Canyonlands and Arches for Thanksgiving

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November 27th 2015
Published: November 28th 2015
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R : We set off for the national parks... via Walmart. Amazingly, the Americans seem to be able to control themselves the day before Thanksgiving in a way that you don't see Brits behaving sensibly in a supermarket in the UK Before Christmas. Loaded with supplies we headed south. It's about 250 miles from SLC which took just over 3 hours. The road takes you up over a mountain range where there was a bit of snow on the top. We have been nervously watching the weather for the last week as a winter storm was threatened, but it amounted to nothing...

We arrived at Arches national park with about 40 miles worth of fuel left in the tank, which kind of limited our fun a bit. The park is about 300 square km, but you can only drive on parts of it. It has over 2000 sandstone arches, formed by the changing structure of the sandstone which is laid down on a salt bed. (I could bore you with more - I read the signboards after all). The views all around us are absolutely stunning - you can see snow capped peaks of the La Sal mountain range in the background of our photos which are on the southern borders of Utah and Colorado. Some of the Arches are much larger than others - we saw plenty while driving that were mere feet in size, but some, like Landscape arch, Delicate arch and the Windows (see pictures - I normally add Cate for a scale!) are huge, and mostly delicately balanced on a cliff edge.

Incidentally, there isn't much of a railing at most of these places, and you are allowed to walk around and clamber on the rocks as long as you don't go over the top of the arch - many of them are pretty unstable and about 30 have collapsed since the 1970s due to weathering. We aimed not to be underneath one when it did. Success!

We are staying in Moab - a funny little pioneer town, which now caters more to tourists than locals. Once again, it is off-season here, so a few bits and pieces are shut. But we found a pretty good place to eat that had big horned sheep heads on the wall. I had a baked yam with cinnamon butter which was incredible and was my nod to thanksgiving - we figured that most things may be closed on Thanksgiving, so we bought food to have in our motel for the next night. The winter storm hit - for us it was high winds which spread a red dust all over our car, and collected about 3 feet of leaves in the empty motel pool. We also visited the Utah state liquor store - it is illegal to run a liquor store here, so the beer and wine is all sold in the most miserable of government run settings to convince you that drinking is no fun. Didn't seem to be putting off the Thanksgiving crowds!

The next day we watched a bit of the Macy's Thanksgiving day parade from NYC on the TV before heading to Canyonlands national park - featured in the film '127 hours' - I won't spoil the film for you, but we hoped to come away with all of our limbs that we went in with. It is made up of several districts, the largest and closest to Moab being the "Island in the sky". We decided to focus on this as it is about 100 miles to get round the river
Upheaval Dome, Canyonlands NPUpheaval Dome, Canyonlands NPUpheaval Dome, Canyonlands NP

Very difficult to do without a wide angle lens - when I work out how to stitch some photos together on iPad I have the photos to make a panorama
to the other side at the "Needles" area.

The island in the sky is exactly what it says - a large plateau raised from the surrounding river canyons of the Colarado and Green rivers which merge inside the park - but you can only see this in a 2 day 4x4 adventure, and you have to supply your own 4x4 at this time of year. The upheaval dome in the middle of the park is a mystery to geologists apparently - they aren't sure if it has been hit by a meteorite, or if it is a result of up thrust of a salt dome from a salt layer below the sandstone. It has ethereal green rocks in the centre - I think these are the result of the mineral olivine, but I haven't had confirmation of that yet.

Both parks have great trails that take you to where you want to go - some are easy, others more challenging. The easier ones tend to be a bit crowded, but the more difficult ones get you away from people, cars or noise. I stood for about 5 mins in between two rock faces and all I could hear was the occasional gust of wind over the tops. For campers, there are also hikes that take several days.

Thanksgiving evening we had a classy microwave meal in, and watched the end of the Dallas football match on Tv. All washed down with my choice - Polygamy Porter - from a Utah microbrewery, and Cate's choice, a bottle of Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc she found for cheap at the liquor store. We decided we were thankful for the chance to have this trip, for sunshine, arches and the friends and family who may be reading this blog...

Today we went back into Arches to see the largest of the arches - landscape arch - in the 90s it cracked and a lot of it fell down on people below. It's pretty damaged so if you want to see it - best get there soon.

Additional photos below
Photos: 15, Displayed: 15


Everyone's favourite clownEveryone's favourite clown
Everyone's favourite clown

Macy's thanksgiving day parade
Polygamy PorterPolygamy Porter
Polygamy Porter

Well, why not...
Landscape ArchLandscape Arch
Landscape Arch

Slowly killing tourists since the 1990s...

1st December 2015

Ethereal green stuff
Any pics of the mystery green rocks? Professional nerd interest has been aroused.
3rd December 2015

Sadly most have been at the bottom of canyons so haven't been able to get much closer. I'll send you what I have...

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