as soon as we rolled in to moab, we skipped looking for a campsite (poor idea) and went straight to our first hike in arches. in the scorching afternoon heat, we trekked out to delicate arch - you may recognize it from the utah license plate! at over 4 stories tall, it’s one of the more picturesque as well as accessible arches in the park. be it hot, it ended up being our favorite hike.
arches brought it’s wow factor not only with the arches themselves, but towering walls of sandstone and rock formations that defied gravity. our most common phrase of the entire trip was probably, “how is that even real?”
and the second was, “why are there so many french people?”, and by so many i mean 90% of the moab tourist population. evidently french people are really turned on by utah’s national parks and not turned off by the heat. and yes, they were from “real france” and not canada and i know because i asked, thank you very much.
a few other notable hikes we did in arches included a morning outing to landscape arch - which is getting dangerously thin - double o arch and black arch. we also loved the windows section of the park, which doesn’t require as much hiking but gets you up close and personal with some huge holes in the rock. it was also a pretty good spot to hide out during a thunderstorm, we learned.
even thought theY ARE closer together than minneapolis and saint paul, arches and canyonlands are completely different places. we didn’t expect their geology could be so drastically different, and so we were shocked leaving the desert floor of arches to stand above the desert all together in canyonlands. where at arches we looked up at something, in canyonlands we gazed down at everything. if arches was oranges and red, canyonlands was greens and blues. it was even cloudy on the day we went there, whereas every day in arches led to sunny skies.
canyonlands is divided in to three separate districts, because the rivers demand so and this is utah so we don’t build bridges, ok? which would demand highways, or even roads or goat paths so, three divisions it is. the closest section to moab is called island in the sky, but there’s also the needles district (which looks more like arches), and the maze district (which is where 127 hours happened so watch your arms if you go there). in our way to island in the sky, i kept remarking on what a weird mouthful of a name for a national park. and now, having been there, i can’t imagine calling it anything else. the entire park winds a top a plateau that drops off in tiers for thousands of feet, offering views that span beyond state lines. it felt like, ok don’t hate me - an island in the sky.
when i think of the southeast utah, all i can say is it is of another world. it makes you feel wonderfully and fearfully small. and it will make you say “i love rocks”. and you will love them. you will.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
and then there was rocky mountain national park. it is incomparably beautiful to the desert parks, where you can summit towering peaks, and laid out before you is america’s iconic mountain range. the only way through the park is the 48-mile trail ridge road, which seems to have too many switchbacks and too few guardrails to actually be legal - perhaps why they close it all winter. but without it, we never could have climbed to the incredible, nausea-inducing heights. just alongside the road we saw moose! and elk! and people struggling with their car transmissions! incredible.
further on, we walked along a trail at the very top of the road, where the wind whipped so hard we feared a small child would be swept away. (a new selling proposition for kid leashes, guys?!) and we also felt this strong, crazy sense of thrill that i imagine is why people climb mountains. it is exhilerating, even if you drive. even if you see it for a fleeting moment.
aside from our hike in the arctic tundra (actually, what it’s called), we hopped out at a few scenic spots as well as the continental divide. and so we spent about six hours in the park, and most of it driving up mountain passes winding down in to meadows that were blushed with wildflowers and serene alpine lakes. our last stop was in one of those meadows, to enjoy a little picnic lunch overlooking the towering peaks.
i wish i could find better words to describe it all to you. maybe you’ll just have to go see it for yourself. and i hope that you do.