Utah: Beer Is Scarce And Good Beer Is Non-Existent

Trip Start Mar 02, 2011
Trip End Jan 25, 2012

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Flag of United States  , Utah
Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Arches National Park
Dead Horse Point State Park
Canyonlands National Park

We got on our way fairly early -- since we weren't really supposed to camp at that picnic area -- and headed toward Utah.  The drive along I-70 was interesting.  The Colorado River was still at flood level and a bike path that runs next to the river and the Interstate was completely submerged in multiple places.  Even the East Bound side of I-70 was underwater at one point, redirecting traffic into 1/2 of the West Bound highway.  So that's what they meant by "Road Failure." It was incredible to see.

We made our way to Utah and headed south along a scenic byway into Moab.  It was getting late in the day, and campsites can be scarce in the summer.  When we came upon Big Bend Campground and learned they had a couple of overflow sites just across the way, we snagged one.  It's little more than a parking place with some rocky, uneven spots to pitch a tent.  Since we didn't need to pitch a tent, it didn't bother us one bit.  We left the site very early the next morning to see Arches National Park in the early morning light.  We drove right through the unmanned entrance gate and headed into the park.

First stop:  The Park Avenue Trail.  It's a wide section of slickrock in a canyon and does feel like you are walking along a sweeping boulevard.  Mark took the dogs along the road and ran to the bottom while I hiked the trail and snapped photos. I had it all to myself.  I love getting places before all the tourists arrive.  (Yes, I do realize that I, too, am a tourist.)  At the lower trailhead, we switched off the dogs and I took the road back.  Wait.  How did I end up having to run up the road (which was a good bit longer)?  Oh well, it was a nice way to start the day and a conversation starter later when people who saw me running with the puppies mentioned it later.

We drove to the Delicate Arch trailhead and started out running the trail.  But, as soon as we started up some stairs, I was straining to breathe.  When am I going to get acclimated to this thin air?  We hiked along the trail over slickrock and rounded a steep drop off, although nothing to feel scared of.  Then, we came to Delicate Arch.  It's beautiful.  I ran down the rock to the bottom of the arch and had Mark snap a few photos.  But, instead of walking back up the way I came, Mark suggested we go further down the rock, then hike up the other side.  Seriously?  Can we even do that?  It seems you can.  Slickrock is rather sticky here and was relatively easy to scale.  We worked our way up the canyon wall and came out through a window in the rock.  One hiker we passed earlier noticed us and said, "where did you just come from?  Not down there?"  Yup.  From down there.  Very, very cool.

On the way back, we took a detour and went into the backcountry (surprise, surprise) and scaled up and down several small 8-10 foot canyons (ripples in the rock, really) before rejoining the trail.  As always, this heightened the experience and created some really special memories.

We continued on to a couple of the overlooks and seriously contemplated heading into Fiery Furnace for an unsanctioned hike.  (A permit is required to hike in this area.)  But, there was no shady spot to park the car with the dogs.  We continued to the Devil's Garden where several arches are located and hiked part of the way up the trail.  By now, the place was a madhouse of people.  Time to get out of here.

We drove into Moab for lunch, gorging ourselves on mexican food and a margarita, then headed north toward Dead Horse Point State Park and the Canyonlands.  Mark has done a number of adventure races in this area and knew of a place, Hell Roaring Canyon, that he wanted to see again.  In one race, his team descended one end of the canyon on ropes, then hiked the length of the river (several miles) out the other side.  All in the dark.  So, we worked our way along back roads to a section of this canyon and peered over the edge.  Yup.  That's pretty steep.  And pretty far down.  No ropes to rappel.  Let's go back now.  Actually, it was an amazing sight.  The dogs loved being off lease, but weren't too keen on the long drop offs. Chasing lizards, however, become a new past time. Until Samson chased one into a cactus patch and ended up with a cactus needle where the sun don't shine.  Ouch.  Guess who got to remove it?  Ick.  But, Samson and I are on much closer terms these days.

We found a spot at Horsethief Campground, where our neighbors has a truck bed full, I mean full, of scrap lumber.  None of it would burn for more than a few minutes, but there was plenty to go around.  And, they kindly shared it with their nearby campers.  Sitting by a fire with a million stars above you is a wonderful way to end the day.

Mark decided it was time to try out mountain biking on his recuperating shoulder.  I was interested in a run, so we parted ways for a couple of hours.  I sent him on with the last of our water.  It goes quickly now that we have a sink with running water.  Fortunately, there was enough for the dogs as well, and milk and coke zero to quench my thirst at the end of my run.  We drove into Dead Horse Point State Park and took in even more breath-taking views.  This area is just so unbelievably stunning.  We snagged a gallon of water at the gift shop water fountain, then headed back into Moab.  Once again, we'd gone three days without a shower, and I was desperate for one.  We splurged on a hotel room that was pet friendly and  got the chance to shower, refill our water supply and launder our increasingly smelly clothes.  There was even a Contra Dance scheduled for that night.  What luck.

We enjoyed some really spicy Thai food one block from our hotel, then walked the additional block to the Rec Center. That's how convenient everything was to our hotel.  And, well, just about everything in Moab.  It's not a big town.  Unfortunately, we had our first bad luck of the day when we reached the Rec Center.  The Contra Dance was rescheduled for the following Saturday.  Bummer.  We walked through the town instead, spending an inordinate amount of time in a great independent book store, then popped into the SlickRock Cafe to listen to the worst country western duo of all time.  The Desert Coyotes did lounge style versions of songs you know and no longer love. All to the backdrop of a drum machine.  They were caricatures of themselves, right down to the desert scene painted on the guitar and horrible stage banter.  The smashup of She's a Brickhouse and Billie Jean Is Not My Lover was not to be missed. Fantastic!!

While in the bookstore, Mark saw a photo of a waterfall over a boulder in a slot canyon and found the approximate location on the map.  The next morning, we drove out of Moab and headed for the trailhead to Mary Jane Canyon.  There was a bit of a trail to start the hike, then you just follow the creek up the canyon.  We didn't count, but we must have crossed that creek at least 50 times each way.  The water was quite cold and we did a lot of split leaps to keep our feet almost dry.  After about 90 minutes, we reached the waterfall.  The water was definitely chilly and the wind was picking up, but that didn't stop me from darting under the falls into a grotto for a photo op.  Then, it was time for a quick Clif Bar and back out of the canyon.  We made it back to the van just before a short rain burst began.  Perfect timing and a perfect morning.

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Kristine on

Hey Gretchen!
It sounds like the second, or is this the third trip? :), is just as awesome as the first! I haven't met Mark, but that sounds like some tough stuff to go through! It sounds like he's recovering well though! Arches was the first park we went to last summer while we were out west. We felt the same way! It was so difficult to breathe going up to the Delicate Arch. It seems like we did a similar route you guys are taking, so I'm looking forward to hearing how the rest of the trip went and where you stopped at!! Glad you're having a great time! P.S. You're wetsuit and bike miss you! :)

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