Thursday, May 15, 2014

Moab, we love thee.

I'm going to take you on a little travelogue into a world that defies all scenic imagination.

Utah's Canyonlands.  Unbelievable even when you're standing there in the middle of it with your mouth gaping open.  And included in our latest trip, were a few happy hours with the three most awesome siblings and siblings-in-law who conveniently live along the route as we travel to this favorite vacation land.  Score, score, and score!

Moab, I am proud to say, lies deeply in my roots.  My very own grandparents, Emerald and Geneva Stout, lived there in the 40s, 50s, and early 60s, before it was discovered by air conditioning and tourism.  My vague, early memories recall an average small, sleepy town with one main street, complete with a corner drug store and probably a grocery store, gas station and a five-and-dime.   They owned a small farm within a few blocks of the town on a dusty road near a creek.  I remember very little, sad to say.  But I do remember the giant black walnut tree that stood near the house and although the farm was replaced over half a century ago with a school, the remains of the tree still stand.
Today it sits in a dog park.

The dusty road is now paved, but the creek is there.  What I wouldn't give to go back in time and revisit my grandpa's farm, confront his turkeys that terrorized me at age three, and eat the fresh peaches with the sticky juice dribbling down my neck.  

Today Moab is a tourist's love affair.  Outdoor sports like mountain biking, four-wheeling, rock climbing, etc. have awakened the town and it is decked out with all the cute shops, galleries, and restaurants that I, as a female, cannot help but adore.  If only all towns could follow suit.  And then, there is the scenery......  Oh.My.Gosh.  Within a short drive in every direction we have the wonders of Canyonland, Arches National Park, Monument Valley, and incredible vistas as far as the eye can see.  Picture in your mind the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote chasing through those canyons, cliffs, and plateaus, and you kind of get a hint of it.  To THIS Pacific Northwest native, southeast Utah might as well be on the moon.  Talk about contrast from home.  But enough talk ..... let's look at some pictures, thanks to my photographer husband.

Our wheels, whose purpose is road trips such as this, against a sampling of the famous red cliffs.


Below is Corona Arch, gracing the end of a 1.5 mile hike (each way).  Worth every step.

This arch has recently acquired a dubious history because of this now-gone-viral video:

Hence, there have been some horrible accidents there because of copycat foolishness.  In fact one such accident happened on the day before our visit, requiring a team of rescuers and a life-flight helicopter.  I will spare you the photo of the blood on the rock floor below the arch.  As far as we've been able to find out online, at least initially, he survived.  But the 22 year old who tried it last year, didn't.


Into Arches National Park we go and our first stop is Balanced Rock.  The picture does not do it justice.  The thing is HUGE.


Below is Double Arch, one of my favorites.  The little green speck is me.  What you don't see is the deep gulf behind me, between the two arches.  


Then there's Sandstone Arch, and the best part about it was the short hike to get to it through narrow slot-canyon-like rock walls.


It's incredible that Landscape Arch is still with us.  A large chunk fell from it in the early 90s.  We did this hike later in the day and the wind was fierce.  But we made the effort because it may not be there next time.


Mesa Arch is about an hour out of Moab in Canyonlands National Park.  We discovered this one-of-a-kind wonder a couple of years ago.  It's a short quarter mile hike from the parking lot and as you begin to see the low arch, you think ..... cool, there it is.  But as you get up to it, you realize in a chilling, jaw-dropping sort of way, that just below and behind it, the entire world disappears into a vast abyss.   Previously unbeknown to us, this arch has a world-wide following.  Photographers come to capture it at dawn because the rising sun lights up the underneath of the arch.  So of course, Husband had to give it a go.

We got up at 4:15 a.m. and drove out there in the dark.  On our previous trip, we were there late in the day when it was getting dark.  It was then when I had my first and what I determined would be my ONLY encounter with a rattlesnake and so THIS time, as Husband trotted off on the short walk to the arch, I remained in the car waiting for daylight.  As I waited, more and more cars pulled up and finally when a humongous tour bus full of camera-toting Asians arrived..... I figured all snakes must have fled the premises.  So I walked out to join Husband at what had become Grand Central.  People were everywhere with their cameras and tripods, all poised for the sun to creep over the horizon.  It was tricky to get some shots with 60+ people crowding the scene.  But in spite of the mob and the haziness, Husband managed some good ones.  On the walk back to the car, another photographer told us it's like this every morning, spring to fall.  Who knew?


Lots of petroglyphs.   They are supposed to tell stories of successful hunts, but I kind of wonder if ancient cave-kids simply got bored and found something to pass the time ...... probably earning a "time-out" for drawing on the walls.

In addition to a few motel/hotels en route and a homey church service on Sunday morning in Torrey, Utah, we camped four nights just outside of Moab at an immaculate although somewhat noisy campground.  I highly recommend Moab Valley RV Resort (we were in a tent), just be prepared for the highway noise and fellow campers who don't realize how sound carries.

We forgot to take a picture so I stole this one off their website.

In May, the summer heat has not yet arrived, making camping a terrific option compared to the high-priced hotels in town.  Each morning we'd head out to experience the sights with hikes, drives, and more gawking at the beauty, then return to our camp swimming pool and hot tub where we met and shared our day with people from various parts of the world.  Then we'd hit the showers and a clean set of clothes and head into town for dinner.  Life does not get better than that.


This will go down as one of the good ones, as far as vacations go.  And we WILL return in a year or two, for our next Moab-fix.

If you've had the means, but haven't been there, please excuse me as I pause and stare at you for a moment.  I would be feeling a mixture of dismay in that I CAN'T BELIEVE anyone would waste time in places like Hawaii and neglect THIS .....and envy that you have your initial never-to-forget, eye-popping introduction ahead of you.  (Kind of like the envy I feel for anyone who has not yet seen either of the latest two movie versions of Pride and Prejudice.  There's just nothing like the first time.)  But in this case, the second, third, fourth, etc. etc. times are lacking for nothing because there's always something new and incredible to see in this land-like-no-other.  And we haven't even talked about the BIG canyons (to which we didn't go this time).... like Bryce, Zion, and that little number called GRAND.  Another trip, another blog post .......