In addition to hiking the trails of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks near Moab, Utah during this first week of June, Hannah and I also make it a priority to play pickleball when we travel. Thanks to the United States of America Pickleball Association website, we can find pickleball venues all over the country. Today we join Moab pickleballers for a morning of play.
With pickleball paddles always packed in our suitcases, we are ready to play on the taped pickleball courts superimposed on the indoor basketball courts at the Center Street Gym here in downtown Moab. Throughout the morning we whack the hard plastic pickleball with a school bus driver, a saddle and rope tree trimmer, an Iraqi expatriate, and the pro at the local golf course.
Pickleball satisfied, we leave by noon from Moab for Torrey, the Gateway to Capitol Reef National Park, 160 miles away. Over our stretch of Interstate 70 in Utah, there is an 80-mph speed limit; I channel my inner Dale Earnhardt, junior for an afternoon!
Arriving at Capitol (with an O) Reef National Park Visitor Center, we pull in this mid-afternoon Friday to learn of two fine trails for our hiking Saturday (i.e. Hickman Natural Bridge Trail and the Cassidy Arch Trail – you guessed it; it was named for Butch). Returning to our vehicle, an athletic woman, who we later learn is the mother of two college age young men, asks if I can give her a ride to her car.
Hitchhiking? That’s a blast from the past. As a college student who was a part of a generation that didn’t have cars in high school or college as many do now, I had a rich history in hitchhiking. In the late 1960s, my brother Richard and I would hitchhike from our colleges (he Kenyon and me Wooster) in central Ohio to our Uncle Bill’s and Aunt Carolyn’s in Toledo on the Michigan/Ohio border. We’d use a large sign that said, It’s Mom’s birthday. It never failed – though it never was.
Transferring from Wooster to Arizona State University in 1969 to start my senior year, I wanted to check out the Tempe campus before my September enrollment as an elementary education major. Getting a ride with my college roommate Mule (born Jim Francis) to his home in Idaho Falls, I then planned to hitchhike the 870+ miles south to Tempe.
My most memorable ride was very early Sunday morning when two cowboys, who had been drinking all night, picked me up. Only once in the backseat did I realize their inebriation and my predicament. I tried to tell them I was only going to the next town, but they were good ole boys and would hear nothing of it; in their happy state, they couldn’t do enough for me and took me an additional 80 miles. As you can tell, I lived to tell this story.
While a student at Arizona State, with my dormmate, Rich Meyer, I hitchhiked the 120 miles from Tempe south to Tucson for Thanksgiving; as two Jersey boys, it was too expensive to fly home across the country for that November holiday weekend. Picked up by two dudes and a young woman, we were summarily dumped off on an empty country road when they wanted money and realized we had none. Hitchhiking from there took some time; while we waited, we were pelted with eggs from a passing car. None of the rich Arizona hospitality we were hoping for.
At the age of 23 in 1971, I hitchhiked for the last time, from Atlanta, Georgia to Knoxville, TN where I ended up in jail; that saga is chronicled in a six-part series on my blog. Click here for this link. https://over60hiker.wordpress.com/2015/09/26/dan-has-some-explaining-to-do-about-being-jailed-in-knoxville-part-1-of-6/
My instincts with the young mom this afternoon at Capitol Reef are to say yes and I do.
With Hannah in full agreement, we learn that Rebecka and her family have parked their car at the Chimney Tree trailhead, then hiked the five-mile Spruce Creek trail through a foot of water in places to the visitor center. Custom is is that hikers than hitchhike back to their car.
During our ten-minute drive to her car, Rebecka tells us that her 19-year-old son picked me out as one who would likely give her a ride. I guess being mild-mannered and unassuming opens doors. It turns out she is from Tempe, Arizona, the same Tempe where Hannah and I spent the first ten years of our married life. And get this, she taught at both Holdemann School in Tempe and Nevitt Elementary in Phoenix where I taught.
In ten minutes, Rebecka seems like the cool mom we’d all like to have. Full of life, setter of boundaries while still making life fun and adventurous for her two sons and husband. Here is the email she sent the evening after we met.
Dan and Hannah,
Thanks again for taking me back to my car. It was nice meeting you both. I’m pretty sure you will be taking highway 12 to Bryce Canyon. This road is very scenic! There is a crazy spot in the road after Boulder heading towards Escalante, beautiful scenery but steep on both sides of the highway. After that part heading down there is a 6-mile hike to a 126-foot waterfall. The hike is easy and well worth it (lower calf creek falls). We hiked in and out in approx. 2-2 1/2 hours. https://utah.com/hiking/calf-creek-falls-lower
Continuing on this road towards Escalante, there is a hike called Zebra Canyon. You can access this off of the road Hole in the Rock. 5.2 miles round trip. After second cattle guard (approx. 7.4 miles from main road) park on the right and take trail to the left. Can be tricky to find this slot canyon, and when entering the slot canyon, you get wet up to your waist. https://www.roadtripryan.com/go/t/utah/escalante/zebratunnel
Bryce Canyon is one of my favorites! Drive safe and have a fabulous trip!
Though we took another road to Bryce Canyon, we now have a 126’ waterfall on our Utah bucket list.
Dixie and Scot, are you in?