Or is it, the only good horse is a dead horse? I get all those sayings mixed up.
(Previous blog posts about my August 2016 road trip)
Louie and I headed to Moab next. We had three nights booked in the area, unfortunately all at different campsites. The first night was at Dead Horse State Park. (I’d wanted 3 nights at the Devil’s Garden Campground in Arches National Park, but I booked too late. I got two nights there but different campsites…)
We drove via 70 west and then route 128, per a wonderful ranger’s recommendation. Google tells you to take a slightly different route, but we were told this was the scenic route, and that was true! It was a gorgeous drive with lots of stopping for pictures.
Right off the bat, the difference between Utah and Wyoming seemed to be that while there were no restaurants/services for miles in Utah, there were lots of other cars. Maybe because in Utah we were actually within 1-2 hours of various national parks, but Wyoming just seemed so much more desolate once you got off any interstate, except right near the Tetons and Yellowstone. But I digress.
Our road traveled alongside the Colorado River. The theme of this part of the trip was definitely, stuff the Colorado River has helped make.
We watched scenes like this for an hour. More, really, when you consider that for the next 7-10 days we’d be in this sort of country.
Louie has tons of pictures of me on his camera, but he’s not as prompt at uploading them to his computer as I am. Therefore, in approximately a year you can see them!
We decided to eat lunch in Moab, since we hadn’t been in a town for some time. Well at least since the day before…in any case, what I was really craving was fresh vegetables, so we found a place called Peace Tree Juice Café and I got a tuna wrap with lots of lettuce and cucumbers, and then we split a delicious espresso milkshake. It was HOT in Moab, and eating ice cream or gelato became a daily habit…Louie realized after a few days that eating ice cream was making him have a mid-afternoon crash, but I still maintain it was worth it.
We got some supplies in town and then headed to Dead Horse State Park. Moab is a town of about 8000 located near Arches National Park. Dead Horse and Canyonlands National Park (Islands in the Sky District) are about 30 minutes away and receive way less visitors. We set up our tent at the park in a lovely site (KA03) with a gorgeous view—the picnic table had a cover as well and some cabinets to store things in—not bearproof, but critter proof.
This sign was in the bathroom (single stall with lights and fans and they flushed!) We’d already had a raven or magpie eat part of a sandwich so we knew.
Then we headed to Canyonlands, which took 10-15 minutes tops. We’d hoped to do a hike but the sky looked really ominous, like it was going to storm. We could see that it was storming in the distance, and I for some reason started getting really concerned about flash floods. Really it all boils down to the bear. Once something like that happens, you start worrying about all the other things that you wouldn’t normally worry about!
We drove around and did some short hikes though. Canyonlands is quite desolate, but amazing and beautiful.
There are a lot of roads that you can take if you have the proper vehicle-high clearance, 4wd-and a permit. The area was used by gas and oil companies for some time before it because a national park, and the roads are from that time. I guess the park service decided to let people use them because some parts of the park are impossible to get to otherwise, unless you want to hike for days and days. The park is divided into several districts, and only two are accessible by regular car: this one called Islands in the Sky and another we didn’t make it to which was about 2-3 hours away called the Needles District. Next time we’ll try to get there as we hear the hiking is phenomenal, but Islands in the Sky was pretty fantastic.
You can definitely see the rain!
This looked even crazier in person—all those canyons. And it looks small here, but of course it’s really massive.
We just kept taking pictures! It was gorgeous with the clouds, the rain, and the beginning of sunset. And was gorgeous without those things too.
We walked partway to Grand Upheaval Dome, hiked around Mesa Arch, and took lots of pictures. It was raining lightly off and on and there was lightning and thunder in the distance, but it didn’t seem to do much while we were there. Finally we headed back to camp to make dinner.
When we returned to camp we realized there had been flooding. Luckily our tent was fine, but some water had gotten in the edges and we had a bit of dampness. I realized a huge river of water had washed through the side of our campsite and I just started freaking out that we needed to pack up and move…I pictured us getting washed away over the edge of the canyons during the night and I was just really terrified. Louie went to try to find a camp host to talk to to see if the flooding was normal or very unusual or what we should do but there wasn’t anybody working at the campsite, which worried me more. Finally he helped me to calm down and we decided to stay (because other options weren’t great and we were set up already and the tent hadn’t washed away yet and obviously there had been quite a storm). We made dinner (Indian food and rice from Trader Joe’s) and went to bed. It did storm over night and I was scared at first but was also exhausted so I fell asleep easily enough.
We woke up pretty early and packed up the tent. While packing up a small fox walked RIGHT through our campsite. Neither of us had a camera on us and by the time Louie got back from getting one the fox was gone. I vowed to always keep my phone in my pocket from that point on…
We’d picked out a hike to do in Canyonlands called the Neck Springs Loops that was about 5 miles long. We parked at the trailhead around 8 am and were the only people there. What was really cool was that it seemed we were the first people to hike on the trail that morning. The other great thing was that all the rain had brought cooler temperatures!
Parts of the trail had definitely seen heavy rain overnight, but we’d chosen a trail that didn’t have a whole bunch of slickrock, according to the description.
I love getting off the beaten path at National Parks and taking hikes, the longer the better as you typically see less people. In this case, we ended up not seeing another person on the whole trail—we did hear people at one point who were likely a mile or more behind us, and we saw LOTS of evidence of various animals, definitely bighorn sheep hoofprints, and some small pawprints of various sizes.
The views continued to be fantastic. It felt like you could see forever.
There was a point towards the end that involved a frightening amount of slickrock. We realized we had to basically climb upward, and I had a little trouble…I was struggling to bring my leg up and the thought that pushed me through was “do you walk to backtrack over 4 miles?” I am so glad we did the hike though, because later many of the things we did in Arches were easier in comparison! We had a little trouble at one point following the cairns—we lost them!-but we got back on track. (Cairns are little stacks of rocks to show you which way to go.)
The end of the trail followed along the road to get back to the parking lot, which wasn’t quite as fun, but the views continued to be amazing.
In any case, like everywhere we’d been (with the possible exception of Aspen) we would have liked to stay longer at Canyonlands, but we needed to move on. We decided to stop at Dead Horse State Park one more time to check out Dead Horse Point.
We were blown away by the views! It was just on the other side of Canyonlands National Park and was amazing in its own way. (We also had a lovely picnic on our way to the point—hummus and pita chips and apples. Vegetarian’s delight!)
There were several miles of hiking trails around but we had to get to Arches! That’s where I’ll leave you for today…part way through a very wonderful day of gorgeous scenery and excellent hiking.
Nights camping: 6
Miles hiked (estimate): 34