Road Trip to Utah - Part 6 - Arches

Our last-but-one day in Utah and to change things up we decided on breakfast at Denny's rather than Love Muffin. Should have stuck with Love Muffin. Pretty much the usual Denny's food, but the service was less than desirable. It took a while to be seated even though there were a number of empty tables which were just waiting to be cleaned. Several employees were standing around looking at customers standing in line for seating, but evidently only one person can clean off the tables and he was in no hurry. Love Muffin will get our business tomorrow.

Heading north on Hwy 191 again, which by now we know every business along the way by heart, we arrived at Arches National Park just five miles after leaving Moab. Breaking out my Senior National Park Pass at the entrance booth, the nice Ranger gave us our park materials and waved us on through with a smile. Have I said lately how much I love having a Senior National Park Pass? After stopping at the visitor's center for more information on the park and to buy my usual souvenir t-shirt and cap, we headed in and soon found ourselves in another world.

According to geologists, about 300 million years ago, the land here was covered in a salty sea. When it was cut off from replenishment, the water eventually evaporated and left behind a layer of salt more than 3,000 feet thick. Sediment then covered the salt, but it did not settle evenly and over a few million years, unequal pressures caused the salt to flow upward in some places which created tall, dirt and rock covered rises with hard upper surfaces. Groundwater from rain melted the underlying salt which opened the way for erosion to form freestanding fins of rock. With continued erosion, holes formed in some of these fins. The result? A collection of natural arches, huge sandstone fins and a stark landscape unlike anywhere else in the world. 

Courthouse Towers
Not far past the visitor's center is the formation known as Courthouse Towers. When we parked and walked up to the overlook, there was a husband and wife taking each other's picture with the Courthouse Towers in the background. As is rather customary in such settings, I asked them if they would like me to take their picture together. After taking several, I handed their camera back and we started a conversation. Of course, one of the questions asked was, "Where are you from?" Now first, let me tell you I currently live in a very small community in the state of Arkansas. It's a pretty place, quiet and friendly, but it's so small that very few people have heard of it. How small is it? (Sorry, I couldn't resist.) It's so small that it's one stop light short of being a one stop light town. So imagine our surprise when we discovered we live about 3 miles from each other on opposite sides of our town! We didn't know each other, but here we were, over 1,220 miles from home basically in the middle of nowhere and we met each other. A little more talking, and we found out their daughter is two grades behind mine and they go to the same school! One of those weird coincidences that life throws together sometimes.

The Three Gossips
In the words of the writer and naturalist Edward Abbey, "This is a landscape that has to be seen to be believed, and even then, confronted directly by the senses, it strains credulity." I can't argue with that and since pictures can convey things so much better than any words I can string together, I'll just let some pictures do the talking for me. 

Balanced Rock

Double Arches
View along a hiking trail
Your intrepid blog author

(click here for Part 1)  

Road Trip to Utah - Part 5 - Canyonlands

We both woke up rather early since we had fallen asleep rather early the night before. The plan for the day was to take in as much of Canyonlands National Park as we could in one day. Neither of us like to rush our visits to anywhere, especially a national park, but we wanted to see Arches National Park the next day and had reservations for a guided 4-wheelin' adventure and rock-crawlin' the day after that and Michael had to be back home in 4 days so we had to make the best of it.

I made a cup of coffee in the motel room, but only drank half of it and made a mental note to not do that again. After another breakfast at Love Muffin (a big slice of yummy fresh Banana Bread and a good cup of coffee which I drank all of and wouldn't have minded another), we headed back up Main Street/Hwy 191 for 11 miles to once again turn left on Hwy 313, but this time, we drove on past the turn to Dead Horse Point. About 19 miles after turning onto the highway, we arrived at the northern entrance of the park. 

The entrance fee is $25 per car, which I consider very reasonable for the sheer awesomeness of the park. However, if you are an American citizen aged 62 or more, you qualify for what I think is the absolute best senior discount ever, the National Park Senior Pass. This pass gets you and everyone in your car free entry into any National Park plus a 50% discount on other fee's within the park like camping, tours, transportation and on some concessions. The pass is also recognized by the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service and Corps of Engineer parks. And the cost? How about a one time fee of $10! For me, my National Park Senior Pass is one of the best things about getting old!

Breaking out my Senior Pass, the Ranger welcomed us with a friendly smile, provided maps and park information, invited us to have a nice visit and waved us on in. Driving down Grand View Point Road, we entered the park and soon came to Island In The Sky Visitor Center. Of course we had to stop to buy park t-shirts (yes, I now have a pretty large collection of shirts from most of the highlight places I've been - "been there, done that, got the t-shirt!") and little knick-knacks to bring back for the girls we left at home. 

To say we enjoyed our visit to Canyonlands would be an understatement. To be honest, this park might not be for everybody. The land is a maze of rock layers and dirt that are the products of erosion by ancient rivers and seas that once covered the region. The climate is dry, vegetation sparse. Deep canyons and sheer cliffs dominate. I have a long-time close friend, my "brother-from-another-mother" who I would not trade for the world, but he likely would not be crazy about this place. He calls land like this a "desiccated, wasted land." If it doesn't have trees and greenery, he's not a fan.

