Canyonlands and smaller arches

Published: July 28th 2017
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Geo: 38.2574, -109.963

Aaaaaah the bliss of waking up in a bed with clean linen. A hot shower without a dash across the pebbles to the shower block was a welcome refreshing change. Not that camping has been an unpleasant experience, in fact it has inspired us to change our travel plans for next summer and camp our way around Canada. We grabbed our backpacks and went back to the camp to join the hardcore campers for breakfast. It was a stunning setting with the sun rising on red hills in the foreground with mountains in the background. We ate a leisurely breakfast, as for the next few days, the pace has decreased and we have a more relaxed schedule. We didn't even need to strike the tents today because we had two nights in Moab. So, the comfort-seekers around us put our tents up quickly and then enjoyed breakfast with our group.
As soon as breakfast was over, and we had made our packed lunches to enjoy at a scenic spot later, we hit the van and set off for the Canyonlands. We decided to explore the Islands in the Sky area of the park which was one of the easiest areas to drive to. Our first stop was Grand View Point; it did exactly what it said in the tin - it was a grand view! Standing at the viewpoint, you could gaze in three directions and canyons stretched out in front of us from all angles. From the height we were at, the canyons below looked like pockmarks in the skin of the land. The yawning mouth of the canyon opened out before us for miles. And this was just the beginning of the two mile round trip trail. As we walked, rocky outcrops presented themselves, just calling out to be clambered on for stomach-lurching photo opportunities. The sky was a blazing blue and the walk was flat enough to be a pleasant time to chat to one another as we walked.
When we reached the end of the trail, it was spell-binding. The edge of the path simply dropped away into a vast chasm below. In the distance, monoliths were rising from the desert floor and sheer walls faced us from the opposite side of the canyon. This was merely a warm-up for the Grand Canyon we will be waking up to on Saturday morning, and if this was its a warm-up the big one is going to be incredible.
Following our hike, we moved onto our next stop for lunch. This was Mesa Arch, a quarter of a mile steep climb from the head to the arch itself. As we approached, our breath was taken away yet again. This was a long, short arch with thick, gently sloping sides, through which you could see incredible structures of red rocks, pillars, pinnacles and canyons contrasting with the bright blue sky beyond. We sat in the shade of a nearby tree and ate our lunch. It was a stunning spot to enjoy some chilled out time, taking in the monumental view in front of us. After a while, we were able to pouch up the courage to clamber up the sloping sides to the centre of the arch and pose for photos. From atop the arch, we had even more stunning views, the whole park below opened up before our eyes, reaching as far as we could see. The arch itself was surrounded by low hills, the summits of which gave equally inspiring views.
Sadly, all good situations must come to an end, and it was time to head back down the trail and back into town. As we pulled through Moab town centre, we were struck once again by how quaint the town was, despite its size as a relatively large town in the area. The stores were all independent, motels and hotels were practically chain-free and the bars were just the right amount of hick. We wandered through the streets, enjoying shave ice from a tiny wooden hut on Main Street. It was a taste sensation! Of course I've had slushies in the past, but this was something else. Tiny shavings of ice which, when packed in tight, took on a snow-like consistency. To this soft, powdery mixture, the server added sweet syrup in a huge range of flavours. The small cup was, in the tradition of American food, huge, and plenty big enough for three of us to share quite comfortably. I chose pineapple. Passion fruit and "orange dreamtime". Others in the group chose blueberries, raspberries, lemons, limes, blue lagoons, piña coladas and margueritas. By the time we had munched and slurped our way to the bottom of the cups, we all had brightly coloured tongues, lips and teeth. It sure wasn't a healthy snack, but it was fabulous!
After we had finished trawling the souvenir shops and galleries, we found a local bar to detain us for a while. McSfiff's bar (right next door to Woody's bar - I kid you not!) was a true American bar with booths, beer stations and great country and western decor. Their beer selection was extensive - locally micro-brewed ales from Utah were low on percentage due to the state laws, but they had a huge variety of bottled beers from around the USA, including some that emulated beers from around the world. There were wheat beers, pilsners, Bavarian ales, lagers - the choice was endless. They also had a huge number of appetisers available, including American classics such as sliders, which we discovered were miniature burgers, pulled pork and bubble bread. It was a great place to sit, chill and spend time discussing the day and finding out more about each other. We were a pretty tight group by this point, and drinking together added to the bond. We soon got onto discussing the Smurfs and discovered that they have different names for them in each country. Italy give them the best name - the Poofes. Papa Smurf is brilliantly named Grande Poofe. Superb! By the time we left, Erica was pretty wasted and we strolled out onto the street, expecting to find the weather conditions the same as we left them.
What we didn't expect as we we merged from the bar was a torrential downpour! The sky had turned black and the rain was lashing down, bouncing off the pavements. We had to run down the street to get back to our campsite, dodging the huge drops by dashing under awnings, gas station forecourts and trees. However, nothing kept us from being drenched and we arrived back at the campsite, raced into our tents and closed the flaps against the rain. We lay back under cover, listening to the storm hammering down on the canvas. Fortunately, the downpour was short-lived and we were soon out, enjoying a beer while cooking together. Jen made an awesome chilli and while we worked we chatted, sang and shared stories. Stacey and I made a quick exit when we saw a Juicy rental van parked next to us and went to speak to the couple who had hired it. They gave us a tour of the van and showed us the tiny, compact kitchen, the epic proportions inside such a small vehicle and the penthouse suite at the top - a clever use of space that left the car itself as a great storage and resting place. It was great and once again convinced us to hire one and drive around Canada next year.
After dinner, came the impromptu talent show which was hilarious! With a few beers inside them, people were dancing, twerking, singing, you name it they were doing it. It was a really fun, social evening and we finished off the night with S'mores, an American tradition we had never heard of. We lit a camp fire and slid marshmallows onto long skewers. Once they were toasted and gooey they were added to a honey graham cracker, a chunk of chocolate was added and then another graham cracker. This was all swooshed together and bitten into! Yes it was calorific. Yes it was overly-sweet. Yes it was tooth decay in a bite. But man was it fantastic! How these have not made their way to the UK is beyond me!
Bed soon called, and ingeniously, I added two sleeping bags to the inflatable mattress. Lying on the new bed now became a pleasure and I drifted off to sleep with the gentle sounds of the breeze around me.
States added: New Hampshire, Vermont


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