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‘The best of Moab’ in 3 days

By on December 28, 2017 in Travel with 0 Comments

Walking up to the Turret Arch: Many of the most famous and visited arches in the park have steps and wheelchair access.















By Joe Anderson

All great road trips have to start some place different than where they end.

My wife, and I planned a three week trip in March 2017 with three stages: the first part was to visit my snowbird brother in Yuma, then visit my wife’s cousin in Phoenix, and then on to adventuring in Moab.

When I thought of visiting Moab for the third time I got excited because there was so much to see and visit. I was going to be with my wife and I knew I had to take her to special places that would WOW her with colors, contours and with very little physical exertion. I needed the biggest bang for the buck.

I connected with a friend who is a Moab adventurer by the name of Tom McCrea. He leads small friendship tours into the “Never Never” land that looks desolate, empty, waterless and dead but in truth it is very much alive and offers breathe-taking beauty.

He gave me the run down of different places and sights and eventually came up with the “Seeing the Best of Moab itinerary in three days.”

According to our plan our first stop upon leaving Phoenix was stopping at Page, AZ where we spent the night. We visited Grays Canyon Dam and the visitor center. The dam forms the huge and beautifully clear Lake Powell.

It was the start of tourist season so all restaurants were busy by 5:30 p.m. and seating was limited. We decided to attempt to be seated by 4:30 p.m. on the rest of the trip, which would allow us seating and an early dinner. By eating early there is always room for dessert later in the evening. My motto: “There is always room for ice cream!”

The next day’s drive took us through Monument Valley, where the earth meets the sky. The panoramic views of Chattanooga wagon train type mountains with mesas, spires and buttes. The mountains were layered stripes with shades of red, white, brown, purple and black.

I wanted to close my eyes and picture the cowboys riding horses next to the wagons and on the plains. Many side trips to take beckoned us but we were on a schedule.

By arriving at Moab in the late afternoon, we could get familiar with the town, get checked in, shop a little and find one of our two designated restaurants.

On this first night we ate at the Moab Brewery on Main Street. It was recommended to us because of its history, clientele, specialized drinks and unique tasting cuisine.

Again we arrived early and for good reason, by 5:30 p.m. it was crowded and there was a long waiting line. I was glad we were seated early and that allowed time for viewing.

The Devil’s Garden area from one of the viewpoints looking north towards snow in the distance. “I do not have a specific name for this spot,” said Joe Anderson. “There were so many places from which to take beautiful scenic pictures.”

We got to the motel where I unloaded my mountain bike and got ready for an early morning ride. Moab is an end destination for mountain bikers; I did not want to pass up any biking opportunity.

It’s also home to many eclectic groups who hike, drive back country rigs, quads and jeeps.

Staying with Tom’s plan we decided to first visit the Arches National Park around 9 am. The park is just 11 miles outside of Moab. Since we had a Seniors National Parks Pass there was no park entrance fee.

The first stop was at the visitor’s center where I knew we would receive a daily weather report, maps and personal instruction from one of the rangers as to which of the three places to visit first: the Windows section, the Devil’s Garden or the Delicate Arches.

He recommended going to the Devil’s Garden first and doing the hikes early since it was going to be hot in the afternoon. He also said the lighting would be best for pictures early. We watched the public video and headed to the Devil’s Garden at the far end of the park.

As we slowly drove along the windy road we enjoyed the cacophony of visual sights. It was hard to concentrate on the road because there was so much to see — my wife Cyndi kept speaking to me about keeping my eyes on the road, which I think she watched more than I.

Arriving at a huge but crowded parking area, we found a spot and headed to the trailhead, excited to be on our first hike.

The trail was very easy for the first mile and ended at Landscape Arch. I went on to the Double O Arch, which was a more difficult trail. At this point I was glad my wife did not follow; it was getting hot and the trail was a little narrow and had a little exposure.

There were several other trails leading to other arches but those required more time and energy.