In quiet contemplation
For me though, I love the sparseness and rugged starkness. To me, it's a place of beauty and wonder perfect for calm introspection and relaxation. I always come away feeling peaceful and relaxed; contentment in my soul. I found it to be one of those all too few places that when you leave, part of you wants to tell everyone about it, but part of you wants to tell no one.

One day is not near enough time to see all there is to see. The two short hikes we took only served to expose the vastness and glories of the park. I'll be back and next time, you can be sure it will be for multiple days with no set deadline for leaving.

So many places and such little time! Lord, why couldn't I have been born rich with nothing to do but travel and see the world's wonders? I'm not sure even a full lifetime would be enough.

View point from Island In The Sky
The awesome Rim Trail we drove

Feeling small in the vastness

Road Trip to Utah - part 4

The Colorado River along Scenic Hwy 128
The sun was shining bright and we were happy to put behind us the yellow school bus and its content of hollering teenagers. From the trail's parking lot, we turned right heading northeast on Scenic Hwy 128 to mile marker 14. We were enjoying the scenery so much we almost missed our turn to the Moab Film and Western Heritage Museum on the Red Cliffs Ranch.

The museum houses memorabilia from all the films that have been made on the ranch over the years. Mostly it's been westerns like Wagon Master, Rio Grande, Son of Cochise, The Commancheros, Cheyenne Autumn, and Geronimo, but other famous movies such as City Slickers and Thelma and Louise have been filmed there as well. There have also been over 100 commercials shot there.

I'm sure it is very interesting, but we didn't get to see it because as we tried to pull in, we were stopped near the entrance to the property as a movie was actually being shot at that time and there were large trucks and equipment blocking the road. We sat there on the road with a few other cars for almost an hour watching cameras being wheeled around on tracks and watching people climb around rocks fiddling with huge lights. We never saw anyone we recognized and the guys who stopped us wouldn't say what movie they were shooting. At the 1 hour waiting mark, we were still not allowed to proceed and we were really bored watching them doing nothing so we followed the lead of several others - pull a u-turn and get back out.

Rest area on Hwy 313 on the way to
Dead Horse Park
We had planned to spend probably several hours there, but decided to head back to Moab for some lunch and then over to a Utah state park with an intriguing name - Dead Horse Point. After a good Santa Fe burger (love green chili's on a burger!) with so-so fries at Milt's Stop & Eat, an old-fashioned burger joint that's been around for over 60 years, we got on Hwy 191 (Main Street in town) and drove north for about 11 miles along the southwest border of Arches National Park until we came to Hwy 313. We turned left and drove 18 miles to the park. This was a really nice drive with lots of cool scenery along the way.

The Colorado River over eons has carved a channel over 2,000 feet below the surrounding landscape. Standing at the top looking down, you will see the different colors of the geologic layers and by looking to the horizon, you will see nearly 5,000 square miles of rugged canyon country with sculpted pinnacles and buttes. The 5,250 acre park holds awe inspiring scenery most everywhere you look, contains one of the most photographed scenic vista's in the world, and is well worth a side trip if you are in Utah mainly to visit the various national parks. But Dead Horse Point? How did it get it's name?

A narrow neck of land only 30 yards wide connects the the point with the rest of the plateau. In the late 1800's, the point was used as a corral for wild mustangs roaming the mesa top.  Cowboys would herd them across the narrow neck of land and onto the point and the neck was then fenced off with branches and brush to make a 40-acre corral. They would choose and cut out the best horses and then remove the brush gate to let the rest go free. One time though, for some unknown reason, the brush gate was not removed and the horses not chosen were left corralled on the water-less point. The whole herd died of thirst within view of the life-sustaining Colorado River 2,000 feet below.

A little bit of trivia here - If you've seen the famous movie, Thelma and Louise, then you no doubt recall the climatic final scene where they drive off into the Grand Canyon. It wasn't the Grand Canyon where they drove over the edge, it was Dead Horse Point State Park. Why? Because the director, Ridley Scott judged the scenery to be more spectacular than the actual Grand Canyon.

A pile of evidence below the entrance sign
proves there are still horses very alive here!
Like the Moab Film and Western Heritage Museum, we had thought this would be a nice little side trip, a day of taking it rather easy and getting back to the motel early to rest up before spending a day visiting Arches National Park and hiking several more trails. Once again though, Mancation Rules #2 and #3 proved wise - "There will be no hard and fast time schedule" and "Take advantage of any unexpected interesting opportunity." 

We thoroughly enjoyed the park and wished we had skipped our aborted trip to the museum so we would have had more time. As it was, we didn't leave until the sun died and we drove back to the Bowen Motel in the dark. In our camera's, we both use high capacity digital cards (plus a backup) but they were so full of memories from the day that we both took the time to download the pictures to our laptops to make sure we had plenty of room for the next day. 

We ordered a large Supreme from Pizza Hut (one of the few places we found in Moab that delivers), took showers, set up our electronic things to charge overnight, called the wives and kids, and turned the TV to a movie. I can't tell you what movie it was as I must have fallen asleep about 10 seconds into it. The world could have come to a fiery, explosive end that night and I seriously doubt I would have known it until the next morning. When you get to a certain age, you know you've had a good night when you sleep all the way through, wake up alive with daylight coming in around the curtain edges and find your pillow wet with drool. Mark it on the calendar!

            (go to part 1)