Arches National Park Utah

6 05 2012

I wake up incredibly refreshed and stoked to visit Arches National Park! The downstairs of the van is super comfy and the desert air dry! I’m the first to awake. I step outside and fix myself a nice hot cup of coffee. Sipping the nectar, I witness the cascade of sunrise light gradually bathing the banded redrock walls of the canyon.

Ed and Alex begin to stir. I take a stroll along the canyon creek wending its way around our site. It’s interesting checking out the details of the canyon, the rocks, the cactus, and smelling the clear air.

Today’s breakfast is eggs, bacon, onion, peppers, with cheese mixed up. A good hearty breakfast! We make toast by sauteing bread on a pan.

As the sun’s warmth makes us comfortable, it becomes hard to want to pack up and get moving. But we’ve got big plans – to visit Arches National Park. I have been to Utah at least ten times, but incredibly I have never been to the canyon country! I’m very excited to be here! We are also meeting two women Ed knows from Park City. Rhoda and Susan.

Driving back down the dirt road we took to our campsite, we re-criss-cross the creek many times. I’m still amazed how the road clings to the rocks with the river just beside. There’s no room for a car coming the other way!

View to the mountains in the distance…

After an hour we reach the park. There are sandstone formations everywhere, and we personify each! Some look like furniture, others like a person sitting. Then there are the arches themselves. They’re everywhere!

We are here about lunch. So we avail ourselves of the camper’s kitchen! And, since we’re in the parking lot, we’re obvious to those who know us – Susan and Rhoda! They show up and join us. Perfect timing!

Okay. All fueled up, we head out on the trail.

Like elsewhere, it’s high season down in canyon country! Spring is the time to visit here. It is anything but a secluded experience. It’s spring break plus vacation time for those escaping winter’s grip.

Ed emerges from the kitchen!

Here, it’s going to reach 80 degrees fahrenheit.  There are single arches, double and triple arches, collapsed arches, and towers sometimes impossibly balanced in the air.

Rhoda and Susan check out the valleys beyond…

Some have incredible views of the valleys beyond.

We hike through arches and climb around.

Then, we head to another area where there is a super long arch that looks like it’s not going to last a whole lot longer.

It’s called Landscape Arch, and it’s the longest natural arch in the world.

Landscape Arch

Once we had our fill of all those arches, we engaged in another search-for-a-campsite adventure – Ed knew of a special spot, off the tourist track, called Gooney Bird.

To get there, we had to head off the highway and then 800 feet up this dirt road clinging to a cliffside! The van held on, though, and we made it.

See the trail? 800 ft below that cliff is the hwy!

This road descends and then comes through a little valley, which is totally empty. Inside, there are side canyons with camping!

Ed’s target is a canyon where the entrance is marked by a tower named Gooney Bird. It really does look like a Gooney Bird!

We quickly settle in to a new spot. Well, we’ll see about tomorrow!

To Moab Utah and Camping Near Arches National Park

24 04 2012

Monday was skiing in fresh snow. Tuesday we awoke and set upon packing up Ed’s camper van for our trip to warmer climes – the canyons of Southern Utah, Arches National Park, and Moab!

The Wasatch Mountains give way to desert. It’s very flat, but there are escarpments nearby, small hills, and groups of 12,700 ft mountains like The La Salle Range, looking like islands, in the distance. With so few cars it reminds me of Patagonia.

We are literally driving right through geologic history. In some places, the flat plain dives hundreds of feet to rivers below. They’ve cut through epochs of time and the rocks down deep might even be a billion years old!

Layer after layer of sandy colored, rose colored, black rock. Sometimes, the rock has been weathered into intricate shapes that remind us of people or things like boats or wagons.

After three hours we come to Green River, Utah, and then the canyonlands are visible in the distance.

We take a road which eventually leads us to the Colorado River.

Mile after mile of canyon unfolds before us. It’s late in the day, so the rocks are very pretty.

There aren’t any big rapids here. Mostly riffles and moving flatwater. But there are a couple of rafts riding these pretty canyons. It’s a major difference from yesterday!

Instead of snow, we have beautiful, dry, summer-like weather! Well summer to us. Here, this warmth is spring.

In the distance lots of spires and mesas. Right out of an old west movie! There are way more people here than anticipated! Ed has a spot picked out for us. We drive off the highway a few miles and surprisingly every camping spot is spoken for!

