The Rocky Mountain LTVers first Rally in Utah, Bryce Canyon served as the backdrop to what would be a magical and memorable week. Bryce Canyon National Park is a sprawling reserve in southern Utah, that is known for its crimson-colored hoodoos as well as memorable views at Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, Inspiration Point, and Bryce Point. This unique amphitheater of sculpted earth and rocks hosts over 1.5 million visitors each year.
Ruby’s Inn RV Park and Campground was chosen as our base camp. Still owned by the same family that first established a traveler’s outpost for the area, Ruby’s is located just one mile from the entrance to Bryce Canyon National Park. It’s also along the free shuttle route that services the National Park and surrounding area. The RV sites provided shade with tree cover were quite spacious and included full hookups. The campground also provided a pool, hot tub, and laundry, plus shopping and restaurants within walking distance that were a part of the larger Ruby’s resort. Moreover, the sprawling RV park provided plenty of room for the nearly 60 LTVs that had booked a site for the rally.
Although many LTVers arrived a day or two early to pre-explore the area and settle into camp, most Rally-goers checked in beginning at 11:00 am on the first day of the Rally. Once set up, folks walked to the nearby market, ate lunch at one of Ruby’s restaurant offerings, or simply relaxed in their beautiful, shaded sites until the group festivities began.
Late afternoon we hosted a Rally kick-off meeting at the group pavilion. Typical of the Rocky Mountain LTVers rallies, this allowed for a review of the activities planned for the days ahead and enabled attendees to ask questions. Rolling out an itinerary filled with hikes in the National Park, group bike rides, a technical talk, and multiple catered dinners, the group’s excitement grew as the meeting ended.
After a quick break for dog-walking and beverage refills, the group returned to the pavilion for our first gathering: a meal catered by i.d.k. barbecue, delivered from nearby Tropic. The spread included chicken, pulled pork, sweet pulled pork, salad, and buns, plus mac n’ cheese, beans, and cornbread. Whilst setting up, a pan of chicken fell to the ground. The owner of i.d.k. barbecue (who personally delivered the food) ensured another pan was on its way. Meanwhile, the dogs enjoyed the newly-named ‘dog chicken.’ A Rally’s first-night gathering is always pretty special. We see folks who met at previous rallies eager to reconnect, just like a family reunion. Additionally, new Rally attendees are taken under our wings and welcomed into the circle of friendship that has grown among LTVers. The food was delicious, and leftovers were dispersed among the group.
Bundles of firewood were acquired for group use, and the first night these came in handy. Ad-hoc community campfires sprung up at a few LTV sites, stoking continued conversations and blossoming friendships.
The first full day of the Rally featured a bike ride along the multi-use path that led us from Ruby’s into the National Park and along many of the most scenic points. As we gathered to start the ride, we were excited to see such a large group of Rally attendees rolling up, eager to explore on two wheels. Because of the large group size, we split into three smaller groups to not clog up the path, with a designated leader for each group. After leaving the campground we stopped at the Bryce Canyon National Park sign along the bike path for some pictures before entering the park another mile down. We rode the full five miles up to Inspiration Point, stopping for a while to take in the incredible views and take a moment to rest from the 500-feet in elevation gain that we had already achieved.
As we descended, the next planned stop was Sunset Point. At 11:00 am, a Geology Talk by one of the Park Rangers was scheduled, and we didn’t want to miss out on learning more about the hoodoos, and how the greater Bryce amphitheater came to be. The Ranger was a phenomenal speaker, making all the science interesting for the layman. Everyone came away from the presentation with new insights, and our resident LTV Geologist confirmed that the information shared was in fact true.
After the talk, we soaked in the views provided from the Sunset Point angles, snapping away using our cell phone cameras. We then wandered over to the historic Bryce Canyon Lodge to check out its contents and the gift shop. We were surprised to see that the gift shop offered an array of artwork and other gifts not typically seen at the visitor’s center. Since 2023 is the centennial celebration of Bryce Canyon National Park, the lodge displayed large black-and-white photographs of the early days of tourism in the area with a story to support each image. We later learned that the architect who designed this lodge also oversaw the lodges at other large parks such as The Grand Canyon. However, after fires damaged the other lodges, only Bryce Canyon remains as an example of his great works.
