In 2020, the VanDOit Owners and Future Owners Facebook Group started organizing events for VanDOit owners to camp together for a weekend, share adventures together, swap stories, check out each other’s vans, and share ideas. They call these events the VanDOit Owners Xperience or VOX for short. Two VOX events were scheduled in 2020. VOX#1 was held in Slaty Fork WV in June. VOX#2 was scheduled for Moab, Utah in October. Our original 2020 itinerary was already set and made attending either one of these events not practical. However, when we were forced to change our travel plans due to COVID, we were so excited that we could arrange to attend VOX#2. What a great silver lining!
Coming from Zion National Park, we stopped for gas in Green River Utah and Right Buddy (RB) went inside the gas station convenience store to try to pick up some lunch supplies since we were running low. She didn’t find anything she liked. Most of the items in the store were small snack size items. However, she looked across the street and saw a farmer’s stand selling melons. She knew from previous overnight stays in Green River that the area is known for melons. That sounded like a much better, tastier and healthier option. The stand had several types of melons that RB was not familiar with. She bought two of them to try them out. One was called a canary melon and the other an Israeli melon. The canary was ripe and ready to eat, but the person selling the melons said that the other melon needed to ripen for a couple of more days and turn more yellow.
We arrived at Horsethief Campground around dinner time. There were already about a dozen VanDOit vans at the reserved group sites. The conversations flowed from the minute we stepped out of our van. Comparing our vans with each other, asking questions, swapping stories and getting to know some of the other VanDOit owners filled the rest of the evening. Most of the other owners were mountain bikers, but we quickly made friends with Dave and Andrea from New Jersey who, like us, were not mountain bikers. We arranged to leave early the next morning to head over to Arches National Park and go on a hike together.
The next morning, we headed out from Horsethief Campground at 8 am with Andrea and Dave following us in their van. It was just a little after 9 am by the time we reached the Devil’s Garden Trailhead parking lot at the end of the Arches Scenic Drive. It looked like we just missed the last parking spot, but then the park ranger walked up to our van and said we could start filling up the bus lane / RV parking lane. Score! It is so helpful that our Red Tail Lodge (what we call our van) can fit into a regular parking spot, but also be considered an RV at times. After waiting in line for the restroom at the trailhead, we were on the trail by 9:30 am.
The trail was pretty crowded, at least until we passed the Landscape Arch, so we had to keep our masks on most of the time. Our plan was to hike the trail to Double O Arch. We have been on this trail about ten years ago and it is one of our favorite trails in the park. It is a good comfortable length with a couple of challenging areas and it goes by quite a few arches. The first two arches are short spur trails off of the main trail to the Tunnel Arch and the Pine Tree Arch. The next arch is Landscape Arch, one of the world’s longest stone spans of 306 feet. A 60-foot long slab of rock fell from the underside of the arch in 1991.
Just after Landscape Arch is the most difficult section of the hike with the most elevation gain. It is a short rock scramble up. Andrea has a slight fear of heights, but she was a trooper and made it up the scramble without much trouble. The next difficult section, especially those with a fear of heights, is across a land bridge with a steep drop off on the one side. Andrea stayed close behind Dave and made it across. This was definitely not her favorite part of the trail. When we reached the Double O Arch, we were able to snap off a few pictures without any people in them. That’s probably a hard thing to do during a non-COVID year. Double O Arch is one arch on top of another. You can climb up under the lower arch to see the views beyond.
We sat down and ate our snacks, debating about what we wanted to do next. Do we want to continue on another half mile to Dark Angel? Or take the Primitive Trail back to the trailhead? We decided to continue to Dark Angel. It is not an arch, but a dark spire. We could see the spire from the Double O Arch, but it was much more impressive seeing it up close. When we returned to Double O Arch, we took the same trail back that we came out on instead of taking the Primitive Trail. Andrea did not like the land bridge nor the scramble but at least she knew what to expect whereas there was no telling what the Primitive Trail would be like since none of us had been on it before.
Between the land bridge and the rock scramble back down, there is a spur trail to the Navajo Arch and the Partition Arch. We took these spurs on our return trip. The Navajo Arch leads to a quiet, cool dead end between two rock faces with a peaceful tree growing in the middle. The Partition Arch is two arches, side by side, in a rock wall. You can see the Partition Arch from the other side down where the Landscape Arch viewpoint is. The Partition Arch nicely frames the beautiful landscape on the other side. We were on the trail for about four and a half hours, covering seven miles and about 750 feet of elevation gain. Hike #15 of our 52 Hike Challenge National Park Series was logged in the books.
