Tuesday, December 10, 2013

In The Desert

If you ever have the urge to visit Moab and/or Arches National Park, I would like to suggest two very simple rules.

  1. Do not arrive on a Saturday afternoon in the busy season unless you have a lot of patience to find a camping spot.
  2. Get to Arches as early in the day as you can.

This didn't help things.
I knew, as I left my cheap motel in Idaho, that finding a place to sleep in the entirely first-come-first-served region of Moab was going to be tough. I didn't expect to put an extra fifty-plus miles on my car and drive around (slowly) for two hours before I came across a campground with any vacancies.

Maybe I should have predicted that one better.

The Bureau of Land Management operates several campgrounds (ranging from five sites to over twenty) along most of the highways around the Arches and the Canyonlands. Given that this is a mountain biking Mecca (and a dream come true for outdoorsy types of many disciplines), these low-maintenance, frill-free sites fill up fast. It was that first-come-first-served part that got me, since I was arriving mid-weekend.

The Colorado River is right across the road.
However, it wasn't quite peak season anymore and I lucked out, finding a campground of ten or so sites that still had several open spots.

After that, I had a mission: The Moab Brewery.

Everyone I'd talked to about Moab insisted that I needed to stop by the brewery, and there was no way I was going to miss it. As it happened, I managed to get my site claimed and my tent set up just in time for supper -- so off I went.

The brewery is a gathering spot for locals, bikers, hikers, kayakers, RVers, hipsters, hippies (not to be confused), drive-through-ers, and the occasional vagrant. The food is fairly standard pub fare and tasty (I actually had a chicken burrito), and the beer is excellent.

But more than anything, I got a kick out of the conversation.

I spent most of my dinner chatting with a guy from Boulder, who was on vacation when the flooding started and wasn't really sure what he was heading home to. There were also the bikers from New Mexico and the couple from New York (who, judging entirely by appearances, I had to assume were lost).

It was an eclectic crowd and the perfect start to my brief time in the desert.

The next morning, I woke before dawn and got moving as quickly as I could. I managed to drive into Arches just before sunrise, one of maybe a dozen cars that spent the first couple of hours leapfrogging each other.

A quick shot of my travel companion.

Almost sunrise.

Yep. Another bridge. Seems to be a compulsion.
First big stop: Delicate Arch. A couple of miles of hiking to get into this one, at which point I got to feel like Superwoman among the other tourists. From here, I watched the sky brighten with maybe fifteen others, the sunrise mostly obscured by clouds.

I had very few pictures of myself, so I had to take one. Note: I hate taking selfies almost as much as I hate the word "selfie."

With the clouds rolling in, I quickly went into "Gotta collect 'em all" mode.

At this point ... I should have been taking notes. This was the view as I left Sandstone Arch. I think.

For some reason, this one's called Broken Arch.

Somewhere else entirely. A chunk fell out of this one a few decades back and nearly smushed some visitors.

It was almost eleven when I reached Devil's Garden -- which also happened to be the first time I really saw a crowd.

Aaand ... Landscape Arch! My goal for the day.

Not thirty seconds after I snapped that picture, there was a clap of thunder and the rain started. And then I made a dash for my car again.

I hightailed it out of the park and headed back for my campsite. As it was Sunday, most of the others in the campground had already hit the road ... which was a good thing, for the sake of the guys whose tent had been sitting right where that puddle is.

Somehow, I managed to go to the desert ... and spend four hours waiting out a rainstorm.

Made for a gorgeous sunset, though.

This day in the desert led to about fifteen miles of hiking (most of that in the morning), sand in my shoes, a muddy tent, and a very, very relaxed Ashley after the storm passed. This was my "removal" time, a day spent entirely alone before some time in Denver catching up with a bunch of old friends.

And it was fantastic.


Anonymous said...

It looks great trip and also reminds me a story about how this land got its name as Colorado. from Jaeyoung

Amanda said...

Amazing photographs!! I think this may be our next vacation spot. I'll be contacting you for more tips.

Ashley said...

Jaeyoung, I think you & my sister may need to make the trip there when you get the chance. :) And Amanda, highly recommended! Next time I go, I'm giving myself more time for ... just about everything.