I have driven through Utah a few times, always passing through to go somewhere else. Every time I have said to myself “I need to come back and spend some time here.” It has finally happened, we have been in Moab for a week. Similar to my first trip to Hawaii I am going to leave kicking and screaming. This place is magic. Seattle has a lot of wet leaves. Moab is dry so when the wind blows the alder leaves make an ambient rustle. The rustle has a faint resemblance to the hum of power lines, only significantly more relaxing. The colors are layered in all the hills and cliffs. It reminds me of the wall of an old apartment that has been painted 100 times and none of the paint holds so you can see the different generations and eras of colors poking through. Almost as if mother nature was trying on different color pallets every couple hundred years simply for a change of scenery. The colors transform dramatically throughout the day. You can look at the same spot you looked at an hour ago and new details, and new colors appear that didn’t exist previously. The desert trees are twisted and asymmetric, giving them a wicked and wretched look. The majority of them appear to be dead, though even the ones that are still green and alive have a wicked feeling about them. The entire area is covered in a red dirt which will tint your clothes. There are places where this dirt will blow and pool creating red sand drifts and these are as soft as any beach I have ever walked on.
The town of Moab is setup for visitors and tourists. In fact they staunchly consider anyone whose tenure in Moab less than 20 years a visitor or transient. Many people fall in love with the place and move here for a spell and then eventually move on. Even though we are visiting in the off season, the cafes are a buzz with people talking about their mutual interests mostly based on the outdoors. Mountain biking, dirt biking, hiking, rock climbing, sky diving are all common place conversations. In many ways I am quickly reminded of the hipster bars in Seattle. Instead of the local hipsters one upping each other on music, beer or fixie bikes, they are comparing mountain bike routes, climbing gear, hiking trails and mountain bike component upgrades. The hipster uniform is different yet definitely present. Arc’Teryx or any other brand of hiking pants, trim down jackets, hoodies, yoga tank tops and light weight knit caps are worn by both sexes. The really hip refuse shoes full time, even in 31 degree temps at 9:30 am.
We toured Arches national park which hosts a huge range of rock collections, formations and as you would expect by the name, naturally created rock arches. Each stop offers a new and different perspective on what can be sculpted with red rocks, sand a sprinkles of vegetation. There are formations that resemble city skylines. Boulders precariously balanced atop rock pillars and rock walls with giant bay windows and grand views of additional stone sculptures. I could have spent a week in Arches alone and not got bored.
Canyonlands has three main sections, a driving tour/short hike section, a long hike and backpacking section and the 4wheel drive trails section. We spent a day checking out the driving tour and short hike section. Along this drive we learned that there are different plateaus ranging from elevations of approx 5k to almost 8k feet. The rainfall and corresponding vegetation of these regions vary from mile to mile. The regional average is 10 inches per year though it is not uncommon for a section to get 20 inches of rain in a year and a section only a mile away to get 1 inch of rain that same year. Some parts of Canyonlands are so inaccessible that they were the last parts of the USA to be geographically mapped.
On the way up toward Canyonlands, Dead Horse Point state park will quickly provide a flashbacks to a number of movies, the most instantly recognizable being the grand finale of Thelma and Louise. A number of rim hikes offer a more analytical view of the region. These vantage points provide a natural cross section. A step by step of the layers, tools and processes used to create all the sculptures we have seen to date. You can see the broad strokes created by earthquakes and fault lines. You can see where the finer details have been carved by rivers over millions of years. You can see where the wind has been put to work to smooth and shape the rough edges left by many of the other tools. Even though I can see how it is all created, I still marvel at the final product. Then I quickly realize that this is not a final product. Like so many things in life this is the current version, and then I begin to wonder what it will look like in another million years.
We have a number of other parks and view points to checkout in the upcoming weeks, however this stop has been on my short list for a few years. Moab did not disappoint and I look forward to making another trip out here. A note to anyone thinking about coming to Moab. Oct is on average 20 degrees warmer than Nov yet is still the beginning of slack season after all the families go back to school. This is dramatic at night. The difference between 19 and 39 degrees is the difference between crawling into your 3 season bag to go to sleep, and bundling up with 2 pairs of wool socks, long johns, sweats, a wool thermal a down coat, hood and gloves and still being chilled in the early hours of the morning. The days are 60 to 90 minutes longer also.