering a shit ton of food and then feeling full a few bites in.

Our hotel lived up to the expectations. It was brand new, really beautiful, and even had a hotel bar (a rarity for Utah). Kevin and my mom kept the drinking to a minimum that weekend since I could not partake. We tried several times to go in the hot tub and pool but it was way too crowded — and in retrospect, I am glad we didn’t, because COVID. We had some shenanigans the first night. Christopher normally sleeps with an industrial fan in his bedroom (no joke) so he was using some sort of noise machine app on his phone that was driving me insane. I threatened to get my own hotel room, and then told my mom that she had ten minutes left to read her book because we were waking up early the next day. These are now stories that I will never hear the end of anytime we are together.

The next morning we got up — not quite as early as we had hoped — and there were some additional shenanigans involving Christopher not being able to wake from his deep sleep, my mom spilling her tea several times, and the discovery that our hotel room did not have a microwave. I thought for some reason there was a hot pot in the room, and I thought Kevin agreed with me because he said, “It’s for rice” (he had actually said “it’s for ice”) so I said, “I know it’s for rice, it’s a hot pot” and then my mom spit the rest of her tea on Kevin’s shoes. Another story we will be telling each other for the next five years, and if it doesn’t seem that funny to you, I apologize — I’m really just putting it in here for the people that were there.

We headed to Burger King to grab breakfast and opted to go inside to order to avoid the dreaded drive-thru experience (wherein usually my mom is trying to keep everything organized by ordering for everyone from the backseat of the car, and then inevitably someone’s order is wrong anyway). Canyonlands (Island in the Sky) is about a 30 minute drive from Moab but it’s a very beautiful drive. It was not very crowded but we decided to avoid the visitor’s center since it’s very small and there’s not much to look at. We took them to all of the viewpoints and did a couple of short hikes, including our favorite Mesa Arch.

I convinced everyone that we should drive back to Moab the back way — on the windy dirt road that goes down into the Canyon and follows the river. I said it would only take like 45 minutes but it turned out to take much more time than that. Apparently my concept of time on these kinds of drives is completely unreliable and incorrect, but everyone had a good time and we stopped at a few places to take some pictures of the river.

Back in town, everyone was ready for a nap/some down time so we headed back to the hotel. I think we considered doing another hike but we were all pretty worn out by that point. When it was time to get up for dinner, we drove into town and walked around and went to a few of the shops first. There are a couple of shops there that I love and I stocked up on some homemade soap and artist-made cards.

We decided to eat dinner at a new place that was recommended to us — The Broken Oar. We waited outside for our table to be ready and while we were waiting, we befriended a neighborhood cat. I must have zoned out during part of the conversation because apparently Christopher said, “We should name this cat Georgie”, and then a few minutes later I said, “You know what would be a great name for this cat? Georgie!”

There really was too much comedic family material on this trip for any of us to handle.

I am so glad it was recommended that we go to The Broken Oar because it was absolutely fantastic! They had these sweet potato fries that were like a dessert fry — covered in sugar and honey and who knows what else. Christopher surprised all of us by ordering some sort of pork sandwich with extra sausage on the side (this was the kid who used to order a cheeseburger “plain” with nothing but the burger patty, cheese, ketchup and a bun). Once again I overestimated my level of hunger and Kevin had to eat 3/4 of my meal as well as his, but the fries were so delicious. We agreed that this might be our new favorite Moab restaurant.

Once again our evening hot tub plans were thwarted (thankfully) and we went to bed with minimal shenanigans. The next day we were packing everything up and heading to Goblin Valley on the way home. Somehow we ended up not eating breakfast before leaving town but by the time we got to the Burger King in Green River, it was like 11:02am and breakfast was over for the day. For those who don’t know me, I prefer fast food breakfast over anything else on the menu and this sent me into a brief tailspin where I debated eating gas station snacks instead of ordering anything, but begrudgingly decided to order a burger. To make matters worse, this is also a very podunk Burger King. There are some nice ones and this is not one of them, but Christopher got a BK Crown so he was set for the day.

We arrived at Goblin Valley around noon and set off on our adventure of the day. What I love about Goblin Valley is the fact that there are no trails, you’re just wandering around this giant natural playground. As Kevin and I predicted, Christopher absolutely loved it and was in heaven. My mom also had a great time and definitely leaped out of her comfort zone and was climbing on things and doing her own version of parkour about 30 minutes in to the adventure. Christopher ran off on his own and we had to keep track of him as he climbed higher and higher and eventually ended up on top of one of the mesas.

He also got a bloody nose right in the middle of our excursion — thank you, dry desert — and my mom had limited supplies in her fanny pack so that was an adventure in and of itself, but we made it without having to walk all the way back to the car. We stayed out there exploring for several hours before heading back for some lunch/snacks. Kevin and I really wanted to show them Little Wild Horse Canyon so we drove there, but everyone was pretty exhausted by that point and we all knew there was a 3 hour drive back home, so we ended up opting out of the canyon hike. I am excited for them to come back though so we can do it next time!

They flew back home the next morning and I think about two days later, everything started shutting down and quarantines went into effect statewide and there was a mad scramble for all toilet paper and canned foods at the grocery stores. It’s crazy to think that everything had seemed “normal” and we were able to take this trip right before we ended up being quarantined for several months. It was lucky that none of us got sick while on the trip, but I am so glad we were able to go before being stuck at home, especially since we didn’t know when we would be able to get together next!

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