Off we went into the land of the dinosaurs and the land before time...or was it Earth's version of Mars?
Moab and Southwestern National Parks Road Trip
It turned out to be a trip for just Dave B. and myself, as the kiddos seem to need more than just a few down days in between trips.
1st STOP: Kingman, Arizona!
Visiting the old but famous Route 66!
Where even the swimming pools bear the famous sign!
Probably not many a persons top vacation destination...wasn't mine either, but it was a very good stopping point for our drive...
Friday evening got off to bit of a rocky start..
All the Las Vegas traffic trying to get out of town was worse than ever...
We were getting further and further off schedule.
We drove in silence, racing for dinner.
Calling in our order and making it there in just the nick of time!
(The nick of time turned out to be the theme of this trip.)
We ate on the road and we drove and drove and drove! And that was night one..
Heading out to have brunch in Flagstaff, pick up a few need items, and then up to Page, Arizona to go see the AMAZING Antelope Slot Canyon!
Each stop had it's own set of delays, causing me to be convinced that we would NEVER make it in time for our scheduled tour of Antelope Canyon.
*On a Navajo Reservation, a tour is necessary. There is no option to visit the sacred Antelope Canyon without being led by a guide.
We saw some very beautiful scenery on the (nerve wrecking) drive to Page, Arizona.
Dave was driving like a mad man or a bat out of hell in order to get us there, and then lo and behold we actually made it in the nick of time with about 30 seconds to spare before the last tour had pulled away.
Wow. I was in shock! I couldn't believe it!
And this very well might have been the best stop yet!!!
The overlook is a cliftop view and 4,200 feet above sea level and the Colorado River is at 3,200 feet above sea level making it about a 1,000ft drop & no guard rails!
*It is pertinent that you must be very CAREFUL!!! Especially when traveling with children!
Such a amazing geological place carved out for millions of years from the mighty Colorado River.
As the Colorado Plateau uplifted about 5 million years ago, the rivers that meandered across the ancient landscape were trapped in their beds. The rivers cut through the rock, deep and fast, seeking a new natural level. Here at Horseshoe Bend, the Colorado River did just that, and as the river cut down through the layers of sandstone, it created a 270° horseshoe-shaped bend in the canyon. (credit nps.gov)
It was time to set up camp...
This was gonna be a real treat for us! If you recall we recently bought a new tent, which is huge in comparison to what we're use to (a 2 person backpacking tent).
We had to set up camp using only one flashlight and somewhat managed to prop up this tent for the very first time in the dark!
Next it was time to blow up our brand spanking new air mattress - this is definitely a cush version of camping that we are not use to!
Looking forward to not sleeping on the hard ground, we opened the box and realized that the air pump needed batteries! DUH
Guess we were gonna sleep on the ground. Our tent was up, lights were out, and we were bedded down - on the hard ground! Oh well. No biggie.
Then the wind picked up, the tent nearly collapsed on us (we didn't stake it into the ground), and I freaked! There's no way I'm sleeping in that thing! Good bye!
Dave was gonna tough it out, as he wouldn't be comfy in the truck.
Fine by me. Good luck and good riddance. I went to the truck and got away from my panic attack.
The situation with the tent got much worse, and Dave was almost wrapped up inside like a burrito.
He eventually made his way to the truck after all. And after much laughter, we both fell asleep.
Day 3 we were heading off to tour the famous Monument Valley and then on the road to Moab, Utah
We had done the 17 mile scenic drive within the Navajo Tribal Park of Monument Valley and spent a most lovely day marveling at the Giants!
From the famous East and West Mitten Buttes to The Rain God Mesa and all in between.
We were in awe, of this most visually striking area on the Colorado Plateau.
Taking a short stroll around Cly Butte and to the North Window Overlook, there we stood, gazed, and listened to the birds chirping, and the Raven soaring overhead.
But no sooner had we spotted the dark clouds in the distance and then watched as a thunder storm came rolling in.
The roaring of the gods had rumbled and clapped in the not so far distance.
For it was almost time for our visit there to come to an end.
The picture perfect lighting had all gone away and the white puffy clouds were now replaced with dark gray ones.
