Goblin Valley & the Beast

Day 88 – Emily’s Entry –July 9 – 7:45am – Goblin Valley State Park, Utah

What a strange place this is. The mud-clay structure field initially described as the “Mushroom Field” by the cowboys who discovered it reminds me of drip-castles my sister India and I made as kids on the beach and by lakeshores.

It’s easy to imagine native people believing these structures to be ancient gods. It seems like the grumpy faces stare slumping from the mud out at the world.

To me, the entire goblin field looks like a giant playground. We climbed and hid between the blobby mud statues.

I shot a series of photos I have entitled, “Where’s Corey?” In this series, the viewer has to find my handsome husband among the goblins.

Corey’s such a trooper. He kept waking throughout the night to see when the overhead clouds left. He left at 3:48am to shoot the goblin valley with the stars.

Day 88 – Corey’s Entry – July 9 – 9:38am - Goblin Valley State Park, Utah

Goblin Valley is the closest resemblance to a martian planet in America. Hiking among the natural rock formations puts the environment in perspective.

Last night, I went on a solo adventure. The sky finally cleared around 3:40am, and I desperately wanted to shoot more astrophotography. I rolled out of the tent still fully dressed. Ignoring the howling coyotes, I got in the car and drove without headlights, so I didn’t wake my fellow campers. The moon was bright enough to cast shadows, so I got to the Goblin Valley just fine.

I hiked into the valley and set up my shots. I was so excited that at one point, I forgot where the car was parked. With the eerie moon, I began to see faces and goblins!

To help myself get back to the car, I used long exposure to see the area better. I arrived safe and sound back at Home and climbed into my sleeping bag.

Day 88 – Emily’s Entry – July 9 – 4:46pm – Cathedral Valley Campground – Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

I’m hoping for interesting light at sunset and clear skies tonight. Corey and I have discovered an awesome routine setting up and breaking down camp. I knew we’d finally get our system down around the last 12 days of the trip.

Driving through Capital Reef, we saw ancient Petraglyphs from a thousand years ago made by the Hopi Native American tribe. We attempted to interpret what the meanings. In the petraglyphs, we saw men, big horn sheep, dogs, deer, and sunrises.

There are many historic towns built in Utah by settling Latter-Day Saint (Mormon) pioneers who sought refuge from persecution in the late 1800’s. The towns and Mormon wards have taken me back to time I was also a Mormon. #itsalongstory

Our campsite is on a peak overlooking much of the Capital Reef National Park. Red monoliths rise from the ground. It feels as if thousands of tons of ancient palaces emerge from the ground, but as we drive though, time is frozen and we can see the earth fall away from their mighty walls.

Day 89 – Corey’s Entry – July 10 – 8:17am - Cathedral Valley Campground – Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Cathedral Valley Campground is located 7000 feet in elevation on the edge of the Capitol Reef. This remote campsite required a fun, muddy drive. Along the route, we saw beautiful views of the valley below.

We came to this campsite for the lack of light pollution and the elevation that would have offered unparallel views of the wonderful, starry night skies. We shot the valley, explored a bit, and made up a fun game called Rock Horse. It’s like horseshoes and bocce ball but with some odd rules and bonus goals mixed in. It got complicated.

I wandered to a forgotten camp chair that somehow had cell service. As I talked to my parents, the rain fell harder, and I crouched under my Field  & Main Bank umbrella. When the lightning and hail started up, into the car we went. Déjà vu. I think we’ve been in this position before. It poured from the evening until the morning.

The lightning was pretty nerve wrecking inside our little tent. Around 5:00am, we awoke to another loud pack of coyotes running amok through the campground. The most terrifying thing all night was a beast noise all around us. It sounded like a beast stepping around then grunting boldly. Step, step, gruff. Over and over for hours. My imagination went wild. I thought it was a bear about to tear down our tent, and we’d have to deal with it or be food. Emily helped calm me down as we realized what sounded like steps was water dripping on a bag on the picnic table. The growls we decided were in fact big, dumb toads digging in the mud. The combination of drips and toads sounded like a beast.

Day 89 - Emily’s Entry – July 10 – 8:39am – Cathedral Valley Campground – Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Last night was one of the scariest nights of my life. First, it thunder stormed. We saw and felt the grand show of rain, hail, booming, vibrating thunder, and bright flashes of lightning overhead. I made sure my skin wasn’t touching anything metal in case our tent or anything nearby was struck by lightning as I pulled myself deeper in my North Face sleeping bag.

Around 5am, Corey woke my restless sleep to alert me of a sound outside. The heavy footsteps and territorial grunting brought my hazy mind to full attention. We had no mace. We had no knife. I figured my best plan to run from our tent to the car was to throw the water from my Nalgene bottle at this beast in hopes of stunning it for a moment as we ran for our lives.

After what felt like an hour of listening to the beast of Hades stalk our tent, we concluded the footsteps were water drops on a nearby metal picnic table and the grunts were probably toads deflating in the mud. Thanks, Nancy Drew.

The mind can be a terrifying place. Then again, we never really found any toads, and who knows? It could have been a monster.