Ed knows of another spot a few miles down the road. Here, we drive up another dirt road. This road goes right over a small brook at least ten times. We drive right through the river.

The road winds along, in many places with no room for passing cars. River on one side, cliff face on the other. Yet even here, for mile after mile, all the camping spots are taken! Just after yet another river crossing, when we are giving up hope, we find a spot! Whew!

And it is a good one. The river meanders around the site and we have a sky view.

Finally here, we make ourselves home. The van’s pop top goes up, I start a campfire, and Alex sets up his tent.

The camp stove comes out, and the car stove is prepared. Some beers are opened! Tonight we’re going to have salad, mashed potatoes, and pork chops. Making dinner is all part of the fun of camping.

And so is eating! Not so much cleaning up. But we deal with it. One thing I cannot stand is the Utah beer. We got the Utah legal 3.2% Budweiser. I just don’t understand why, but it doesn’t taste the same, and I find myself wanting to put the beer down instead of having a few more!

Ed’s van is a little home on wheels. It makes up for gas guzzling by providing comforts. Two burner stove, two beds, reversible front seats, nice stereo, and even a fridge. Lots of storage. Tonight I slept on the “ground floor” which is a fold out couch. It was totally comfy.

Our visual entertainment tonight is the fire and stars, and the full moon. It’s really pretty out here!

Other signs of the desert were cactus! Prickly Pear Cactus, Barrel Cactus, and more.

In the morning, the desert quiet was beautiful. And the sky so blue!

A patch of Prickly Pear Cactus!

We’ll be heading to Arches National Park today…






Barrel Cactus

Park City Utah and Moab Utah

18 04 2012

Alex, Rod and Ed at Deer Valley

I took a week to visit Utah in the spring! Alex and I packed up the car and headed out.

I took a week at the end of March to ski the Wasatch Mountains and ski in Park City Utah and also camp in the Moab, Utah region! My friend Ed lives right at the base of Park City Ski Area so I simply had to go out for a visit. I brought Alex along – Alex and I have been ski buddies all this season. Time to ski a real ski resort…and enjoy some desert sun too!

The weather leading up to our visit was all over the place! It was 45 degrees in Portland, and 65-70 degrees in Idaho and Utah, yet it snowed two feet in Utah seven days before we got there. It is a 13-hour drive from Portland to Park City. We planned to ski and also visit Arches National Park and the Moab region all in one week!

It would be winter on the mountain and summer in the canyons! Ed’s got a camper van so this was to be a certain boys week! Alex and I headed out on a Sunday starting at 6:00 a.m. Sure enough in Idaho and then in Park City it was over 65 degrees. We got to Ed’s house and unpacked.

Then, we walked around the Old Town part of Park City and had some pizza and beers. Park City is very much a “liberal” enclave in otherwise conservative Utah. But after the 13-hour drive and meal we had to call it quits – tomorrow is a ski day!

The forecast called for up to five inches of snow on Monday. We didn’t believe it. Although it had snowed up to two feet earlier in the week, the slopes looked pretty pathetic when we arrived. So with the warm temps we kind of thought it was impossible to snow that much Monday. But this is the Wasatch.

Monday it did snow. We awoke to a big snowstorm! I couldn’t believe it. And, we had free passes to Deer Valley Ski Resort. What more could  you ask for!? The forecast said it would be windy so we did not hurry up. That was a good move! Once we got there, lifts that had been closed were opened! The wind had totally calmed down.

Nothing like FREE skiing in Utah! We took Alex all over Deer Valley, exploring this mega resort. It may not offer the world class big mountain terrain of Snowbird or Alta, but for today, it’s all we can handle anyway. Just perfect, and minutes away from Ed’s house.

I got a video of Ed and Alex skiing through the trees. Fun!

We were planning to pack up Ed’s camper van and head to the canyon lands Tuesday and Alex had ideas about packing Monday night. I told him, he’d be barely able to walk after the Utah skiing and he sure was wobbly legged after the afternoon! We tried to ski as much of the lift system as possible. We were totally fortunate…

We even had some tree skiing! Just to think it was 65 yesterday!

Tomorrow we switch seasons – we are off to Arches National Park, and Moab Utah!