Sabbatical Days 14 & 15: Going with the Flow at the CO National Monument and Arches National Park

We are kicking off our sabbatical with a week-long camping trip to Utah. Granted, we’ve already technically kicked it off with some shorter two day trips with our parents, but this is the “can we really do this and survive” trip. We’ll be spending nearly 24 hours a day with each other and our dogs for 7 days. Spoiler alert: we’re doing it and it’s going great, not without some mini snafus, but great nonetheless!

Molly (in the cone of shame) and Tucker, on the trip of a lifetime!

Hopeful destinations: Colorado National Monument, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, and Vegas, baby (because why not)!

May 12: Colorado National Monument outside of Grand Junction, CO (about 5 hours from Denver with some quick stops for lunch and dog breaks)

Images of the Day:

I am pretty stunned that I have lived in Colorado for 13 years without visiting the National Monument. I’ve been to San Luis, the oldest town in Colorado, Rocky Ford that little gem famous for it’s watermelons and it’s high school mascot the Meloneers and even Cortez way down in Southwestern Colorado. But somehow I didn’t even know about Colorado’s very own version of the Grand Canyon. All I can say is breathtaking. You must go! And you must call your representatives because last I heard it was on the list to be stripped of its status as a national monument.  Just say no!

We spent one night, got the second to last campsite (you’ll pick up on a theme here), and managed without any electricity to our little Freedom Machine since the battery died.

We hiked, we cooked some soup and we passed out from the exhaustion that comes with adrenaline and kicking off your year-long sabbatical.


May 13: Arches National Park, Moab, Utah (about 2 hours from Grand Junction)

Images of the day:


Reflections and Fears Faced:

So far this trip has been all about going with the flow and enjoying the ride. My “go with the flow” muscle is a little out of shape, so I am giving it a much needed workout since I will need it a lot for this year of adventure. Therefore, we started out with a very loose itinerary, just the names of the five parks/monuments we wanted to visit, and a few specific hikes that we hoped to do.

Both Trent and I are planners who like to make decisions, but when we began to plan for this trip months ago, the campgrounds that took reservations were already booked. Seriously, people making reservations more than 6 months early! Maybe I’m not as much of a planner as I thought! Everything else was first come first served. We also hadn’t originally planned to bring the dogs with us, but here we are carting our two labs, Molly and Tucker, out of Colorado all the way through Utah and on to Vegas without so much as a place to park our Freedom Machine! We are winging it, which is a major challenge for me, and so far it’s working out just fine. Trent says to tell you that he’s loving it!

Let me put this in perspective, Trent and I have both accomplished a lot in life so far, and we didn’t manage that by winging it. It’s been reinforced for me for nearly 42 years that being prepared, having a plan, and sticking to it, is the way to go. That got me through high school and college and grad school and right on up the career ladder, which I recently jumped off. BUT right now I am not in school or working or trying to advance myself in any way except for on the fun-o-meter.

I have to keep asking myself, “What’s the worst that can happen if…” In this case, “What’s the worst that can happen if we get a late start and the campsites are all full?” Well, we go on to the next one, and the next one, and worst case we get a hotel room with a real bed and a shower. That actually doesn’t sound so bad on day three…

Side note: we got the last spot at 9:00pm last night at an RV resort outside of Zion National Park (because all the campsites in the park were full), and I did get to take a shower!  Luxury! We had PLANNED to stay in Arches last night but all of those sites were full, so we said, “hey, let’s just keep going then.” We skipped Canyonlands National Park as a result and hope to see it on our way back. Flexibility is the name of our dance.

What’s the worst that can happen if we can’t take the dogs on the trails? Oh, we’ll board them for a few days in town. Thank you to whoever decided it was time to cater to dog loving travelers.

What’s the worst that can happen if we don’t have an electrical hookup at the campsite and our camper battery is dead? Look, there’s an auto shop, we’ll buy another battery or we’ll just go without electricity. Update: we did go without electricity the first night and it was totally fine. I mean there were people sleeping in tents all around us for crying out loud! And I had a bed! #winning

I am PLAYING, and I’m trying to get comfortable with winging it (within reason). That’s part of the adventure. It means that we are staying relaxed and in the moment and that we are problem-solving together. I’m not always good at this free form way of living, but I’m getting better.

As I type this, we are waiting in a long line of cars to get a campsite at South Campground in Zion National Park, and the Ranger just came by to say that we are “on the edge,” meaning that we may or may not be one of the lucky ones. I wish I could say that didn’t make me anxious but it did. So, my wise husband just reminded me that there’s no point in getting upset now before we even know and then having to relive that anxiety over and over again. He’s right. So, instead I’ll just sit here sending out positive vibes, and if we still end up without a campsite tonight, THEN we will get to work on Plan B.

Update: We did get a beautiful spot at South Campground and I’m sitting here at the picnic table looking at the gorgeous red cliffs behind the trees and smiling as I type this.


I’m documenting the wildlife that we see along the way, although I haven’t been quick enough with the camera yet to capture it. We’ve seen the deer along the roads, and lots of ravens and hawks. There have been lizards that drive the dogs mad at the campgrounds. But by far the coolest thing we saw on this trip was a bald eagle soaring over I-70 as we crossed into Utah from Colorado. And would you believe that Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” was playing as we saw it? True story. Check out our road trip playlist.

Our motto:

“Let’s just see.”

Next up:

Zion National Park and maybe Bryce Canyon



3 thoughts on “Sabbatical Days 14 & 15: Going with the Flow at the CO National Monument and Arches National Park

  1. Why is Molly in the “cone of shame”?
    She had a shaved spot on her leg from getting her teeth cleaned (anesthesia) and she wouldn’t stop licking it. She’s a “not so happy camper.”


  2. Rana, can’t thank you enough for this blog! My natural mother’s curiosity and genuine interest in two of my favorite people is satisfied to a much greater degree than possible before! What’s the modern way to say, “You totally rock!”?


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