Well it had to happen at some point. After 71 consecutive days of boondocking we exchanged our freedom and wide open views for long showers and an endless supply of electricity. Our first taste of campground life since the end of 2015 was at the lovely Sand Hollow State Park in the very southwest corner of Utah.
I feel like I should have some deep words of reflection, or at the least some wisdom, to share about our longest stretch of boondocking ever. Truthfully though, I am struggling to come up anything inspiring or revolutionary in nature. Maybe because everything there is to be written about boondocking has already been said by countless bloggers and travelers. Or maybe boondocking simply no longer feels like the great accomplishment it once did.
In the early days of boondocking we were constantly worried about tank management and power usage. These days we just roll with it and do our normal thing — which for us means near constant computer use and charging during the day, a few hours of TV at night, occasional furnace use, and three homemade meals a day that make a lot of dishes to wash. The biggest difference between our boondocking life and the times when we have full hook-ups is that we take less frequent, shorter showers when living off-the-grid. Other than that we don’t give boondocking much extra thought or effort.
Part of this relaxed attitude stems from our decision to not stretch our tank space. Yup, I said not stretch it, which is the exact opposite advice most boondocking “experts” give. For us boondocking is about the freedom that comes from getting out of crowded, noisy campgrounds, the feeling of immersing ourselves in nature, and the excitement of discovering new places off the beaten path. What it is not about is living like backpackers eating only packaged prepared meals, recycling every bit of water we use, and priding ourselves on taking a single 30 second shower once a week. It’s just not what we want from this lifestyle.
So we stay in one place until the tanks need to be emptied…then we find a dump station. For our typical usage and tank sizes (39 fresh, 39 grey, 36 black) that usually means a week, although we can go 10 days if pressed. I’m not saying that we don’t try to conserve water, because with no conservation at all we can easily fill the grey tank in four days, but we no longer torture ourselves with thoughts that if we just did this, or this, or this differently, we could avoid dumping for a few more days.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that while 71 days of living for free outside of campgrounds was an accomplishment, the very best part was that it didn’t feel like we were sacrificing or altering our normal lifestyle. Does that mean we’ve mastered the art of boondocking? Who knows, but it does mean that we got to call some incredible places home during the first two months of year (and as an extra bonus we saved a ton of money).
Enough about all that though, let’s talk about Sand Hollow State Park. This scenic state park is located just outside St. George, Utah about an hour drive from Zion National Park. It has three separate camping areas; one with paved sites offering full hook-ups for $28/night, one with partial hook-ups over by the off-roading area, and the primitive camping area by the beach.
The full hook-ups area is situated on a hillside with the top loop offering views of the lake, the bottom loop offering views of a sage brush filled meadow, and the middle loop offering views of your neighbors. We ended up in the middle loop. No complaints though as our site was generous in size and perfectly level. We’re probably lucky that we even got a site for the whole week since the campground was nearly full every night of our stay.
We entertained ourselves throughout the week by biking, hiking and kayaking around the park. There are no official trails here, but we managed to bike a loop around the lake (that may have involved ignoring a “No Trespassing sign” and climbing over a fence), found a hiking trail behind yet another fence on top of a bluff overlooking the lake (I swear we’re not purposely trying to break the rules), and did some more biking around the campground.
We also got out on the lake for some excellent kayaking one warm afternoon. This is a very popular boating and fishing lake. We even saw a sailboat!
For our one big adventure outside of the campground we drove up to the Kolob Canyons section of Zion National Park. When we previously visited this area a few years ago we never made it over to Kolob Canyons, and I was determined to get us there this time around. It was only a 35 minute drive from Sand Hollow, but it felt like a world away.
As soon as we turned onto the main park road and saw the towering red cliffs ahead of us we knew this was going to be good. It was so majestic, so breathtaking, so…Zion. Since we got a late start and didn’t arrive until early afternoon our activity for the day was to hike the relatively short Taylor Canyon Trail. This 5-mile out and back hike travels along the bottom of a deep canyon cut into sheer rock walls. For much of the way it follows Taylor Creek offering up glimpses of the surrounding rocks. It had rained the night before and a shroud of clouds hung over the towering rocks making us feel like we were discovering some sort of hidden world.
After a gradual uphill hike through the canyon the trail ended at an impressive double alcove cut into the rock.
We didn’t linger long as it was getting late in the day and the chilly air was becoming a bit uncomfortable. Hard to believe that only days before we had been enjoying temperatures in the mid-80s while kayaking and now it was a good 40 degrees colder! Utah weather in the spring sure is fickle.
After the hike we drove up the top of the park road to take in the views. Photos simply don’t do this view justice.
All in all it was an excellent first week in Utah, a good end to our boondocking streak, and a reminder of how much we love this part of the country. Can’t wait to spend another month and half here!