The temperature was 96 degrees F when we pulled into the group camp site in Goblin Valley at 6 p.m. Heat waves rose from the baked desert floor and fear rose from the pit of my stomach. My thought: “I brought 36 kids to southern UT to sacrifice them to the sun gods. This heat is going to kill us……”
It did not. No one died. In fact, no one suffered….at least not very much. (Sleeping in a sand filled sleeping bag hardly qualifies as suffering.)
Monday morning 34 OPA students, 1 OPA sibling, 1 Hislop child (Miles), 3 OPA employees (Talyn, Dalton, and me), and 6 parent volunteers left the school parking lot in 7 private vehicles. We drove to Diamond Fork canyon, hiked to and frolicked in the hot springs, and then continued on to Goblin Valley where we camped until Friday. My sister Marjorie and 5 of her children joined us. While there we hiked canyons in the morning (Little Wild Horse Canyon, Horseshoe Canyon, and The Crack) and swam in the Green River in the afternoon. If not the best of times, they were certainly great times. Following are a few highlights from our trip.
- “Should we go over the rules about climbing on the rocks?” Talyn asked me as the kids started to set up their tents in the Goblin Valley campsite. “There are none,” I responded. One of the things I love most about Goblin Valley is that it is such a user-friendly state park. One does not have to stay on the trail and one does not have to stay off the rocks.
- “This is a killer campsite,” Nick told me. KIller? Did he have the same worries I did about ending up as sacrifices to the sun gods? When asked if “killer” were good or bad, he assured me it was good, REALLY good in fact. He, too, loved the user-friendly aspect of Goblin Valley.
- We encountered a good-sized (6 foot) bull snake on the Diamond Fork trail. Of course I caught it and encouraged the kids to hold it. I feel it is important to fight unfounded phobias. A single snake can eat 100’s of mice in a year. YEA for snakes!!!
- We also encountered bats. They live in the Goblin’s Lair (east of The Valley of the Goblins). At dusk Talyn and a group of students sat in the Lair’s entry, watching bats emerge. One bat, apparently confused by the visitors, flitted back and forth between two students’ faces. Later Bill highlighted bats by shining his flashlight into the night sky. The light attracted bugs and the bugs brought the bats.
- We did not capture any bats but we did capture a flag or two. Our last night in camp the kids played
Capture the Flag in the dark amongst the goblins. We did not lose any kids though some kids lost some squamous epithelial tissue.
- The sand in Goblin Valley is significant; it permeates everything. “My sleeping bag has sand in it,” stated Ian. “What can be done?” Hum…. Sleep in it…..
- Actually I never did sleep in my sleeping bag; it was simply too hot. I did sleep on top of it though, me and about a million grains of sand.
- Did you know that there are 10,000 stars in the observable universe for every grain of sand there is on Earth?
- To beat the heat, we arrived at the Horseshoe Canyon Trailhead at 7:00 a.m., which meant a 5:45 a.m. departure from camp and a 4:30 a.m. departure from our sleeping bags. No one complained...about the early awakening or about beating the heat.
- Also to beat the heat we spend every afternoon in the Green River. Going from 96 degree F air to 54 degree F water was refreshing/shocking. Some kids never made it into the water--though they did not mind wrestling in the sand--and some kids never left the water, at least not until we told them it was time to leave.
- Mudslinging was a thing. I do not get it...What is the appeal of having mud thrown at you? Fortunately, I did not get it. The kids were very respectful of my self-proclaimed “no mud/no splash” zone. They had no qualms about throwing mud at each other though.
- Long, long ago some dinosaurs left tracks in the mud in what is now Horseshoe Canyon. Knowing that Samuel is a self-taught dinosaur expert, we asked him which dinosaur he thought left the tracks. “You know,” he said seriously and thoughtfully, “I have been pondering that. The tracks are in the Morris formation which is in the later Jurassic time period. It is clearly a predator track and at that time there were only three major carnivores. Based on its size…..” and he went on to explain which dinosaur he thought made the tracks and gave more details as to why. The two National Park Rangers and the 20 kids present at the time stood in awe as we listened to his very reasonable, very knowledgeable analysis.
- Those same two Park Rangers told us the two taco trucks parked in front of an old gas station were the best restaurant in the region. They spoke very highly of the food there. A bunch of us (30+) may or may not have stopped there after our dip in the frigid Green RIver….. And some of us stopped twice. And all of us now speak very highly of their food too.
- About halfway through our hike in The Crack we came upon a 12’ rope-aided vertical drop. Just beyond the drop, in the steep walled canyon, was a waist-deep water obstacle. “We have to turn back,” the kids said. “We have to turn back,” the adults said. “We will not turn back,” I said. And we did not. Some slid down the vertical drop, some used the rope, some used their friends. Some people waded through the water. Some people rock climbed up the canyon wall. Some people found a path around the obstacles but no one turned back. Nope. Not doing it.
- I used a walking stick (sometimes two) for all of the hikes. The kids knew I am scheduled for a knee replacement in 2 weeks. “If Mrs. Hislop can do it, I can,” became a mantra for some. “What they don’t know,” said my sweet sister Marjorie, “is that Mrs. Hislop can do anything.” Truth be known, I cannot many, many things but I love it that my sister thinks I am so capable. Her complete confidence in me is one of her very endearing characteristics.
- Hanksville is the place of the $20 repair bill. Marjorie’s tire had a slow leak and needed to be changed. One of the lug nuts resisted all our efforts to loosen it--we bent a lug wrench trying--so she had to drive to Hanksville to get it changed. The bill: $20. After our expedition along the Behind the Rim Road (almost a Jeep trail) Yvette’s truck was stuck in 4-wheel drive, compound low. Bill drove it to Hanksville to be repaired. The bill: $20.
- Another vehicular tender mercy: Thursday evening the “Service Engine Soon” light came on in my truck. A Green RIver (at the time we were just 10 minutes from Green River and 45 minutes from Hanksville) repairman kindly ran a computer diagnostic test on my truck. The test threw two “system too lean” codes. The repairman said it was probably the fuel pump or the fuel filter and said he could change my fuel filter the next morning…..which would put me out more than $20 and put me behind more than 20 minutes. Dalton, whose father owns Ron Zundell Auto Repair in Ogden, called his dad and asked for advice. Mr. Zundell (Senior) said it was probably a vapor issue caused by the heat when the truck switched from natural gas to gasoline. He said that I could probably drive it home without incident, which I did.
And now I am home. The trip is now a story I will (and am) telling. Life is the stories you can tell. What a blessing it was to live (and now to tell) these stories.
P.S. A zillion thanks to the parent volunteers who made this trip possible. As I left my sweet sister, with tear traces in her eyes, said “You are surrounded by such great people” and she is right. Talyn, Dalton, Brent, Lora, Martie, Bill, Yvette, and Danielle---You are the greatest!!!!
NOTE: All student photos are published with consent.