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Published: April 17th 2008
I’m retroactively blogging a trip my brother and I took around to some of the National Parks in the US in August of 2005. I wanted to put some information out about these amazing places, as they are, in my opinion, the highlights of the US.
We had been camping for several weeks straight by the time we made it to Moab, so we decided to take a break at the Super 8 for two days to shower, relax, and zone out for a bit. It was glorious.
We then headed out to the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park. It was absolutely stunning and not like anything I had seen before. The heat was just insane. It is a large desert area with amazing rock formations; the beautiful southwestern red rock formed in enormous spire clusters scattered across vast distances of scrub bush and sand. The sun above was scorching hot, and red rock underneath our feet absorbed the heat and radiated it from below as well. I have never been so drenched in sweat and so happy to be done hiking. We each had a few liters of water with us in our Camelbacks when we set
A slot canyon in the Needles district is a welcome thing. Nice, cool shade in the hot desert!
off; we finished without a drop of water. That night we camped out in the National Park, and it was one of the most memorable nights. There was only one other group at the campsite, so we had a large area to ourselves. You could see an amazing amount of stars, which was only overshadowed by the absolute silence of the desert night. It is amazing how used to sound the human body becomes, there is almost always something you can hear but never really realize, pipes, distant traffic, wind, birds, something. In the desert, at night, the silence is deafening. It was only interrupted by the occasional coyote. Absolutely fantastic.
After the desert, we headed back to Moab and set up at a campsite north of the city. It was a pretty cushy deal; the camp had showers, proper bathrooms, and even a swimming pool. We used this as our base for the next few days when we checked out the Island in the Sky district and Arches National Park.
Island in the Sky was fairly impressive, but we didn’t do much hiking here. You drive into the park on the top of enormous cliffs where you
look out onto a series of canyons, within canyons, within canyons. It is a sensational view, and the vertigo inspiring heights are breathtaking. However, it isn’t much more than a few hours to see it, in my opinion.
The following days we spent in Arches National Park. We did a nice, though very popular, circuit in the north of the park. It was extremely hard to escape the crowds, but we were able to find some nice places to relax when we put some effort to it. I don’t recall the name of one of the out of the way arches we went to, but we drove for nearly an hour down a dirt road, parked at a small lot, and hiked for about an hour and a half up hill. We finally came around a corner and had a huge, beautiful arch all to ourselves. After a while we realized that even here we weren’t to ourselves, off in the distance we noticed other people in four by four vehicles taking photos of us in the arch from afar. The next day we decided to embrace the crowds and signed up for a free tour provided by the
park guides. This was extremely insightful, as they brought us through “The Fins”, an interesting rock formation that can only be described as, well, fins. They are not yet formed arches, and look like shark fins sticking out of the ground. However, when you are inside them they completely block out the sound from the nearby road and provide an amazing sound barrier. The walk with the guide is definitely recommended.
On our last few days in Moab we decided to do a rafting trip in West Water Canyon. It was a fantastic time. Our guides were great, and while the first day’s trip down the river wasn’t the most exciting, the second day we had amazing rapids. We set up camp above the first set of rapids on our night in the canyon and did a short hike to a small waterfall a short ways away. Our guide also taught my brother and I how to swim the rapids, which were a level one and a half to two. That isn’t very extreme, but swimming those rapids was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life! That night the guides cooked amazing lasagna in the Dutch oven
that they had brought with them down the river. It was seriously one of the best lasagnas I’ve ever had, and it was in the middle of canyon cooked over an open fire. The second day we hit the river and had great time going through the rapids, level two and three, for that day. It was a great way to close our Moab experience. The next day we decided to head out and get to the higher elevation, and cooler weather, in Rocky Mountain National Park.
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