Saturday, March 7, 2020

A Day In Moab, Utah

Naturally, when I say a day in Moab, Utah what I really mean is a day at Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Since we were only in Utah for 3 full days, I wanted to make the most of our visit. We woke up unnaturally early (for me at least) and set out on our 3+ hour drive to Arches National Park for a day of hiking. It was on that early morning, as we sipped coffee in the car, that we discovered the most beautiful drive through mountains, alongside a mountain lake as we made our way to the highway to get into Moab. I had planned on sleeping the entire morning ride to Arches, but stayed awake from our drive from Midway to Provo because it was unbelievably gorgeous. Not a bad way to start my day of birth celebration: gorgeous views, yummy coffee, a quick nap, and then hiking. A few of my favorite things to start year 36.

We grabbed a quick breakfast from Filler Up Coffee Station in Heber. We had trouble finding breakfast spots open as early as 6 a.m. The coffee was good, but the pastries had nothing on The Bakery at Zermatt.

Those views!!

I didn't realize it until later that day, but everything to the right in the top photo was actually the outskirts of Canyonlands National Park. When I say they're across the street from each other I'm not joking!

Our drive into Moab was uneventful and easy. We got into Arches National Park around 10 a.m. and enjoyed a few hours of hiking. About halfway throught our time in Arches, I mentioned that we should finish up in Arches and head over to Canyonlands. I'll be honest: I've had Arches on my bucket list for years and I was slightly disappointed by it. Yes, the arches themselves were cool, the red rocks were amazing, but the rest of the landscape, well, I just saw in northern New Mexico. It wasn't anything outstanding. After walking and sitting in a few arches, meh, I was good. 

Don't get me wrong, Arches National Park is cool, offers great hiking, and we'll most definitely be bringing the minis here with us soon. I was very happy we came during the off season because it wasn't extremely crowded. I can imagine how ridiculously crowded the Park can get during the summer months. We got to enjoy a nice 50 degree day with a slight breeze in the air. Of course, with that sun beating down on us it felt well over 70 degrees. Putting that down here so I remember for next time!

We hiked around Balanced Rock

Windows was a favorite. We didn't do Double Arch for a couple of reasons. 1.) We wanted to save some Arches for when we come with the minis. 2.) There's no short walks in Arches. From parking lots to easy viewpoints was easily half a mile each time we stopped (usually more). They weren't difficult by any means, but when you get out of the car at numerous stops and hike several times, that adds up to several miles. Comfy, supportive, and stable shoes are a must! I decided on snow boots because I read online that some of the trails were still ice covered. Most of the trails were free of snow and ice thanks to sunny, 50 degree days, so I didn't really need them but I was lazy and didn't want to stop to change boots.

A view of Double Arch from Windows

So happy we brought meats, crackers, carrots, and raspberries with us. We had a late breakfast/early lunch in a parking lot before heading to Delicate Arch. We didn't hike to Delicate Arch, we did one of the look out points, but still wound up hiking over a mile just to see it. This was the trail we did that I realized how miserable this would be during the summer months, with the sun beating down and no shade for miles.

When I saw the hollow rock, I was super excited and exclaimed "I'm going to climb in it!" That's when I noticed an animal had made a nest (consisting of feces, twigs, and random brush) inside the rock. I quickly changed that to a "nevermind, keep walking."

These huge ravens (yes, actually ravens not crows as we initially thought) gave no qualms to following us and wouldn't easily move for visitors. 

We also saved Fiery Furnance for next time as there's no trails, it's free hiking that you must obtain a permit for. I can't wait!

It was around this point in the day that I looked over at Hubs and said, "I'm not as impressed as I thought I would be with Arches. Let's grab lunch in Moab and then go to Canyonlands National Park. It's RIGHT across the street." I had to do some quick research on Canyonlands, but my idea worked out well! We got Sand Dune Arch in as our last stop in Arches (another one the minis will LOVE), ate a quick lunch at Moab Brewery, and then headed to Canyonlands. This wound up being the best decisions of our day.

The hike to Sand Dune Arch was the only trail we encountered that still had ice...but it was thick ice! I was instantly glad I was too lazy to change into my other boots because the traction on my snow boots really helped. Numerous areas had ice under the sand.

I was so sute I could climb up these sandy little rocks. I slid right down and then get stuck in the middle of it. A three year old ran right past me to the top when I finally managed to get myself down--but without falling! Accomplishments in year 36 already. 

The city of Moab (downtown area) is five minutes from Arches enterance. We quickly settled on Moab Brewery because I felt I deserved a drink(s) on my birthday. While we waited for food, I read up on Canyonlands. As it turns out, the park is divided into three sections that you can't get into from the same enterance. It's not an easy drive through National Park like we've been to in the past (Shenandoah and Arches are the first two that come to mind). In order to get to each area of the park, you have to go out and around to a different enterance. As we learned later from a Park Ranger, this is because the NPS didn't want to build bridges over the rivers in the park and disturb the landscape. While we ate (our food had arrived by this point. Good, nothing extraordinary, but delicious because we were starving at that point in the day), we determined we would go to the Island In The Sky section of the park because it was closest to us. 

It didn't take me long to fall in love with Canyonlands, much more so than Arches. It's amazing to me how two parks can be just a few miles apart with completely varying landscapes. I was blown away by Canyonland's beauty. Other than our usual visitor's center stop, we went right to Mesa Arch. What caught our eyes along the way were the free range cattle roaming. These cows were trying to cross the road. We've been stuck in free range land in Wyoming and had to wait forever for the cattle to cross. These cows, just outside of Canyonlands boundaries, seriously looked both ways for traffic, crossed when no one was coming, and crossed at the flashing cattle crossing signs! I wish I had a video of them doing this because it was hysterical to watch...I also might have uttered the words "I want a cow now" as we drove. 

The views in this park were amazing! We came in the late afternoon/evening and were treated to spectacular sights as the sun was setting. There was one road and trail we wanted to do in Island In The Sky area called Shafer Trail. It was still closed for the season due to ice, but it looks to be a fun one (if you have an SUV available). I'm keeping that one in mind for next visit.

Much like Arches, all of the viewpoints for things were at least 1/2 mile away from the parking lots. So many short hikes, but we ended up hiking a lot of miles just to reach the sites. I can see now why a lot of people come backpacking here--to get anywhere phenomenal is going to take several days because there's no roads around.

We did make a lot of comments while hiking about how the minis would love this terrain. I actually didn't mind it because the rock surfaces weren't slick at all.

The safe hollow rock.

Grand View Point was quite grand.

We watched the sun set over Canyonlands then began our drive back to Midway (a four hour drive). Unfortunately, it was very cloudy so we didn't get any fantastic views of stars as we drove. We arrived back at the resort well after 10 p.m. and obviously exhausted. We had plans for the next day, but decided then to cancel them and enjoy a relaxing day.

Even though Arches wasn't all I had hoped for, Canyonlands more than made up for it. Overall, it was a great way to spend #36 and get a feel of the Parks without the kids. Being there in the Parks also confirmed by belief that Utah's Parks are great for older kids who can hike further. In my mind I was hopeful to take our big Utah Tour in a year or two, but it will likely be two or three (or more) years until we go. One thing that sticks out from the day is how friendly everyone in Utah was and how excited everyone was to hear where we were traveling from. I had a great time quickly speaking with other visitors as we traded camera duties at the Parks. I also have to laugh at how excited everyone was for us when they heard we were traveling with the minis in tow!