Our trip north through Utah continued until we reached the city of Moab. Well, it’s officially a city, but I’d call it more of a town. We had high hopes for Moab, it had come highly recommended by several friends through the winter, and we were excited to finally get there.
Moanin’ About Moab
Unfortunately, we weren’t terribly impressed by the town itself. It was crowded, noisy and difficult to get around. To be fair, it was at the height of Spring Break, and it’s known for being a Tourist Town.
And it was very touristy. And naturally, very expensive. Groceries were almost untouchable, if you could locate a grocery store between all the gift shops, boutiques and outdoor adventure outfitters. Needless to say, staying somewhere in town was neither likely nor desired.
We decided to start looking outside of town for BLM land to boondock on. Following our All Stays app, we found a ‘free’ site at Mill Canyon BLM. It was a bit of a drive from town, but when we got there, the signage informed us we were expected to pay $20/night to stay in what amounted to a gravel parking lot, wedged between several other trailers, with the only amenities being a couple of shared picnic tables and a large, smelly dumpster just a few feet away. Not to mention we were almost on top of a very busy staging area for razors and other off-road buggies to come and go off the nearby trails. We decided we’d pass.
Eventually we found our way to Klondike Bluffs BLM. This ended up being about 25 miles from town, but at least we had space and it was quiet at night. Oh, and this was our view.
Our view from the backyard
And Then There’s The Other Side of the Coin
I don’t mean to knock Moab, I know that it has it’s share of fans out there. The amount of out of state license plates attested to that. But it just didn’t seem to be our cup of tea.
However, the area was not without two shining, redeeming features. And each came in the shape of a National Park.
Arches National Park
Besides the natural stone arches that give the park it’s name (and there are over 2000 of them!), the terrain inside Arches National Park is a constantly changing surprise. From pinnacles, fins and balanced rocks, to deep valleys and petrified sand dunes, every turn and hill keeps you guessing what’s coming next.
The Three Gossips & Sheep Rock.
The Three Gossips.
A Bristlecone Pine twisted by the wind.
The North (left) and South Windows.
Looking through the South Window.
Young Indiana Jones and his Boy Scout Troop rode by here
in the opening scenes of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
The view from inside the Double Arch.
And sometimes, you need a little something extra just to grasp the scale of these things…
Delicate Arch (left). This was as zoomed in as my cell phone could get.
Delicate Arch. Who needs a 3 mile hike when you’ve got a good lens?
The Devil’s Garden Trail.
Pinnacles and fins near Landscape Arch.
A view from the trail through Devil’s Garden.
Landscape Arch, the longest arch in the park, and one of the longest in the world at 306 feet long. Park guests are no longer allowed to walk up close to it.
On September 7, 1991, the people sitting under Landscape Arch heard a loud rumble, followed by popping and cracking. Quickly, they moved out from under the arch. A few minutes later, a slab of rock measuring 73 feet long by 8 feet wide by 4 1/2 feet thick came crashing down on the place they’d been sitting. Two more rock falls, one 47 feet long, the other 30 feet long, occurred in 1995. Scientists are split as to whether this has made the arch weaker because it’s now thinner, or if it’s stronger because it’s lighter.
Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park is actually made up of three distinct areas: Island In The Sky, The Maze and The Needles (located some 60 miles south of the main park). There are no roads that directly link the three areas, and it can take 2 to 6 hours by car to travel from one area to the next. Because of this, most people elect to visit only one area in a trip. This particular day, we chose Island In The Sky, deciding to leave the other two areas for another time.
Island In The Sky is a mesa that sits atop steep sandstone cliffs that rise over 1000 feet above the surrounding landscape, located between the Green and Colorado Rivers. The road loops around the top of the mesa, giving incredible perspectives of the rivers and canyons below. There are many convenient pullouts and hiking trails to enjoy the views.
Literally, just across the road from the Visitor’s Centre.
The roads that appear at the left, right, and far off center of the photo
are one and the same, known as the Shafer Trail.
Recommended 4-Wheel-Drive ONLY.
Originally used as a cattle trail, and then a mining road,
the trail features tight switchbacks and steep hills.
Can you see the cars that are brave enough to try it?
How about now?
Here’s a hint: Check out the white dot in the center of the photo.
This trail goes on for almost 20 miles.
The famous Mesa Arch. This has been on my bucket list since I was a girl.
The view from beneath Mesa Arch.
Stunning view of the pinnacles and the La Sal Mountians from the Mesa Arch Trail.
The view directly below the Arch.
Mike was having kittens while I was getting this shot.
Another view from Mesa Arch Trail.
Steer Mesa is a sandstone formation surrounded at the bottom
by canyons cut by the Green River.
Bird’s Eye View of Buck Canyon.
Surrounded on all sides by canyons and rivers,
the mesa we’re standing on truly is an Island In The Sky.
The view from Grand View Point Outlook.
It’s difficult to see because the canyons are so deep,
but this is where the Colorado and Green Rivers meet.
Can you see that faint, light line that seems to trace around the ends of the canyons in the photo above. That’s the White Rim Trail, very similar to the Shafer Trail we saw earlier, except this on is a little over 70 miles. Check out the perspective at the end of the video below:
Before we’d visited either park, I had purchased the GyPSy Guide App for both parks. This is an audio self-guide that explains what you’re looking at throughout the park, some the history of the area, geology facts and other interesting information, as well as driving and time tips. It runs off the GPS in your cell phone, so the lack of cell service throughout both parks is not an issue. The combo app for both parks was $7.99 USD, and was well worth it. We learned things we never would have discovered otherwise. GyPSy Guides are available for a wide number of both American and Canadian National Parks, and we highly recommend them.
‘Til next time.
We’d love to hear from you!
Your ideas, your questions, your thoughts, your suggestions. What topics would you like to see us post about? C’mon guys, I know we’re not alone out here. Let your voice be heard!! Comment below or message us here!