Several months ago Grill Master and I started planning a vacation. It would be our first “alone” trip in 17 years. Our last, was a cruise to Alaska in 1999. To be frank, I’m not sure whether that even qualified for “alone”? It was a couples cruise with all my siblings and their spouses! It was a wonderful trip but, we are WAY overdue! With the nest empty we decided we would do something just for us! (Yes! It does feel good to be totally selfish after all these years. I’m not going to lie!) As we began planning our trip there were a few “unspoken” guidelines. First, any location requiring flight…OUT! (It’s a long story for another day! I might have “wings” but, not the kind needed for flying!) Tropical locations equal swimsuits…definitely OUT! (His legs have not seen sunshine since the great sunburned feet incident of 1990, and my body hasn’t been stuffed into a swimsuit since…yeah, well…that long! Nuff said) Hot locations…totally OUT! (Me+ heat is SO not pretty! I make Godzilla look like an annoyed little lizard!) All that said … It had to be somewhere we love, could drive to, (fully clothed), in cool weather. We tossed around all kinds of ideas but, nothing appealed to us. Then one day while we were talking, I was on Pinterest, (I like to think of it as multitasking not ignoring Grill Master) Anyway, I saw a pin that read…
100 fun things to do in…you guessed it… Utah! (STOP! Now, before you click exit and go back to your Netflix marathon…here me out…)
I clicked on the link and began reading off some of the items. Ba-zinga! We realized there were things on the list we hadn’t done with our kids in 10 years. Things we really loved! The more I read, the more excited we became. We found things on the list we had never done, and things we had always wanted to do but, hadn’t. Could we really do this? Vacation in our own home state? I told my husband, We can’t tell anyone if we do this! They’ll think we are crazy. They’ll say “Oh a stay-cation! How nice!” With that “your so pathetic… you poor, poor, people” look. (Insert eye roll)
We live in one of the most beautiful states in America! We really do. People travel from all over the world to come see the amazing natural wonders that are right here at our back door! I mean, people PLAN vacations to our great state! So, we mapped out our plans, and picked our destinations. I told my kids what we were doing. My son said “Oh, a stay-cation.” My daughter-in-law said “You have to blog about it!” (It could be why I like her more! Lol) I said, Really?! However, the more I thought about it the more excited I got! I love where I call “home” and if I can share some new things with friends who live here, or friends who want to visit… Fantastic! (Now, be warned, I’m breaking every rule of blogging by posting my pathetic “home” vacation photos. I’m not a photographer! I don’t claim to be. I even forgot my camera and had to use my iPhone! Oh, the horror!)
So, I’m going to give a condensed daily “travel journal” of our trip! (Not all in this one post…over the next few posts. I’m not totally insane) If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment, and I’ll try my very best to answer them. To quote Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music, we’ll start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…
Day One: Lehman’s Cave! Can you believe it? We had never been to Lehman’s Cave in Great Basin National Park. Now, I’m not a cave lover. Truthfully they scare the tar out of me! In fact, I could barely sleep the night before. I was sure I was going to get stuck in the cave! I realize…a totally unrealistic phobia. (I have many, trust me, this is just one of them! Wait till we get to sinkholes!)
One of the awesome things about driving out to Lehman’s cave is taking the “back road” there! If you take the back road, known to us “locals” as Minersville Highway, you get to see four really cool old country towns! (Well, three really cool towns and one “don’t sneeze, or you’ll miss that single wide” town!) My two favorites are Milford and Baker. Milford will be your last stop before crossing what I like to call “dead cattle valley”! If you need to potty, you best be doing it in Milford cause you are about to go 80 miles with nothing but miles and miles of shrub filled valleys with… dead cattle carcasses. (Que the music from The quick, the dead, and the ugly)
As you can see Milford is a “water tower” town! I love water tower towns! Their City of Commerce offices are in the really cute Union Pacific rail car! (No! I’m not joking!) They have a beautiful trophy fishing reservoir. (Grill Master explained that means you can’t fish with power bait or worms. Only lures! Grill Master is also an amazing fisherman! It’s his favorite hobby! Right next to me…giggle) But, my very, very favorite thing about Milford is…
the old Milford Hotel with its connecting café! Oh, she’s a grand old lady! Back in the day when the train depot was right across the road from her, she had to be something! She has beautiful stain glassed windows on the lower level and beautiful simple architecture. Oh, the stories she could tell if she could speak? If money were no object I would buy her and totally restore her. She just speaks to me!
From Milford to Baker you’ll see old telephone poles with the wires hanging down. Signs of a woebegone era. We saw herd after herd of cattle. We saw antelope and deer. (You feel like singing “Home on the Range” don’t ya?) We saw several dead cow carcasses. One even had a vulture picking at it! It’s as desolate a countryside as it can get, and you go miles and miles without passing another car. Despite all of that, it holds a certain peaceful beauty.
Baker is a really fun and quirky town. The little non-denominational church is so quaint. As we rounded the corner from the church, we spotted a trolley car that someone is converting into a home? Not sure but, it was awesome, so I snapped a pic!
We arrived at Lehman cave early! We forgot about the time difference. The caves are actually located in Nevada, so you switch back to pacific standard time! It worked out great because we were able to explore Lehman’s old log cabin, read the history of the cave, take in the views of the valley, and then go down to the picnic area and have lunch! We had a guest join us, a wild turkey! (Grill Master has a thing for wild turkeys, so he was in heaven) Great Basin is beautiful park with wonderful rangers there to help answer any questions you may have. The entrance to the cave is right outside the back door of the visitor’s center.
We had a wonderful tour guide. He asked for a volunteer to bring up the rear and make sure no one got lost! I raised my hand! I figured if I got stuck in a passage way then at least all the little kiddo’s could finish the tour and I could die peacefully… alone! So, I was designated honorary “Ranger Norine”! (I also got a great big flashlight! I’m no dummy folks!)
I would recommend booking your tour in advance as they fill up quickly. They have two different tours. A 60-minute tour and an 90-minute tour. (We went with 60! After the 10th set of stairs I was thankful we made that decision!) I truly only panicked once, okay, twice! Once when we were in this tight crevasse and Ranger Steve told us that we were standing in a “fault” line crack. (Now, I’m from California…we don’t do that! I started mumbling… let’s move along, let’s move along.) The other time, when Ranger Steve turned out all the lights! (But, “Ranger Norine” had a flashlight! Wink, wink! I’m not sure Ranger Steve appreciated my service at that point in the tour?) The caves truly are stunning, breathtaking, and make you realize how magnificent mother nature is. Also, Lehman’s cave is famous for it’s “shield” formations. Most caves don’t even have one, Lehman has hundreds! There’s one in the picture above. Can you spot it? (bottom left-hand corner, coral in color)
We ended the day with a yummy seafood dinner at a great new place in town called “The Lighthouse”. (Hey, vacation is just as much about the food!) On our way back home from the cave, we stopped at a look-out point. There we met a young man from Russia, who is traveling from California to New York this summer! He had rented a van and was just having his own personal “wanderlust” trip. It was confirmation to me that we had made the right decision to vacation in Utah! It was a perfect 1st day! We saw unique and interesting things. We had lots of time in the car to talk and connect. I got to be a ranger for an hour and we ate amazing food! The best part… we got to sleep in our own bed, in our favorite place in the whole world. The place we call “Home”