When we returned to the trailhead, we had a quick lunch at our vans. RB cut up the canary melon she bought the day before and shared some with Dave and Andrea. It reminded us of honey dew melon. The melon was sweet and very tasty. A nice refreshing treat after our hike.
On the way back out of the park, we stopped at a few places along the way. Sand Dune Arch is a short walk from its parking lot. The arch is tucked away among some rock fins. It would be a great place to go on a hot day to get out of the sun and enjoy the cool sand at your feet and the cool, shaded rock on both sides of you. Next we stopped at the Fiery Furnace Viewpoint. The Fiery Furnace is a maze of narrow canyons that require a permit to enter. Our final stop was at the Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint. None of us had the energy to climb the half mile up to the Upper Delicate Arch Viewpoint. As we passed by the Delicate Arch Trailhead, we could see the mass of people hiking up the large, sloped rock face. Delicate Arch Trail is probably the most popular trail in the park and the most crowded trail. It goes right up to the iconic Delicate Arch. We decided to call it a day and head back to Horsethief Campground.
We were back in plenty of time for the BBQ meal that VanDOit catered for VOX#2. Even though we were tired and hungry, there was plenty of food leftover despite filling our tummies to the brim. Everyone was encouraged to pack up leftovers so that the food would not go to waste. RB grabbed some of the chicken and pulled pork along with some of the BBQ sauce. Thank you, VanDOit! The evening was spent chatting and checking out more vans in the lovely company of our fellow VanDOit owners. We met one van owner who had his van destroyed by a bear in the middle of the night while it was parked in his driveway in Morrison, Colorado. He had left the van unlocked. Bears know how to open car doors. Good to know.
We ventured off on our own the next day. There was a hike in the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park that Left Buddy (LB) remembered from ten years ago that he wanted to do again. We figured out it was the White Rim Overlook Trail. It starts at a picnic area that is not named on the park map. The trail is only 1.8 miles long, but goes out to a point to the east with what we think are some of the best views in the Island of the Sky. You can see hoodoos with square tops that line the canyon walls bordering the Colorado River. However, there isn’t much parking at the trailhead which might be why they don’t label it on the park map. Since we got a late start that morning, we ate our lunch in the van parked in one of the last spots at the trailhead. Hiking on White Rim Overlook Trail was a trip down memory lane for us. As RB was taking pictures of the interesting rock formations below, she could remember taking pictures of the same formations all those years ago.
From Canyonlands, we headed over to Dead Horse Point State Park. As we exited Canyonlands around 2 pm, the line to get into Canyonlands was about a half mile long. We’re glad we didn’t try to come later.
When we reached Dead Horse Point Overlook at the end of the road in the state park, the parking lot was full. As we were waiting for the car in front of us to pull into a spot that was being vacated, fellow VOX#2 attendees were waving us down. They were leaving their parking spot and wanted to let us know so we could take it. Thank you! After checking out the view, we hung out until sun set. There was a 360 degree view of the valley plateau below, with the Colorado River winding back and forth below us. There were a few hazy outlines of mountain ranges in the distance. We could only imagine how spectacular the view would be without the smoky haze.
While we were waiting for sun set, RB washed her hair in the sink. Later in the afternoon, more parking spots opened up. We moved our Red Tail Lodge over to one of the neighboring picnic shelters to cook our dinner of grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. At sunset, we only spotted one other VanDOit van in the parking lot. We enjoyed the sunset with the owners of the other van, Billy and Sharon. The sunset was nice, but, again, we’re sure it would have been even better without the smoke.
After sunset, we drove back to Horsethief Campground. We weren’t sure how many VanDOit vans would be left for the last night. Many were heading out on Saturday to beat the snow storm that was arriving on Sunday. There were still about a dozen or so vans left. We joined the circle of people around the campfire for the rest of the evening.
Dark skies were on the horizon when we woke up the next morning. Some people already left earlier that day to try to beat the storm. Everyone was packing it up. We said our good-byes and hit the road at about 9:30 am. It was great getting to know some of our fellow VanDOit owners and a couple future owners at VOX#2, but the weekend went by so fast. We wish we had more time. We’ll just have to wait until the next VOX.
Check out our related video: VOX#2: Moab, Utah