After a rather hair raising experience of sharp curves and extreme grades, especially when the two conditions combined for downhill “thrills’, we arrived in a very congested Moab. Even though we planned two months in advance, we had had difficulty making campground reservations. It all became clear when we learned that the 2011 UTV [utility terrain vehicle] Rally was being held the weekend we arrived. We didn’t even know what UTV stood for but learned they are 4 x 4, side -by-side vehicles that have the ability to climb over rocks, etc. They are licensed so can even go on streets. The place was crawling with them, so we just chilled out most of the weekend. To the east of the campground are the La Salle Mts. that are still covered with snow; to the south and west is the Moab ridge which just soars above the campground.
On a beautiful day we decided to ride a road that runs along the Colorado River. The river was high and flowing swiftly but still looked like glass. The scenery was as beautiful as going through any national park. Most of the time we had a high canyon wall right next to us with the other wall just on the other side of the river. All the rocks were so very red. There were numerous rafts, kayaks, and other small watercraft on the river. It looked like fun, but the water had to be very cold. We stopped for brunch at the Red Cliff Lodge which of course was rustic with beautiful views. We learned something non-geological while at brunch. We noticed EXIT signs at floor level [there were standard ones up high also]. The waitress didn’t know the purpose, but we discovered from a man who had been a builder that they were part of the new building code. If you are crawling on the floor below smoke, they tell you the exits. Have any of you ever heard of this? It sounds like a great idea - especially in motels and high rises!
The lodge also houses a Movie Museum with memorabilia from all the movies, commercials, and stills taken in the Moab area. It was quite interesting; it has often been used to represent Egypt as in INDIANA JONES: THE LAST CRUSADE and THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD. Of course it was a standard location for westerns. If you remember the commercials where vehicles had miraculously “arrived” atop very high stone pillars, they were also filmed in this area.
On a cool, gray, windy day we went to Arches National Park; the UTV crowds had left along with the sunny weather. Thank goodness it wasn’t a perfect day because the park was still full. This park did not use to be highly visited, but last year for the first time it had a million visitors. It was not designed for such large crowds. There is no shuttle service and the various lookouts and trailheads do not have ample parking space. Fortunately we were on the bike so could squeeze into small places. In order to see the majority of the really striking formations, you must take trails. Some are short, but a few are several miles long. By the end of the day we felt like we had walked 50 miles, were certain we covered 10, but probably didn’t do more than 5 even though Tony did more than me. Most all the trails involved up and down grades plus we were fighting the gusty winds which caused the blowing sand to really sting your face. However with all this, we did see some really awesome formations. The rocks are so massive while still being graceful. The arches are huge as you can see by the size of the humans under them. I hope the video comes through for you. I am the one with the yellow backpack walking to the bottom of the North Window Arch. Notice how the entire bottom of the arch looks like it is going to fall. Visitors are no longer allowed to walk under the Landscape Arch. In 1991, while tourists were under it, 180 tons of rock fell from the bottom of it. Fortunately no one was injured. The park is unique in that you travel a distance through high desert before arriving at amazing rock formations. Then you repeat the drive to the next formations. This park is definitely a memorable place to visit, but don’t try it during the peak tourist season.
A disappointment was not getting to Canyonlands National Park. It consists of three parts only two of which are accessible by normal vehicles. We were closest to the Island in the Sky section and kept hoping to get there, but the weather just wouldn’t cooperate. Our last 3 days in the area have consisted of rain and winds. An unexpected storm came in from the west and has just parked itself over the Utah/Colorado border. Pictures would have turned our poorly, and it wouldn’t have been fun walking in the rain. We now have two reasons to come back to central Utah. Next time we will take in both sections of Canyonlands and also go to Capital Reefs NP which was not on this years’ loop.
We are now headed for Vernal, Utah because we want to explore the Dinosaur National Monument area and the equestrian center next to our campground is really beginning to be odiferous as a result of all the rain. We called the owner of our destination campground asking advice as to how to get there. Tony was considering two routes, but both have high passes which are currently covered with snow and getting more [tonight on the weather they said the mountains could get as much as 30 inches]. Fortunately the owner suggested another route that will add a few miles but keeps us between the mountains. Next week we’ll let you know whether the trip was eventful or not.