Once we finished perusing the photos and gift shop, we split up to tackle lunch plans. Some folks stayed at the Lodge to enjoy the restaurant’s rustic ambiance while others rode further down the bike path, stopping at the Bryce Canyon National Park General Store. Here we picked up sandwiches, chips, and a beverage, and sat at an outdoor picnic table to soak in the pine smells around us.
We finished lunch, in smaller groups, and began the last leg of the bike ride back toward Ruby’s. As we passed the Visitor’s Center, we couldn’t help but stop to peruse the store, get our National Park Passport Booklets stamped, view the museum, and watch the 20-minute movie about the Bryce Canyon National Park. The museum reinforced the information shared with us by the Park Ranger at the Geology Talk and also featured information about the flora, fauna, and native tribes that have inhabited the area for ages.
We returned to the campground and took time to nap, shower, and recharge. While we were out, Josiah Wiebe from Leisure Travel Vans arrived and was eager to join us for the remainder of the Rally. Next on the schedule was a BYO happy hour back at the group pavilion. Most Rally attendees joined the happy hour, bringing their favorite beverages to drink (and some to share). Pretzels, a variety of chips, and cookies were provided for everyone to snack on. LTVers were glad to meet Josiah in person, share their LTV stories, ask questions, and soak in everything he shared in return. It was a beautiful evening filled with non-stop conversations. Some folks left the happy hour to attend a dinner show at the nearby Ebeneezer’s Barn and Grill, others scooted to a nearby restaurant, and the remainder cooked dinner at their LTVs.
With the action-packed day, you’d think the activities had ended; however, this was not the case! A beautiful evening was primed for a pretty sunset, and we wanted to take in the golden hoodoos. Some of us gathered for a few miles of bike riding back to the park’s Sunset Point, and others drove tow cars, all so we could see the park ablaze with the sun. Lesson learned: get there sooner than you think you need to be! You don’t want to miss the sun reflecting off the sculpted canyon.
Our third day of the Rally began with a hike along the most scenic trail in Bryce Canyon National Park: The Rim Trail. We took the free shuttle to meet at Bryce Point so we could take the trail more generally downhill and the sun at our backs as we traversed the rim. Bryce Point, a viewing station at the start that jutted into the canyon, was incredible–and likely the best view in all the park. We were able to walk out on a landing, with a nearly 380-degree perspective of the hoodoos around us. We spent the rest of the morning walking the rim, with every 50 yards providing a new awe-inducing angle. We took so many photos and kept saying “I’m done taking pictures!” But alas, 5 minutes would pass and we’d see something new, or the light would be hitting just right and we’d pull our cameras out again.
Hiking down the rim allowed the group to choose their hiking distance with trail exits and shuttle stops every so often. Some folks departed at Inspiration Point, and others continued to Sunset Point or Sunrise Point. After a full morning of a meandering-style hike, we were famished. Several of us visited the General Store again for sandwiches and brews, and others headed back to the campground to make their own lunch. We filled our bellies, loaded on the shuttle back to the RV park, and prepared for an even more full afternoon and evening ahead.
At 1:30 pm, the group gathered back at the RV park in the pavilion for a Tech Talk, moderated by Kurt Pennington and sponsored by SkyMed. The tech talk was kicked off by Josiah Wiebe, who is a member of LTV’s Marketing Team and the liaison for the LTV Travelers Clubs. He shared stories about the history and culture of LTV, provided a look into exciting developments in the Unity and Wonder lines, and answered an array of questions that our group peppered him with. For the next hour and a half, the larger group participated in technical discussions about RV systems, gadgets, and maintenance. Kurt shared some “must-haves” to get conversations off to a strong start, and posed questions that produced valuable crowdsourced answers. New and tenured LTVers alike looked forward to this session, as we all seem to learn something new at every Tech Talk.
