Southwest Trip 2021

Arches Day 1: “That’s a Nice Boulder”

Good news! I woke up this morning feeling significantly better. Not exactly 100% better, but better in the way that the Advil felt like it was actually doing something. But hey, progress is progress.

Today we would be departing Zion and making our way to Moab, Utah and Arches National Park. So we bid goodbye to the pointy red canyons to make our way to rounded red buttes. At the end of the day, southwest national parks all seem to feature differently-shaped red rocks.

After a grab-and-go breakfast and one last stop for meds at the Springdale market, we hit the highway for our five-hour journey northeast. Our original itinerary had called for us to stop in Bryce Canyon along our route, but we realized after the fact that Bryce Canyon wouldn’t have been a pit stop, but more of a 5 hour round-trip detour. And we didn’t feel like doubling our driving distance today. We were more excited about getting to Arches anyway.

And let’s be real, Bryce Canyon would have just been just some differently-shaped red rocks. Maybe on another trip…

As far as five-hour drives go, this one flew by. It probably had something to do with the fact that the views were absolutely gorgeous. Mountains, forests, canyons, rivers, cliffs: Utah has it all. And we got to see it all from the comfort of our SUV. I tried to capture some of it from the passenger seat. Of course, these photos pale in comparison to what you can see in person, but I’m just trying my best to let you see what I got to witness.

About two and a half hours into our journey, we pulled up to the small pit-stop town of Salina, Utah for lunch and gas. Today’s west-coast fast food choice was Carl’s Jr. We were pretty starving, so it hit the spot. I got a kick out of the fact that the drive-thru looked onto these silos that looked like soda cans.

We also got gas at Sinclair, which is the west coast gas station brand that has a dinosaur for a logo. I just love that filling up here gives you the sensation that you’re fueling your car with liquefied dinosaur–which isn’t completely wrong.

We drove for another hour or so, again getting to experience the many faces of Utah’s landscape. We came upon a pull-off that offered panoramic views of Devil’s Canyon, which looked pretty cool from the road. Daniel figured he’d take the opportunity to fly his drone–which isn’t allowed in any of the National Parks. We didn’t stay too long though–it was windy. Wind is the drone’s worst enemy.

Soon we found ourselves pulling up to Moab and the Holiday Inn Express. The hotel was right on the edge of town, but only a five minute drive to the entrance of Arches. I’d call that pretty convenient.

After unpacking and settling in, we decided that we’d dip our toes into the park. We knew one of these nights here we wanted to go out into Arches at night for some astro-photography–Daniels’s specialty. But tonight’s forecast called for too much cloud cover, so we decided to save that for tomorrow. (So tomorrow’s blog entry might be late!) Instead, we decided to drive the main road of the park now, get a sense of what it was, take a few pictures and then go in for a hike tomorrow morning.

So we drove into the park, scaled the seemingly mile-high switchbacks to the top of the mesa, and eventually found ourselves on the plateau of red rock sculptures. I’ll be honest, I kind of expected Arches to be…I dunno dinky? I’d seen pictures of some of the arches before, and the way they’d been photographed, they just kind of looked like little clay arcs of mud, the kind that would crumble if you so much as tapped it with your fingertips.

I was very wrong. 

First of all, the park is more than just “arches.” What we saw most of were massive red rock walls and pillars of stone, all as steady and sturdy as red marble. They almost looked sculpted–I mean, I suppose erosion is a form of sculpture. If Michaelangelo were here, he’d be taking notes.

Another cool thing about these structures is that a lot of them seem to have smaller rock sculptures dotted along the top of them, like little baubles. In case they weren’t already unique looking, it’s like they had little sidekick sculptures for decoration.

And then of course, there are “arches” as well. They’re all named, so that you can find them on the map. We’ve really only seen one, the “Skyline Arch,” which was easily accessible from a trail right off the road. I learned from its little informational plaque that this one was unique in that rather than only being shaped by wind erosion, this one doubled in size when a boulder in its middle just kind of fell out one day–like a loose tooth. And now it looks like this.

We knew we were coming back tomorrow and we were getting hungry, so we decided to drive back to the hotel and change for dinner. We decided to go to the Moab Brewery for food, as we’d seen beer from there on menus and in stores. We figured we’d give it a try from the source. 

Beers and food did not disappoint. I got a juicy IPA and Daniel got a Pale Ale–both very tasty. Then Daniel got a chicken sandwich and I got a BLT–hold the T. This is a weird request, but hey, it was delicious, probably because it wasn’t poisoned with raw tomatoes. Also, the weirdest thing about the order was that our waitress asked if we’d like our fries “crispy.” We both said yes, and the fries came out great. Our question was–who would say “no?”

After dinner we made our way back to the hotel to do some laundry. Turns out you really burn through your grungy clothes when you’re sweating in 100 degree heat every day.

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