We are back on the road! The momentary thoughts of abandoning our Van trip are completely washed away. I am currently relaxing in my camp chair looking out on the red sandy cliffs of BLM land (free camping) near Zion National Park. The sky is completely blue as the sun is beating on my shoulders and I am wondering why I ever thought to end our trip early. These are the moments that motivate our family to keep adventuring.

Our most recent post “Broken Down: Is Van Life really for us?  ” may have sounded a little depressing. To be honest we were worried that the people who told us we were crazy to go in our old VW van were right. But since our most recent coolant leaks we have been riding the Van Life high. Sure we still have our ups and downs but we are realizing more and more that wherever we are, those ups and downs will happen. It is all about perspective and trying our best to work through those challenges together as a family. Our most recent challenge had us completely lost in the dark with no where to camp.

A 6 hour drive took us across Utah from Moab to Zion National Park. While Moab boasted incredible arches and landscapes, it rained almost the entire  5 days that we were there (some desert!). By the end, we were feeling ready for some sunshine. After hiking the 3 mile roundtrip to Delicate Arch with the kids, we hopped in the van. Delicate Arch was a beautiful hike in Arches National Park and a highlight of our trip to Moab. However, our plan to hike a challenging trail for the kids before a 6 hour drive proved to not be the best idea. The kids were tired and our estimated time of arrival in Zion was now 9 pm.

This late arrival would not have been so bad if we knew where we would be camping. We had just assumed that since it was mid week we would pop into one of the first come first serve campsites in the Zion area. About 2 hours into our drive, I did another campsite search on my phone and noticed that the first come first serve sites no longer existed. They were all now reservable. We prayed that we would find a site when we arrived.

Our 9 pm arrival was pushed back even further after multiple potty breaks. We are working on teaching our little that every potty break makes the journey longer. The “are we there yet/” conversations grew more frequent until they both zonked out in the car around 8 pm.

It was pitch black when we drove through the park entrance at 10:00 pm. We were greeted with the sign that read “all campsites are full”. We drove back a ways to check out the RV parks outside of the park which also read “no vacancy”. We drove through Zion National Park to Springdale. Deer frequented the road and we found ourselves slowing down significantly to make sure we did not hit them. The occasional criesin the backseat as the girls came in and out of sleep did not help my nerves.

Around 10:30 pm we reached the other side of the park and entered Springdale. As we were driving, we spotted a Park Ranger’s car and pulled over to ask about camping. He pointed us in the direction of some BLM land. Before driving the 20 minutes to the land we pulled into another RV park. The RV park was full but we could get a hotel for $130 USD. There was no way I was going to waste our designated hotel and shower money on such an expensive hotel that late at night.

We hopped back in the car. We were starting to get worried as we searched for the BLM land the Ranger had pointed us towards. After pulling onto the gravel road we still had not found the land and being in the dark was not helping.  Finally, we decided this was as good as it would get. We pulled into a pull out on the side of the gravel road at 11:00 pm. We quickly set up the beds, read some stories to our littles and fell asleep. As we woke up in the morning we noticed the campers on the BLM land roughly 1 mile away. So close!

Now I sit writing this from our BLM campsite. Since that crazy night we have explored Zion National Park, hiked The Narrows, explored the town and enjoyed sport climbing 30 minutes from our site. There are plenty of moments of insanity like that night,  but they are all worth it.  Undoubtedly, this trip is proving to be completely unforgettable.



By Annika Mang
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