Utah Mighty 5 RV trip, Day 7 – Friday, 12/25 – Bryce, Zion & Turning 50

The Original Plan

See Zion National Park, celebrate my birthday, and stay either in the Watchman Campground at Zion or nearby.


The Revised Plan

See Bryce Canyon National Park in the morning and Zion National Park in the afternoon.

The Reality

The day went mostly according to the revised plan with one significant hitch along the way.

The Good

In spite of freezing temperatures and steady snow, we hiked out to two viewpoints on the rim of the Amphitheater at Bryce, Sunset and Sunrise Points, and drove to two more, Bryce and Inspiration.  The famous hoodoos were in full evidence and the park is breathtaking in the snow.  Due to the weather, we only spent a couple of hours there and, after getting some advice from the manager at the lodge, headed off to Zion.  Breaking free of the snow around Bryce was a relief and we were making good time to Zion when hit our major hitch of the day.  More on that below.

Zion was as spectacular as I remembered!  We were able to maneuver the Behemoth through the 6-mile Zion Canyon Scenic Drive stopping every few minutes to take pictures.  Parking was often a challenge, but in spite of being reasonably busy, we had no real trouble.  Trails were mostly too icy to hike, but we packed a lot of sightseeing into the time we had there.  Again, being at the bottom of the massive Zion cliffs and rock structures was just awesome.

We celebrated my birthday dinner at Oscars Café, an excellent Mexican restaurant right outside of Zion in Springdale.  Everything was good, but try the carrot cake, you won’t be disappointed.

We stayed in the Zion River Resort, a terrific campground about 30 minutes outside of Zion.

The Bad

When we got to UT-9 to drive into Zion, we discovered that high profile vehicles needed special escort because the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel is too shallow on the sides for any vehicle over 11’ 4” tall (the Behemoth was supposedly 13.5’ tall).  They have to stop traffic from the opposite direction so you can drive down the center of the tunnel.  Unfortunately, due to weather (though we were first told it was due Christmas), they had suspended escorts when we arrived.  Fortunately, we figured that out before we drove about 10 miles to the mouth of the tunnel.  Unfortunately, the only other route was a 100 mile detour south on US-89 into Arizona, west on AZ-389, northwest on UT-59 and back to UT-9 on the other side of Zion.  That little hiccup cost us two precious hours and I was steamed that the manger in Bryce hadn’t mentioned the issue with the tunnel.  If she had, we could have taken an alternate route which might have saved us an hour.

Utah Mighty 5 RV trip, Day 6 – Thursday, 12/24 – Frozen Tanks

The Plan

Drive to Bryce Canyon National Park then back to Escalante Petrified Forrest State Park for our second night in the campground.

The Reality

Spent the day thawing the gray and black water tanks which had frozen overnight and then drove to Bryce to spend the night (for some of us) at The Lodge at Bryce Canyon.

The Bad

Woke up in the morning to two problems – DJ was sick with terrible stomach and head aches and our gray (shower and sink drains) and black (toilet) water tanks had frozen which we knew because the drains in the shower and sinks started to back up.  This was the most frustrating aspect of the trip since I had realized this was a risk and had asked at El Monte how to deal with the problem.  His advice, and the instructions in the manual, simply said to never let the tanks get more than two-thirds full (the gauges for all the tanks are in thirds).  I realize now that the point of that was that if they did freeze, since water expands when it freezes, the tanks and pipes wouldn’t burst.  I kick myself for not doing more research on the subject since we quickly found out that that there is inexpensive RV anti-freeze which can be poured into the tanks to prevent this issue.

Regardless, knowing we were going to remain in sub-freezing weather for the foreseeable future, we realized we had to thaw them out before we could do anything else.  First, we went to a local hardware store, Do It Best Escalante Home Center, on Christmas Eve Day and bought a drain snake, but that couldn’t break through the ice in the pipes.  Second, we tried dumping hot water down the drains and over the pipes under the Behemoth – fail.  For each attempt we had to drive back and forth to the campground because we had to be positioned at the dump site before we tried anything in case it worked and the tanks cut loose.  Third, after consulting El Monte and some online research, we decided to buy a space heater and position it under the Behemoth and see if it would thaw the tanks.  I was concerned because it was still below freezing as well as windy with the occasional snow flurry, so I had no idea if it would work.

The Good

Fortunately, back at the hardware store, minutes before they closed for the holiday, we met Reed Munson, a gentleman in every sense of the word.  He loaned us a couple of concrete blankets, which are like large fiberglass comforters, used to facilitate drying concrete, which we wrapped around the bottom of the Behemoth while the heater was running.  After about an hour-and-a-half, we tried again and the tanks drained.  The black tank was never the same after that, always reading at least one-third full, but we simply dumped every chance we had and it worked out.

DJ was a total trooper, helping out occasionally even though he didn’t feel well.

Since we had lost most of the day, we decided to get a room at The Lodge at Bryce Canyon where the kids, both of whom were not feeling well, would sleep while Teri and I stayed in the Behemoth.  It was another treacherous drive through snow and ice to Bryce, but we got there without incident.  We all took advantage of the shower in the room and planned to get an early start on the next day since we would be covering both Bryce and Zion.