We had retreated to the truck and bounced and bobbled our way back on the primitive dirt road as the rain drops had fallen upon us, and the mineral rich red sand had turned to a deep clay.
What a great day it was! And with no mishaps to mention.
And you betcha we're gonna be getting down and dirty right along with them!
Due to the extensive network of trails in and around this town it has a become very popular base for mountain bikers, and adventurists alike!
In fact, mountain biking experts claim it has some of the best trails in the world.
With two national parks located in the Moab area: Arches National Park, and Canyonlands National Park. This small town attracts people from all over the world with its gorgeous setting amongst the red rocks, it truly is tough to be beat!
This trip is situated around much of the Grand Circle...covering portions of five states – Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Nevada – the Grand Circle contains America’s largest concentration of National Parks and monuments!
Dramatic scenery awaiting at every turn.
It's definitely the type of place you have to experience for yourself, because as lovely as the pictures might be...They can never do justice for the wondrous majestic ancient beauty that captures both the heart and soul!
Day 4...We are gonna hit the trails!
Heading out to Dead Horse Point, we'll pedal around the Big Chief Loop and the Great Pyramid Loop on the Intrepid Trails!
Continuing our drive a wee it seemed a localized cloud had broke and we began being rained on.
Well a little water never hurt anyone, plus I love the rain, my hair was already curly (no flat ironing on a trip like this) and it only makes for a more adventurous (and muddy) bike ride! FUN!
As I watched the rather large droplets hit the windshield I thought and realized just how ridiculous I was...
While I was dressing in the morning I had glanced over at my rain jacket and consciously decided AGAINST bringing it...as if tossing the small packable jacket would've been such a big deal or waste of space!
So at this point I realized that I might just end up a sopping wet by the time we get back from our bike ride! Oh well...
With live stock on the open range road, we continued to drive the 22 miles from highway 191 and towards the trailhead and visitors center, passing several viewpoints along the way and making note to stop at them on the return trip back.
So how did Dead Horse State Park get its name???
Well, according to legend, before the turn of the 19th century the point was used as a corral for wild mustangs that once roamed the mesa.
The point provided a natural corral into which the horses were driven into and rounded by cowboys. The only escape was through a narrow, 30-yard neck of land controlled by fencing made of branches and brush. Mustangs were then roped and broken, with the better ones being kept for personal use or sold. The rest were left corralled on the waterless point where they died of thirst within view of the Colorado River, 2,000 feet below. Pretty darn awful if you ask me!
Once there and after touring the visitors center, watching the educational introductory film and doing a bit of shopping, it was time to take a stroll on the Nature Trail and then hit the Intrepid Bike Trails!
The trailhead was located just at the end of the parking lot and we took off and pedaled our way around a loop that included trail names such as: Raven Roll, Intrepid, Great Pyramid, and Big Chief. Stopping at the amazing viewpoints along the way.
It was lovely to finally see and explore a much anticipated Dead Horse Point State Park (I say finally because it was missed on last years trip - read about last years trip to Moab here: PART 1 & PART 2).
Providing a breathtaking 360 degree panorama the views really pack a wallop and it's no wonder that Dead Horse Point State Park happens to be one of Utah's most spectacular state parks!
It's just as majestic and yet only 1/2 as wide and 1/2 as deep as the Grand Canyon.
It's a land of rock & one of water. A land of looking up and looking down. A place of discovery and adventure.
Which means that YES I liked it...I had so much fun! And the rain had missed us (or we missed it), so I wasn't a muddy mess!
I have to admit that initially on the uphill sections I was a bit hesitant...
It's been a while since I've been mountain biking (but the downhills are never an issue - I'm the downhill skier chick remember?!)
Anyhoo I got into the groove and the weather remained just perfect!
Through the sandy sand, and slicky slick rock. Over the hilly hills and past the piney pines, thorny thorns, and spiney cacti. We saw bunnies on steroids (aka Jack Rabbits).
There was even a short little detour designed by Dave - being that he refused to trust in my trail following (common sense) skills!
Luckily it wasn't hot, because it was like pedaling through a beach and if the sun was baking down on me I would've quickly turned into a very disgruntled mountain biker girlfriend that he would've had to deal with!
