Road Trip Day 25: Utah

San Rafael SwellWe got to sleep in a bit today – got up at 8 am, had some muffins for breakfast, and were on the road by 9:30 am. We decided to mix things up a bit – Michelle rode in our Ford Escape while I drove, and Dave rode with Eric in his Suburban.

The morning was pretty focused on driving, so we could get to Moab by early afternoon. We took I-15 to I-70 and headed east. We stopped in Richfield, UT around 11 am to get gas, and forged ahead.

A little after noon, we spotted a “scenic overlook”, which turned out to be the San Rafael Swell. It was quite an interesting panoramic scene, with a variety of interesting geological features. Another amusing aspect was the sign that said, “No vendors”, under which there were a number of people selling jewelry, pottery, and other tchotchkes on spread-out blankets.

Michelle and I also stopped sometime later at the Spotted Wolf Canyon overlook – lured by the name, thinking we would see wolves, but of course it was just a clever name. It was an interesting spot, though, explaining how the road below had been tightly squeezed through the narrow canyon below. Dave and Eric, separately, also stopped at each overlook to take photos of the views.

Finally we got off the interstate at Highway 199 and headed south toward Moab. When we got to the turnoff to Dead Horse Point State Park and Canyonlands National Park, Michelle and I stopped to look over the information posted there on a kiosk. Our tentative plan had been to do some scenic driving and/or hiking in Dead Horse, but we decided against it (primarily because we didn’t feel like paying $10 per vehicle when we can get into national parks for free). When Eric and Dave caught up to us, we discussed it, and decided to proceed into Moab, and to set up our camp site.

We arrived in Moab at 2 pm, at the Up the Creek campground. First order of business was to eat lunch – it was late and we were starving. We wolfed down some sandwiches, and then set up our tents. The camp sites were very well organized and managed: the campground instructions were explicit that tents be set up to the left of the picnic bench, and not on the grass. In the allotted space, we managed to fit our two tents side-by-side just perfectly. (Actually we had to move the picnic bench slightly.) The campground is set up so that you can’t drive up to your site, which is actually really nice, because then people can’t drive up next to your head while you’re sleeping. Instead, the parking is at the entrance from the street, and carts are provided to schlep your gear to your camp site.

Once the camp site was all set up, we decided to go for a hike. Consulting Michelle’s printouts from discovermoab.com, we chose a hike nearby called the Corona Arch trail. It only took us about 20 minutes to get there, crossing the Colorado River and following it along a canyon.

First view of Bow Tie Arch & Corona ArchWe started the hike at around 4:45 pm. From the parking lot, there is a very short trail that goes straight up the side of the hill for just a bit, to get to the trailhead. From there, the trail is relatively flat. It’s a quick hike – only about a mile. We went along a narrow canyon, over an open rocky area, around another wall and then down a bit. Then, we had to negotiate a somewhat vertical 25′ rock, using an anchored cable and some carved footholds, and then a ladder to get up and over the next rock. This was where we started to get our first views of the attractions we came to see – the Bow Tie Arch and the Corona Arch. From this spot, the Bow Tie Arch was particularly lovely, because below it are a few different levels of spots where the water lands coming out of the arch’s hole, allowing plants to grow and causing some green streaks on the rocks below.

Sun peeks through Corona ArchWe hiked around, beneath the Bow Tie Arch (which is created by a horizontal hole in the ridge, and surrounds a hollow in the rock below it) and over to the Corona Arch. It was great to be so close to the arch, getting a sense of the scale. It is X’ tall and x’ wide, and the rock width is X’ in thickness. We spent quite a bit of time just chillin’ and taking photos of the arch and the surroundings. Eric also found that the rock wall created a great spot for an echo, and he experimented with getting the canyon to talk back to him.

A very satisfying hike. We were lucky, because the weather was somewhat overcast when we were hiking, and for a few minutes we wondered if we would get rained on. A few drops came down, but then it blew away. As we hiked back to the car, the sky was completely clear and the sun beat down – we were thankful that it hadn’t been as hot and sunny at the beginning of the hike. The hike took about an hour and a half – we were back to the car around 5:45 pm.

Colorado River at Gold Bar picnic areaWe went across the street to play with the river a bit, but there wasn’t a good place to do that. There was a very muddy boat launch, but the rest of the park (Gold Bar picnic area) was low cliffs. We sat on a couple of rocks with our feet in the water, but the current was too swift to do much else.

As we drove back out the canyon, we stopped briefly where there was a sign indicating “Dinosaur Tracks”. A sign explained that there was a viewing pipe by the side of the road. We looked and finally found it hidden inside a bush, but it did point us in the right direction. Using Michelle’s binoculars, we were able to see two dinosaur tracks a few dozen yards up the opposite hill – one quite clear, and the other somewhat fainter.

We continued along the road and noted all the rock climbers along the side of the road, narrowly managing to avoid running over the dog accompanying one group – he was not on a leash, and had decided to sit down in the middle of the road and lick himself. Dave and I were not impressed with their dog guardian etiquette.

Getting back to Highway 199 to turn back into Moab, we were fascinated by a construction project there between the railroad tracks and the river, at the junction of the two highways. We pulled over to look at the signs posted and were even more fascinated by the one with the radioactive sign. The signs indicated that it was a US Department of Energy project. Another sign around the corner said “UMTRA”. Interesting!

We stopped in Moab to poke around in a bookstore, and then went back to our campground for the rest of the evening.

None of the camp sites had fire pits or grills. Instead, the campground provided two gas grills for the campers to use to cook food. Dave grilled up some hot dogs, while Michelle cooked beans on our camp stove and cut up some fruit salad. There was a nice patch of grass behind our tents, where we set up our camp chairs and relaxed while we ate dinner. After dinner, I washed all the dishes in the utility sink provided at the campground (complete with eco-friendly dish soap) and we settled in for the night.

We started a game of Quiddler, but didn’t finish, because the june bugs were getting a little too friendly, and the wind was blowing so hard that the draw pile was disappearing before we could draw cards. Even though it was only 9:30 pm, we decided to call it a night.

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