4 Rivet Member
2005 28' Safari
formerly of Tustin, Huntington Beach, Dana Point, and Laguna Beach
Join Date: Aug 2014
Leaving Comfortable behind... Snow Canyon State Park/St. George area
Fitness trainers recommend changing up routines after a bit in order to confuse the bodyís muscles. If one settles into a set routine, the body adjusts and can fool itself into thinking itís strong when in reality, itís in a groove and performs well enough only if the required movement is within its comfort zone. And so it is with life in most cases, therefore weíve decided to leave our comfort zone in Snow Canyon. Our initial goal was not to just to leave the rat race we were in but to explore new places and experience new conditions; we are excited to finally start our hand at disperse camping. While I donít pretend to have the experiences (yet) described in, say, Ray Eklundís post about roughing it, how else does one get that kind of experience other than to get out there. As the great adventurer Yvon Chouinard said, ďThe word adventure has gotten overused. For me adventure is when everything goes wrong. Thatís when the adventure starts.Ē
Of course I donít want everything to go wrong or even a little bit wrong but itís the idea that something could go wrong, that something unknowable lies ahead that excites the brain and the heart. Weíve decided to leave our camp hosting gig in Snow Canyon, hang around a bit and wait 'til the temps lower, and then explore more of Utah via Scenic Byway before moving on to New Mexico.
Can one call a location Ďhomeí after only almost five months? You can if it gives back more than you put in. Back in October we were green city folks with just a 20 minute test run in our new used Airstream trailer under our belts, but happy to leave our old southern California city life and the crowds, noise, concrete, lack of open space, and trash that went with it. We had decided to find a location that could offer a sense of being outdoors while still providing a relatively safe cocoon for newbies, and Snow Canyon State Park, Utah fit the bill.
When I say comfortable, I speak of a beautiful little gem of a state park located within 20-30 minutes of grocery stores, hardware stores, RV stores, decent restaurants, a couple libraries, some chain stores, auto repair shops, several very nice exercise gyms, and bike and mountain gear shops, not to mention a couple national parks (Zion and Bryce) and a few other state parks within an hour or two. Hereís a rundown of what we found during our stay here in Snow Canyon for those that are also looking for a comfortable area in which to stay for a period of time:
Snow Canyon State Park is a relatively small park when compared to the much larger Zion National Park but the trails are more accessible and the campground, I think, is in better shape than those found in Zion. Iím of course a bit biased after having worked the campground but the value of the sites ($20 for partial hookups and $16 for non-power sites) coupled with beautiful and quiet canyon trails all within walking distance or a 5-minute drive makes it a destination spot. The walks/hikes are easy to moderate and take one over various terrain - imagine walking over an active sand dune and then 45 minutes later scrambling over petrified (actually lithified) sand dunes. If you have kids, itís easy to expose them to some geology and the processes of erosion all within an hour; within a space just a bit bigger than Califoniaís Disneyland (but much less expensive), kids can see the remnant of a cinder cone, the cooled lava flows, cross-bedded sand dunes as they hardened over time, and the effects of wind and water upon canyon walls and sandstone outcrops. Our favorite hike in the park is Hidden Pinyon which takes you up and over and through sandstone slabs with some basaltic lava flow sprinkled on top. But the two best hikes are just outside the park: the adjacent Padre Canyon trail lies to the west, accessed from the Tuacahn Amphitheater parking lot, up and over a saddle in the canyon walls and down into a narrow canyon cut by water and complete with ponds and small arches before running into the parkís Three Ponds trail; and Red Mountain Trail, about 5-10 minutes north of the parkís north entrance and intersection with Route 18. Red Mountain Trail is about a 2.5 mile (one way), slightly inclined trail that leads to the Snow Canyon Overlook which is at the north end of Snow Canyon and a few hundred feet above the parkís trails; the trail takes you over some slabby sandstone and ends up in a sand dune with sandstone outcrops that sit on top of the cliff. If you donít want to stay in the campground, six bucks gets you and your car into the park and access to a wonderful sense of solitude and what early pioneers must have seen for the first time - itís all still there among the rocks.