But it wasn't long before Dave commented that he's no survivalist and that he doesn't want to end up on one of "those shows that my mom watches"!
Well I'm no survivalist either but I will damn well always survive...
And finally made our way back to the parking lot. Then drove out to Dead Horse Point viewpoint, which is one of the most photographed scenic vistas in the world and where they filmed Thelma & Louise (bet you thought that was the Grand Canyon...I know that I did), also filmed there was the crazy cliff scene in Mission Impossible 2!
Sunset wasn't that great one this night, but what could we do... It was dinner time and then once back to our Safari Glamping at Moab Under Canvas the rain that had started up again and we enjoyed relaxing under the sounds of the droplets hitting the canvas.
Day 5 - The plan was to go into Arches National Park and head straight for Devils Garden Trail, which leads to eight awe-inspiring arches, then we'll be off to Poison Spider Mesa to go hunt down some dinosaur tracks. (Great names huh?!)
FUN FACT: Arches National Park has both Devils Garden and The Garden of Eden - think twice about which you choose! LOL
Them the brakes (or maybe it's the battery)...
We were up and at 'em on schedule and rearing to go, when "click click click" the battery in the truck appeared dead. Definitely something that will put you behind on your schedule!
Well that kinda sucked, but at least it didn't happen when we were 20 miles (or more) out in the middle of no where!
I tried once more to turn the truck on before taking the next step in repair, and it worked!
The truck was running, and there was only one thing to do - get to the auto repair shop and test the battery. Hopefully that's all it was and it would be an easy fix.
So we drove into town and lo 'n behold it was the battery. I had a feeling it wasn't anything more involved. And once the new battery was installed, there was nothing else holding us back!!
Off to have a nice breakfast, grab a picnic lunch and put on our hiking boots!
Into Arches National Park we went. We took a wonderful hike that is one of my all-time favorites - Devils Garden. Also being the most strenuous, difficult and longest trails in the park...
It's also a fairly easy one to get lost on - luckily I've learned and have become a pretty savvy hiker over the years.
As we drove out along the Colorado River on the Utah scenic byway 279, there were dozens of waterfalls along the way, and we even spotted ancient wall art that Archaeologists believe was created during Archaic (6,000-1,000 B.C.) and Fremont (450-1,300 A.D.)!
With findings of at least 10 different meat-eating dinosaur tracks preserved in blocks of Navajo Sandstone that have eroded from the cliffs and fallen, splitting along the bedding planes that preserved them. Both the original and the layer that filled them are present on the slabs. (Credit: Moab Bureau of Land Management)
By this time it was raining pretty steadily, we were in a full on rain shower, and it was time to put our rain jackets and ponchos back on.
We climbed up the short trail of slick rock...which when wet becomes SLIP rock.
Extra careful footing is beyond necessary!!!
Moab seriously has never ending things to discover, and is basically in one word: Otherworldly!
If you'd like help to enjoy more of your hikes check out my - TOP 15 HIKING TIPS coming soon!
On Day 6 we had a very early day planned, with catching sunrise in Aches National Park at North Window Arch looking at Turret Arch, then into town for some fueling up (breakfast) at the Love Muffin, and then shuttling out to the Gemini Bridges trailhead to begin the 24 miles of riding that we have planned!!
So there we were up bright and early...well actually it was kinda dark and early.
We headed into the park and straight towards the windows trailhead (about a 20 minute drive).
Sunrise was at 6:15a, and we pulled up just moments after the sun began to peek.
I was aiming for some early morning shots and to capture those striking magic moments after sunrise.
We waited toasty warm in the truck until the light would pass over Double Arch and then we'd head on our way.
Taking the short hike out to the North Window to take a looksie toward Turret Arch and capture all of the striking beauty as the new days sunlight had warmly glowed upon it.
Well at least that's what I and several other photographers were hoping for...
But alas the lighting had failed us and aside from the magnitude of its beauty (not to mention the fun I have climbing on the rocks).
Breakfast was next and I was looking quite forward to ordering the Veerito from Love Muffin Cafe, as in its description it had reminded me of those DEEELISH breakfast burritos from the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta!