Many of the hikers had continued on to the Double O Arch, and were having lunches, drinking water and sitting under the arches. The colors were vivid with blooming cacti adding to the color spectrum.

I wanted to stay longer but knew I needed to connect with Cyndi. Since it was taking longer than I thought I took a short cut. I was wearing running shoes and touched a barrel cactus with the side of my left foot. Ouch! I now had thorns in the side of my foot and little toe.

Lesson learned, “Stay on the marked trail.”

I returned to the car where I met up with my wife who was waiting for me outside the car, in the heat and with no water. By her look I knew I was in trouble; I had the keys. Oops! Another lesson!

We next headed to the Delicate Arches. We did a short one-hour hike to the Upper Delicate Arch Viewpoint.

The air was so clear that the arches looked closer than they were. There were amazing majestic views towers, birds, plateaus and colors around each bend and over each hill.

The last viewing area was the Windows Section.

Again, finding a parking spot was a bit of a challenge but once that was accomplished we headed for the trailhead and bathrooms.

We chose to hike to the North Window Arch, which was closer because we were getting tired, thirsty, hungry and we had limited time. We sat under the arch, drank water and had our picture taken.

I laid on my back and looked up at the arch hoping it would not suddenly collapse. (By the way they do collapse.) Since then, I have since seen pictures in magazines and movies of people sitting in the same place under the same arch. It is nice to say: “I have been there!”

When we got back to the car my wife surprised me by wanting to hike to the Cove of Caves. It was a short hike with a little bouldering involved. I had forgotten that Cyndi enjoyed simple bouldering.

While she sat and rested I went for a short climb up into one of the arches. One of the nice things is that there are hikes for each person’s ability. We had done three hikes and were ready to head back to Moab, eat, slip into the hot tub, go to bed early and get ready for the next day.

The chosen place to eat dinner was at the highly recommended Moab Diner, a red and white striped diner on the main street. We arrived early, found a seat in the already getting crowded diner. The food was great and the service was wonderful. It was so nice to sit and reminisce about the grandeur of the Arches National Park.

After my early morning bike ride, we loaded the bike and got the car ready for the trip through the last two parks before leaving Moab.

Our first stop was at Dead Horse Point State Park, and the cost of entrance was only $10. The visitor’s center was informative and gave us insight into what we were going to see.

The name came from the horses that died there within sight of the Colorado River 2,000 feet below. We were not really going to hike much because we were tired from hiking the previous day.

We did want to hike along the canyon rims looking down into the canyons of the Colorado River. I was astounded as I tried to grasp the appalling abyss of purple and gold and red, a chasm too terrible and beautiful to understand all at once. The effect of that moment must have been tremendous, for I have never recovered from it.

We could also see a labyrinth of mountain bike, jeep, and animal trails zig zagging on the valley floor.

One of the interesting facts is the elevation of 5,375 feet and aridness made us very thirsty. It seemed we were always drinking water realized the area only receives 10 inches of precipitation a year.

Since we were not acclimatize to the elevation it did not take us long to get winded and ready to get in the car. How did the pioneers survive?

Upon leaving we headed to where Canyonlands National Park and Islands in the Sky is located.

The area is so large and so diverse that it is carved naturally into three distinctive districts: Islands in the Sky, the Maze and the Needles. There are acres of colorful canyons, mesas, buttes, arches and spires in this high desert.

On the 31-mile drive to the end of the road we were fortunate enough to see lots of newly born calves and vividly colored desert flowers. In fact, much of the desert was moving to full bloom and alive with brilliant colors.

Along the way we stopped at the Green River Overlook, Buck Canyon Overlook and at the end, the Grandview Point Overlook.

At each place we were able to walk around the rims and with the use of binoculars we saw more detail.

When we finished walking, taking pictures and looking around we headed back to the highway. We had to leave the majority of the Canyonlands for our next Moab visit.

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