Intro to Utah: Mars or Moab?

We left Durango and, with a bit of discussion, axed off our detour to Monument Valley. It would have added three plus hours onto our trip that day, and thus take away from our time in Arches and/or Canyonlands. So Utah it would now be for the next week or so, and is where I write from early on this windy, chilly morning.

But Moab wasn’t windy nor chilly, as we quickly discovered upon arriving at Arches National Park just after noon. It was around 90, with little breeze, and the big orange ball was glowing with the energy it was sucking out of all of us creatures silly enough to go stand….er, hike…under it. Although I affectionately referred to this chunk of Utah as Mars, with all of its red rock looming all around, the weather was decidedly southwestern desert, just unusually hot for the end of September.

We chose to hike to the Delicate Arch first; as the longest of those I had planned, I figured finishing it first would be the best bet – it was only going to get hotter, right? Maybe, but the heat you feel when scuffling somewhat sharply uphill on a huge, exposed slick rock is serious. That’s by no means the entire hike, but it’s a decently long stretch in the beginning that zaps energy. I walked slowly, taking a break or two, while my husband seemed to scampering up as quickly as possible in order to get it over with. He wouldn’t recover from that for another hour or two, but thankfully he turned out fine after a bit of concern on my part.

Anyhow, enough whining, just know that you must pack excessive amounts of water and if you can, by all means avoid the afternoon hours during hot weather.  We survived our first big hike (~4 miles roundtrip), and were rewarded by a fantastic view of the Delicate Arch (pictures to come). After cooling down, we also pulled it back together for a hike to the Landscape Arch, Pine Tree Arch and Tunnel Arch. These beautiful, strange rock formations were only the beginning of the strange things happening in Utah.

Also close to Moab is Dead Horse Point State Park and Canyonlands NP, which makes up the agenda for our next day. Dead Horse was recommended to us, otherwise we might not have gone. We arrived by 8, and it wasn’t long before we found gorgeous vistas over the surrounding territory, including Canyonlands. The park’s namesake, Dead Horse Point, offers the most impressive and wide-ranging views that include the meandering Colorado River as it slices through red rocks as far as my eyes allowed. And if you have more time than we did, you can make the five-mile hike around the park to the several overlooks.

Canyonlands NP is quite close to Dead Horse Point, so it wasn’t long before we were back on federal property.  And this time we did so before the day’s heat made our not-so-long hikes less enjoyable. Our first hike was to the Upheaval Dome, a bizarre formation located in the middle of a huge crater-like formation. The hike itself, without the view, was more than enjoyable with fun slick rock hiking and park vistas from every high point. Canyonlands offers silence in a way I don’t think I’ve experienced before; just an utter stillness interrupted only by the very few hikers we encountered along the way. So when we reaches our viewpoint, I was content to sit and listen and overlook the nothingness.

After our hike, viewpoint drive and picnic lunch, we also picked up the Mesa Arch Trail, a short rather easy walk to an arch that stands quite literally on the edge of a cliff. Although a popular trek, it was worth enduring the silence-interrupters for the arch and surrounding views. And with that complete (by the same time we were just starting the day prior), we would head back to Moab for a rare few hours of unscheduled time, spent sitting on our room’s “patio” (in the shade).

Next up: Capitol Reef, beautiful waterfall hike, and more mentions of the bizarre-world that is Utah…

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