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John and Mandi

us --> van --> overland
7 yrs and 6 days - end of the road

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Saved by the Promised Land

Jun 15, 2015
by John
in: USA

Visiting Zion at the moment we did was perfect. We had become weary of the desert and, while the North Rim provided us with a reprieve, we were in need of more trees and water, lots of trees and water. We entered the park from the east, a wonderful drive that reminds us of the Nantahala Gorge. Not exactly the same, a bit of nostalgia for a place we hold so dear. Reaching the visitor's center we headed straight for the ranger desk. While we were asking questions about the campgrounds we noticed the weather report pinned to the wall, best chance for hiking the Narrows was that day due to rain forecast. We scurried off back to the van to change and to grab some snacks for the hike.

Zion National Park, UT, USA

Yes please Zion, yes please

The Narrows is a river hike, not entirely in a river unless you want it to be. We had heard great things about it, traipsing in water for several hours sounded like exactly what we needed. What we weren't expecting was to make such a great friend on the ride to the trailhead. What started as some travel chatting on the bus carried on through most of the hike. The only reason we separated is because Mandi and I were getting a bit cold and Jake wanted to press on a bit. He offered to share his campsite outside the park and told us roughly where it was. Later that evening while we were walking around the campground trying to locate his site, deciding to just drive through due to the campground size, we ran into him on our way back to the van.

The Narrows, Zion National Park, UT, USA

Ancient road my ass, this be some type of river

Chucking all worries about feeling like freeloaders is hard but what a wonderful segway. That night we shared food, fire, and stories. A lasting friendship was born and we all camped together another three nights, Jake scored a sweet campsite just inside the south entrance of Zion, we split the cost of course. We wanted to take a rest day after the Narrows so Jake went off to conquer Angel's Landing even though it was going to rain. He hid his fear of heights rather well, maybe the hail helped him summit without incident. Either way he repeated the hike the next day when we wanted to do it. What a great guy.

Angels Landing, Zion National Park, UT, USA

If death is a possibility why in the hell did they name it landing

Angels Landing, Zion National Park, UT, USA

You spit and count how long it takes to hit the bottom

Angels Landing, Zion National Park, UT, USA

Jake busting the T-rex while Mandi flails at the Pterodactyl

Angels Landing, Zion National Park, UT, USA

Nothing but angels here, right moms

In camp, the JaMvan seemed to be the big star. We met so many wonderful people as they stopped by to inquire about the van. Our site became a revolving door of new friends, sorry to everyone for the late nights around the fires. We must mention Sandy, a bad ass 72 year old who should run for president, nuff said. Mandi could have been declared the campground queen since Jake insisted on doing all of the cooking and I cleaned up all of the dishes, nobody else probably noticed.

South Campground, Zion National Park, UT, USA

When you see me in your city say what's up my hippie

Eventually everyone had to go their separate ways, Jake stayed until 1AM before setting off - crazy nutter. We decided to check out Bryce Canyon and ended up hiking around for half the day. It's a beautiful place, but Zion still holds the top spot for us. On our way to a camping spot in a nearby national forest we noticed a familiar van. Pulling a u-turn we dropped by to say hello, ending the evening chatting away in our van in a different spot Jean and Abbie knew about. A great couple we hope to run into again. They will be heading home to Europe soon but maybe we could all swing Africa together one day ; ).

Bryce Canyon National Park, UT, USA

What power? Power of hoodoo

After a late morning start we headed to the Salt Lake area to stock up on a few things before continuing north. Mandi has been struggling to find a decent replacement for her dilapidated pair of sneakers. They are completely worn out and the hiking pair she brought are too rigid for her liking, she summited Angel's Landing barefoot with both pairs in her pack. Fortunately, she found the current equivalent of her favorites at REI but we had to have the correct size shipped to another store, we'll pick them up after Yellowstone.

We're starting to settle into a pattern of one day exploring and the next mostly relaxing. We both aren't keen on long back-to-back travel days, the Alaska circuit will test us greatly. We are also balancing free camping with paid. Right now decent connectivity is dictating where we stop for a bit. Spending four nights in Zion taught us a lot. Not only are great places wonderful, great people even more so.

We've also started to just park the van and spend some time hashing out a rough course. Adding our tentative plans to the calendar in our phone might help us fill in the gaps. Some parks are easy to pick a few activities while the sheer size of others is overwhelming. Spending three to fours nights in one spot allows us to balance the travel with the chill. Splitting a long drive in half over two days while shopping on the way seems to break things up just enough.

On another note, having an awning on a trip such as this is effing epic. We built our van with indoor space so we weren't sure we'd use the awning, no words can capture how nice it is to sit outside under the awning to cull photos and update the blog. We're so glad we asked as many Pan-Am travelers as we did when we were trying to decide on whether we should have one. It's now glaringly obvious that we vote yes. Victoria Palmer, FVP, you get a gold star...this time.

Say what? (2)
Jun 16, 2015 at 10:47 AM
Great post. Good storytelling! And we certainly support what you say about the awning. The next awesome part of an awning is having a place to hang wet clothes/towels!
Jun 27, 2015 at 12:31 PM
Thanks Geneva! We've used the awning a couple of times to dry clothes. The ladder comes in handy as a makeshift rack and provides a great tie off point for a clothesline or hammock anchor. We never hit you up for hot springs, a mistake for sure. If we are ever in your old stomping ground we'll get the details to make the rounds.
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