And although this one was a tasty burrito, I still haven't found a burrito that could meet or match the standout one from New Mexico!
Immediately after breakfast we headed straight for Chile Pepper Bike Shop to meet our shuttle.
Sadly on the drive out we saw 2 tipped over cows in the open range. Not quite sure what happened to them- but overheard someone saying that one got hit by lightning...
Our first stop on this Gemini Bridges ride was to go see the Gemini Bridges - go figure!
The downhill part was over and we huffed and puffed and pedaled uphill and then once we reached the top we got poured on! There was even hail!
I stuffed my jacket under my shirt in attempts to protect it to some degree.
Then after the 12th mile of the trail we were finished climbing, time for our reward!
Lightening struck in the distance and the thunder clapped angrily as if applauding us for a job well done.
There was still 10+ miles to go...and now it was going to be against the wind!
Well, at least it wasn't windy and raining on us...
But no sooner had that thought crossed my mind did we start descending and the rain start up again.
Even with the wind holding us back, we were still breaking the 20mph speed limit, and it was the wind that held us back from going too fast!
At 23 miles we crossed over the Colorado River and rolled back into town, stopping along the way to grab some fun pics of course.
Which only meant one thing for us - heading back to Dead Horse Point State Park for some beautiful sunset pictures!!!
During our drive we were able to finally see the Lasal Mountains that have been socked in since our Moab arrival. They had beautiful white caps and must've got a fresh new dumping with all of the storms that have been rolling through!
Well I'm a sun chaser! I chase the light.
For Sunrise, for Sunset, and for those amazingly warm lit moments that we like to call magic hour.
Day 7's agenda was going to make up a postponed bike ride, go to see more dinosaur tracks, and then we're leaving Moab and going to visit Capital Reef National Park on our way to Bryce Canyon National Park. Yup yet another National Park!
We managed yet another lovely breakfast back at Eklecticafe, and then headed into Arches National Park to get my passport signed (since I didn’t get around to it any earlier).
After spending the last 5 days in Moab, Utah I didn’t realize was that we were within Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Byway.
This is a National Scenic Byway runs through some of the best dinosaur country in the world!
So...I also added a to do on the itinerary to go hunt down some more tracks…and these suckers were MASSIVE!!!
The mountain bike ride that was planned, well the signage was just awful, and although this was only a short 6 mile ride, it wasn’t until we went over 2 miles in horrible conditions that we realized we weren’t even on the planned trail.
I even had my new bike socks on and I had been totally rearing to go! But all I was doing was complaining (to myself).
Finally we asked for directions from a nearby camper and headed back downhill in order to locate the planned trail.
Well, let me tell you that it was the HOTTEST day in Moab so far. And that I was really enjoying the cooler weather and cloud cover for the rides and hikes.
My knees were not feeling it on this day…as they were just wrecked from the past few days.
So already I admit that I was kinda agitated. So the sucky trail that we were on was not helping my mood. Once we were on the correct trail, sure I liked it better, but it was already too late...
We were behind schedule, 4 miles in, and still had other places to go. Dave knew that I wasn’t enjoying myself and he wanted us to bail. So I agreed, and then on the ride back to the parking lot as I was still cursing out the trail (ok not really, because I don’t curse).
I could then feel my adrenaline for quite some time afterwards…and it didn’t feel good. It's better just not to go there!
So after seeing the Brontosaurus, and both large and small theropods footprints, we continued on our way to Canyonlands National Park.
Jsyk - Moab is seriously one of the best kept secrets...especially for all you outdoor enthusiasts.
There's just soooo much to do! That even while I was still there I was already making plans of our next visit!
Once we were about 25 miles away from the entrance, we got caught behind some cows and lots of calfs being hearded from one pasture/range to another.
I think seeing the little baby cows made me feel all better!
But being that it was still quite chilly and windy even though the snow continued to hold off, we decided that were ready to browse around the visitor center, forgo taking our planned hike, and instead get back on the road for the haul to spend our last weekend in none other than Las Vegas!
For more pictures check out my PHOTO GALLERY