We had three really good eating experiences in the area. If you hike the Red Mountain Trail, you can turn back north on Route 18 and drive another ten minutes to a one intersection town, Veyo. It has a pie store that has the best home-made pies in the area and has been around for quite a long time; the hiking can justify the carbs from the pie. For the best pizza, we would drive to Hurricane, about 20 minutes away. The main highway through Hurricane has a Dairy Queen on the north side and opposite that is the Dixie Pizza Wagon - a home-made stone fire oven on a cart. Thereís no building, just a cart - the owner, Todd, spent quite a bit of time in Italy, hanging out with master pizza makers and learning the craft of making greaseless thin crusted pizzas, all for $8 to $9. When you finish the pizza, you wonít find any grease on the box. For the best hole-in-the-wall joint, go to the Mongolian BBQ located in the Outlet strip mall off St. George Boulevard and just east of Interstate 15. You grab a bowl, add your own veggies, noodles, and meats, and then hand it over to a cook standing next to a circular grill. There, he and another cook walk around the grill, tossing your mixture back and forth with tongs before swiping it off the grill in one sweeping motion back into a bowl - an interesting show of cooking resulting in a simple but delicious meal.
There are three smaller communities that lie adjacent to St. George: Washington, Ivins, and Santa Clara. Their libraries are interconnected, so you can borrow stuff from them and return it to any of them. We donít have satellite and so went through the fall and winter watching borrowed episodes of Sherlock, Downtown Abbey, Midsommer Murders, Medium, and Scrubs, not to mention the RV horror story, Lost In America. Hmmm Ö so much for roughing it.
There are three main grocery stores: Smiths, Lins, and Harmonís, the latter being close to a Whole Foods store and the most expensive; it also has a nice sit-down area for coffee and eating with free wi-fi.
We have a 6 gig hot spot but weíve been able to find free wi-fi and our laundromat, the libraries, the local The Habit restaurant, Starbucks, and Harmonís. We found the best laundromat to be in Washington at the intersection of Telegraph and 300 South, next to a Dominoís; one has to go the extra miles in oder to satisfy the wifeís concerns about clean machines.
The St. George area seems to be a destination spot for active outdoors people and fitness enthusiasts. There are a lot of fine gyms but we chose the Washington Community Center - itís the cheapest and the largest, with a couple indoor pools, an indoor track, a bunch of basketball/volleyball courts, a gymnastic gym, a rock climbing wall, and a weight room, albeit a relatively small one. You can use the entire gym for $5/day but they also have a 3-month plan and a punch card. A lot of families go there and so if you want to exercise without kids around, you can easily find a smaller but private gym elsewhere.
Snow Canyon and the nearby canyons are a destination spot for rock climbers. Paragon Adventures is probably the go-to outfitter for climbers without equipment and/or local knowledge. Climbing permits are not required inside Snow Canyon. Paragon also runs its bouldering gym in St. George.
Vacation Land is a small RV supply store on Bluff Street, smaller than the large Camping World but I think it has a more experienced staff.
Our two favorite shops for buying clothes and equipment were Simply Birkenstock in Springdale and The Desert Rat in St. George. The former, owned by Frank, has great outdoor clothing, boots, and hats and is located just outside Zionís south entrance. Thereís also a great candy store right next to it. Springdale also has a quite a few nice cafes in which to eat - better than those found in St. George. It also has the cleanest laundromat probably in all of southern Utah. The Desert Rat was our go-to shop for hiking equipment with top-end brands. It also has a pretty decent section of the shop for climbing. Those two shops had all we needed for the outdoor life.
Quail Creek is another state park that lies just outside of Hurricane. Itís $15/night and while it doesnít offer too much in hiking, it does have a reservoir for fishing and is a quiet, clean campground with fresh water and access to a sewer dump in nearby Sand Hollow State Park. Utahís state parks have a maximum stay of 14 days within a 30-day period. Jamie and Kevin are the camp hosts during the fall and winter, and do a great job in keeping up the campground.
The St. George area is a clean, quiet, safe, and friendly area. Nobody rejected us once they found out we were southern California emigrants and in fact, welcomed us. We had no problems walking around late at night. The area might be lacking in culture outside of the local Mormon influence but if youíre tired of drama in your life, St. George makes it easy to live a simpler life.
But the thing Iíll miss most are the trails of Snow Canyon. The trails become your friends and they provide the stillness and sense of solitude I wanted so badly while living in southern California. The canyon walls at night reveal natural gargoyles that remind you itís probably time to get back home to the trailer. The stars and moon at night when itís full, allow one to hike without a headlamp. The sandstone outcrops have multiple spots on which to just sit and look throughout the canyon; they make it so easy to forget about everything else - just the texture of the canyon walls, the quiet, the wind, and a blue sky overhead. Itís a fine place to call home.