Around Moab/Utah

Arches, Canyonlands, and more

Tuesday, June 13, 2006, Dead Horse Point State Park, UT
I drove out of Colorado National Monument on Sunday and there were 4 more miles of the Rim Rock Drive, not all of it along 200 metre drops, but enough to understand what Juergen's nervousness was about. The steering in the truck seems to be a bit sloppy and takes time to respond - so that made it extra scary. We both left really pleased that we had stumbled across this gem in the landscape, and speaking about it to a few Americans since then indicates that it seems to be a well-kept secret still! When it gets out I wouldn't be surprised if it becomes as popular as the Arches!!!
But I get ahead of myself... We got back onto Interstate 70 near a small town called Fruita, and headed for Utah. About 20 miles over the border we left the highway and took the 'Scenic Byway' 128. After passing a modern day ghost town (Cisco, which is still marked on all the maps, but which exhibited no sign of life as we drove through) we followed this road for 10 miles, wondering what could be so scenic about a road through this desert - not even as impressive as other deserts we have seen. Then it met up with the mighty Colorado again - our first indication that there was some water about was a farm with a lot of green fields. The un-irrigated areas still looked like desert, but there were some oases in its midst. We followed the river through yet another canyon it had created - some more nerve-wracking driving where the road sat right on the river bank and there was a drop straight into the river by its side! The scenery was indeed beautiful and along the way there was evidence that people were enjoying it. We saw a lot of people on rafting trips, and the edge of the river as we got closer to the end of the scenic route was full of small campgrounds.
We arrived in Moab - tourist town and jumping off point for the National Parks and also for Colorado River excitement. The local tour operators offer "just about any activity including mountain biking, hiking, canyoneering, 4-wheeling, river trips, scenic flights and much more" according to the Moab Travel Guide. As we had been moving fairly fast recently and staying mostly in campgrounds in the forest or desert as we find them, we found ourselves in need of a laundry and water and electricity and a dump station. So instead of heading straight out to the Arches National Park, we decided to stay one night in an RV Park in Moab - Slickrock Campground. We also heard from a woman at the visitor centre that the campgrounds at all nearby Parks are full by mid-morning. So we had internet and you (our readers) found out what we'd been up to in Colorado, and we washed all our clothes, and we also used the luxury of power to run the air-conditioner for a while in the heat of the day.
On Monday we tried to leave as early as possible so that we might be lucky enough to get a campsite in the National Park. But first we made a much needed trip to a tyre shop to get the air pressure checked in the tyres. Service stations charge for air here - usually a machine that you have to pump quarters into. Since our truck has rather large tyres that take more pressure than normal, it can cost a fortune and be extremely frustrating, constantly having the machine turn off. Better by far to tip the guy at the tyre place and let him do it. Both the back tyres needed more air and we are both surprised at the difference it has made, especially when driving on some of these windy roads, with sheer drops to the side! Maybe the problem isn't the steering after all...
We arrived at the gate of Arches National Park close to 10.00 and enquired after a campsite - they only had one left and we got it! We spent the rest of the day exploring the park. It has more eroded sandstone structures, but a lot of unique ones. As suggested by its name, it has a lot of arch structures that you will see in the photos. I'm not going into the geological cause of such structures, but some of them are awesome. There are also plenty of other sculptured rocks in the park, and we were again amazed that we could continue to be awed by still more eroded sandstone!!! A particular favourite of mine is Double Arch - we walked about ½km to the base of it and were suddenly out of the sun in the shade of this enormous structure. Just sitting on a rock beneath it was relaxing - something about the quiet of the nature just touched me there. Even though there were other people coming and going, the peace and calm atmosphere remained. Another structure that overwhelmed us both was Balanced Rock. As you will see in the photos, it really looks like a big rock balanced on top of a red sandstone plinth. In actual fact the 'big' rock is 17 metres high and its base even taller. It also appears to be stuck to the base with white mortar - this is actually a thin layer of white rock between the red layers.
Although we were pleased to get the last campsite, it was not really a good place to spend the night. Too many people in a small place and our site right next to the bathroom with people coming and going until the early hours (and slamming the doors). Then the sun rises so early at the moment that we are awake by 6.00 at the latest, after about 5 hours sleep. But we were glad to have the opportunity to drive once more through the park this morning and see some of the structures in morning light.
We left the Arches behind us and drove west toward Canyonlands National Park, but our goal for a campsite was a small state park called Dead Horse Point. Once again we arrived by about 10.30 and waited in the visitors centre to see if someone would vacate their site. Within half an hour we were rewarded for the wait and promptly paid for 2 nights. The campground is really nice. Only 21 sites and each with their own picnic table under a shade structure - the trees don't grow tall enough to provide shade in this area - and electricity. We checked out our site - far enough from the bathroom this time - had some food, and then drove off to Canyonlands National Park nearby.

Continuation on > Page 2 > !

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