Thursday, 3 November 2016

To Moab and Arches National Park

Saturday 29th October, 2016
A clear, warm, still morning, a lovely day to set off.
We moved the last bits onto the RV, that we have christened "Winnie" (after all, Judith and John's camper is called "Ginny").
We set off from SLC at mid-day, just as David was leaving for Park City. We took I15 south through Provo and then picked up US 6 east. It took us a bit of time to get used to the rattles and noise compared with the very quiet progress of MM. Everything has to be carefully stowed to prevent it rolling around. However, Winnie is incredibly comfortable and quite luxurious for just two people.
Almost immediately, we came upon stunning scenery, which was constantly changing. To M's delight, she saw a Prairie Dog, a Bobcat and some Deer.
David had told us of some hot springs a few miles from the junction, but we didn't see them, so kept going for a little longer before stopping for lunch next to a closed river park.
We then drove on to Green River, where US 6 joins Hwy70, and there we stopped for a break and a cuppa about 50 miles short of Moab. Then on to Moab, passing Arches and the Colorado River on the way. About 5 miles south of Moab is the KOA campground, where we checked in for two nights. 
The Cruise America RV gives us a 10% discount but it was still $90 for two nights. Arrived just after 5:00pm.
Starting 31,170 miles.
Moab 31,409 - 239 miles today. Fuel gauge now reads half.

Sunday 30th October.
We both slept well and then we boiled eggs for breakfast. 
Dumped at the Campground (emptied our grey and black water tanks). The Black Water indicator showed 2/3 full even though we have hardly used it - and continued to show 2/3 when it was empty.
Set off into Moab, where we researched bakers. Pulled in to the second one to find that it was really a cafe and didn't appear to sell bread. Drove on into Arches. Stopped at the visitors centre, where a very helpful lady marked our map with the best things to do.
M very nervous about the very steep road behind the centre that appear to climb straight up the side of a cliff! It was very steep and twisty but the roads are excellent and the RV made short work of it.
At various intervals are large lay-bys as viewpoints and we stopped at the Petrified Dunes where sandstone "dunes" have been exposed by erosion.
On to Balance Rock, perched on a tall pillar - all 3,500 tons of it!
We decided to drive on to the Trailhead, about 18 miles from the entrance, and then work back. That was a good decision as we spent such a long time at the Devil's Garden Trailhead. Up to then we had not seen a lot of cars - but at the Trailhead, the parking was almost full but we found an RV space and started to walk.
The initial trail is very easy - broad and flat. We took detours off to see the Tunnel Arch...
And then the Pine Tree Arch before walking on up to the famous Landscape Arch. 
On September 1st 1991, a group was picnicing under Landscape Arch when they heard a cracking sound above them. They moved just before a 180 ton piece of rock flaked off the bottom right edge of the arch. You are no longer allowed under the arch!
Beyond that the trail was marked as difficult but we kept going. The first bit went up a steep rock fin and M did very well to make it up as it was only about three feet wide and there was a steep drop on either side. It was well worth it. At the top, we went to see Navajo Arch...
And Partition Arch, which was probably our favourite. It is set very high with beautiful views across the park. We met up, several times, with a delightful Polish gentleman, Jasek and his German partner Anna. He had spent much of his life in Colchester and loved England. He very kindly took our photograph sitting beside the arch. M looks relaxed, but there was a 500ft drop just in front of us!
In many ways, it reminded us of walking on the canal towpath as everyone greeted each other as they passed and we had many lovely conversations with people that we met along the way. 
We had walked about a mile from the Trailhead. There is a "primitive" trail that goes further on to other arches but we decided not to go further as it involved walking along even taller and narrower fins.
M did brilliantly walking back down the fin despite the vertiginous drop and the steep slope.
Back at the RV, we had some lunch before driving down to Sand Dune Arch, which looks a bit like Angry Bird!
Then on to Fiery Furnace Viewpoint, which is a massive area of very colourful rocks, at their best in the light of sunset. You cannot walk down through them but there are guided walks into the Furnace but none today, much to M's disappointment.
As time was going on, we decided to go to the Upper Delicate Arch Viewpoint, rather than walk the mile or so up to the arch itself. Good decision! 
From the viewpoint, the arch was impressive in the distance as it dwarfed the people standing around it.  Next to the viewpoint was a massive broad, rounded, almost white rock pavement. We walked up it to get a better view of the Arch.
By chance, met a lovely man who complimented M on her very ladylike dress, we have not seen another lady in the park wearing a dress - they are all in trousers or leggings. He pointed out that almost next to us was a huge canyon with a mass of golden aspen trees a thousand feet below us. We walked along the rim of the canyon quite entranced by the view.
Finally we dragged ourselves away as the sun was getting low, although still behind cloud as it had been all day - so actually the temperature was ideal even if the light was not perfect. We still wanted to stop off to see the Window Arches and the Turret Arch. We walked right up to and through the Turret Arch.
Windows Arches are a pair of arches side by side, with what looks like a nose in between. We were often tempted to add our own names to rock formations - we had seen Voldemort sharing a head with Quirrel, Jabba the Hut, a toothless old man, a Roman centurion complete with helmet, and several elephants.
We walked up through the North Window before returning to the RV as it was getting late and the sun was setting behind the clouds.
As we started to leave the parking in the RV, the western sky exploded with colour even though the sun had dropped below the horizon. We immediately stopped the RV and took photos of the sky and of the rocks that had gone a deeper rust colour. If they are hit by the setting sun directly, they must look even more spectacular but, even with the indirect light, they were beautiful.
On the way back to the main park road, we stopped at the Garden of Eden but spent most of our time looking at the fiery skyline.
By now it was getting dark, so we drove the ten miles back to the visitors' centre and the main road. Again, the road near the entrance was very steep but the RV coped well.
We were very glad that we had taken water with us as there are no food facilities at all in the park, only a couple of water fountains.
Looking back at the photographs it is hard to do justice to the sheer scale of the park and the arches. We have often been lost for words and the experience seems somehow surreal, faced with such massive wonders of nature created over millions and millions of years.
And so back to the KOA Campground for a light supper and bed.
Did more research on Mesa Verde as we had been told that most of the facilities shut down on 1st November. Found that all the campgrounds are closed now and that you can only see the dwellings from the road - so have decided not to go that way, as it is a significant detour. Shame.
Found some Indian Reservation Campgrounds near Mexican Hat, which is about half way to Flagstaff - so will aim for that tomorrow after Dead Horse Point and a trip up 128 next to the Colorado River as recommended by David.
31,475 - 66 miles today and tomorrow we need to get some fuel.

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