The Tech Talk was followed by a pizza party, sponsored by SkyMed. Todd Padgett, a SkyMed representative, purchased pizza from the nearby Ruby’s Inn Diner and also provided some libations for the group. While we ate, Todd shared information about SkyMed, including the valuable benefits that RVers experience through an affordable membership. We had members express how much money or headache they would have saved during a previous year if they had SkyMed due to a family medical emergency that they weren’t well situated for. Knowing that pets would be taken care of and RVs returned to a home base if needed was also intriguing. Many group members joined SkyMed after drilling Todd with questions and feeling peace of mind with the benefits offered.
As pizza boxes emptied and the SkyMed presentation ended, a trivia game ensued to win various LTV-branded swag from the LTV store, such as tumblers and a MiiR dog bowl. One by one, LTVers shouted out answers to SkyMed-related questions to win prizes. The grand prize, an LTV dining set, was won by answering an LTV question based on Josiah’s dialogue at the Tech Talk.
Folks then headed back to their RVs, threw on some warmer clothes, and began gathering around campfires for drinks, laughs, and camaraderie. We stretched our time together until 10:00 pm when quiet hours forced us to shut down our after-parties.
The fourth day of the Rally was our last “full” day to enjoy adventures and LTV friends. We packed the day with non-stop fun by planning several optional activities.
The morning began with a second hike, where we took the most popular trail in Bryce Canyon National Park, the Queens Garden Navajo Loop, opting to go down Navajo and up Queens Garden. The Wall Street side of the Navajo Loop descent was closed due to massive erosion that occurred during an especially rainy spring, and the need to rebuild the trail. Due to this, we descended the Two Brides side of Navajo Loop, which included similarly steep switchbacks as we descended into the more lush valley below. As before, we found ourselves continuously stopping to fill our memory cards with images of our surroundings and with our friends. The steep switchbacks, the two bridges, the Queen Victoria hoodoo, and other views grabbed our attention the entire hike. Although the uphill traverse out of the canyon was not without hard breathing, our surroundings continued to captivate us until the very last step.
Completing the hike at Sunrise Point provided a quick walk to onsite dining options such as The Bryce Lodge Restaurant and The General Store. Many of us made our way to the General Store (again) for sandwiches, chips, and beers. We settled on the intimate covered patio in front of the store which offered both sun and shade, and had lively discussions and photo sharing as we refueled.
After returning to Ruby’s Inn RV Park, we had an afternoon to enjoy our beautiful surroundings. Teresa led a ride for a few off-road bike enthusiasts on nearby USFS dirt and gravel roads. Starting from the RV park, the trio rode along rolling descents and climbs on hard-packed sandy dirt roads, making their way toward the Tropic Reservoir. Nearing the reservoir, they spilled out onto gravel roads and headed south to make a complete loop around the beautiful body of water. The 28-mile ride was challenging with 1,600-feet in elevation gain, and the dusty roads proved to be the perfect level of not-too-technical riding for gravel and mountain bikes–we all gave the route five stars.
Exhausted from a full day of activities, LTVers retreated for dinner. Some folks opted to cook in or grill out, taking in the serenity of our scenic sites. Others walked to the nearby Cowboy Steakhouse & Buffet and avoided the chore of food prep and dishes. Regardless of dinner choice, it seemed that everyone wanted to absorb one last night of campfire camaraderie. We set our final logs ablaze and gathered for a final evening of stories and laughter as the daylight hours dwindled.
To close out the Rally, LTVers gathered ‘come-and-go’ style at the group pavilion for farewells and breakfast bites. Folks brought a mug of their favorite coffee, juice, or preferred beverage, and we enjoyed mini-donuts, clementines, mini-muffins, breakfast bars, and sticky buns. The morning’s weather was warm, complementing the mood of all those who stopped by.
The Bryce Canyon Rally was one to remember. Our photo collections were filled with natural beauty, and our hearts grew with friendships that will last well beyond the RV reason.
Written by: Teresa Pennington