– Moab, Utah to Canyonlands, National Park –
I love Moab. It’s such a lovely and interesting place to visit. I could almost live here, if it weren’t so dry and cold. Also, it’s way too long of a drive to Whole Foods. The nearest is probably in Salt Lake City? And it snows there. Can you imagine?
In any event, we went on our nice, long run through the canyons just outside Moab, Mark, Ripley, Mom, and me. It was nice weather, though a little cool. It would turn out to be a nice day though, despite the early morning cold, so I can’t complain too much. We did have to drive out to park near the trail for our run, since the trail is farther from our hotel than it was when we stayed in the La Quinta in Moab in the past, but that turned out well enough.
On our drive back, we spotted a donut shop, and we ducked inside to see what they had. It turned out to be a little hipster-y, with unique flavors and some cereal and other odd things stuck to donuts, but the regular donuts were very good, so we didn’t mind too much. We ended up with a whole dozen of them. I’m ashamed to admit that I ordered that one that’s second from the left on the bottom row: it’s pumpkin spice. What a basic white girl thing to order, right? It’s okay. It was delicious.
Mom asked for those donuts with the runnier chocolate, so don’t think that they make a bad glaze, either. She just wanted them extra moist and messy. Dad was a little surprised when we returned with donuts, as he’d been planning to have his leftover Thai veggies and rice, like a healthy person. Instead he had donuts that the runners brought home. It’s like we ran just so we could have donuts. I won’t deny that’s sometimes how exercise works, though I would run anyway. Runner’s high and all of that, I guess.
Since we didn’t have to pack up and leave today, it didn’t take us long to clean up and climb into the car for the day. We had a couple of parks and things we wanted to visit, so we were on the road pretty quick. On the way out, we stopped by a tire place for an air up. Maybe professionals could finally make our new tires behave for the trip. They at least got them aired up equally, which we had been having trouble with without a tire gauge.
Our first stop for the day was Dead Horse Point State Park, which is absolutely worth the entrance fee. It is positively gorgeous. It takes just under an hour to get there from Moab, and it overlooks portions of Canyonlands National Park that you can’t see in the same way from the national park itself. There’s really only one major lookout accessible by car, but it is a doozy.
We all climbed out of the car to stomp around the overlook. There’s a decent-sized section of trail that runs along the canyon rim at the lookout, from a covered pavilion down to several sections that require a scramble over some rocks and down a few tiny cliffs. Mark, Ripley, and I did most of the scrambling, while Sabre, Mom, and Dad elected to stay up on the more sensible trails.
Mark and I took some great photos of Ripley sitting out on the rocky overlooks, and meanwhile my parents had to calm down a few onlookers that saw us taking her photo. When we take Ripley’s instagram photos, we just drop her leash and tell her to stay, which she does really well. People who are not used to her ability to do as she is told sometimes freak out a little when she is somewhere that looks like it could be sketchy (like 15 feet from a canyon rim). She is never in any danger, but sometimes people worry. More often, they are amazed, as she is pretty used to freezing in front of cool-looking things and looking at the camera so her parents will stop taking her photo. She’s our little trained model, for sure.
In Dead Horse Point, you can see a drying pool for potash, or potassium chloride, in the distance. This type of potash is typically used for plant fertilizer or manufacturing processes. This evaporation method is used to purify and extract the potash from other materials. I first learned about potash from the YouTube channel How to Make Everything, and if that kind of thing is your jam, that channel is really fun to watch. Besides, who doesn’t want to watch a guy that has no idea how to make anything learn to make things like bronze weapons?
In any event, we left Dead Horse Point State Park feeling rather cheerful about our day. We spent more time there than we expected, which did change around the plans for our day a little, but not significantly, as we still had plenty of time to spend in Canyonlands.
Canyonlands is actually a rather large park, even if you aren’t hiking in it. It took us most of the rest of the afternoon to visit everything. Mark, Ripley, and I visited Canyonlands several years back, on a trip in which we visited all 5 of Utah’s national parks for the first time in a 24 hour period. I don’t recommend it, as you really don’t get to see much, but we did have a good time on that trip. This time, we attempted to really do Canyonlands National Park justice.
Our trip did not start with the Island in the Sky Visitor Center, as it usually might have. We already had a national park stamp for Canyonlands, and no one needed a souvenir or a bathroom break, so we decided not to visit. We had picked up our park map at the fee station at the entrance, so there wasn’t really a need. We didn’t even visit on the way out, which is odd for us, but not totally unheard of.
We drove out first to the Green River overlook, which wasn’t too exciting, but was nice enough. Next, we went out to Whale Rock and Upheaval Dome, which were cooler, but still nothing like the spectacular views of the canyons we would see on the main road through the park.
On our way out to the Grand Overlook, we elected not to stop, instead planning to make those stops on our way out. All of the people climbed out at the Grand Overlook for some photos. It’s really a neat spot. It’s a bit like looking out at a canyon down inside another canyon. You can see what I mean in the featured image at the top of the page. It’s a beautiful and very strange view. It feels almost like you are looking at a canyon from a distant telescope, and not from another canyon wall on top of it. I wonder how many people have ever crossed those areas, either on foot or on horseback, or even in a vehicle. I know there are a few roads through the park, but it isn’t always clear what is accessible and what isn’t.
From the Grand Overlook, we drove back just a little ways to a nearby picnic area hoping for a place to eat our lunch. The park was popular, and at first, we couldn’t find an open place. We circled once, then again, and just as we were about to leave, we spotted an empty table and pulled in to park for it. It was even in the shade.
We unloaded the dogs, our cooler, and our food tubs and had a nice little picnic out under a twisted little evergreen tree. Mom had a deli meat sandwich, Dad an egg salad sandwich, and Mark and I ate our usual combo of boiled eggs, cheeses, baby carrots, and hummus. Oh, and yogurt. Don’t forget the yogurt. The dogs, of course, had kibble. Ripley had a good time sniffing around at my feet, too. She loves picnic lunches, since she gets to spend some quality time investigating the surrounding landscape without her parents dragging her around to where they want to go on her leash. Not that we are the ones that usually get to do the dragging.
After we finished our lunch, we packed the Suburban up once again and did a few more pull offs. Several of the canyon overlooks are very lovely, and some are much easier to get to than others. Mom and Dad did the easier ones with us, while Mark and I got out and did a little more walking and scrambling for a few of the more challenging ones.
One of our favorite overlooks was Shafer Canyon and the little pull-off right before it, which give you a view of Shafer Trail Road. We didn’t really know it was there at first, so we were just taking our canyon photos at the first stop. After a few minutes, we spotted the thing, and we were immediately trying to figure out where to get a better angle for a photograph. The thing looks wicked from above.
Shafer Trail Road is an unpaved 4×4 trail through Canyonlands National Park. Most of the road is pretty tame, and simply meanders through the floor of the upper canyon area, allowing drivers to enjoy the sights from the secondary canyon rim. The road is 18 miles long, and once again makes lists of the “most dangerous roads.” That feels a little like a theme for the trip now.
Truthfully though, the only section that is truly dangerous are the Shafer Switchbacks, which climb the canyon walls at a tremendous incline just inside the entrance on the main road to Canyonlands National Park. The rest of the road is fairly tame. Still, the switchbacks can be hazardous, as they are narrow, steep, and the road itself is not in great repair. Videos of people doing it on YouTube show it to be relatively simple in a 4-wheel-drive, and we watched a Jeep climb the switchbacks easily while we were taking photos. I think Mark and I will probably do it on our next visit, in our Tacoma. We will just have to decide if we want to go up or down the switchbacks. Either way, as long as weather conditions are good, the road isn’t too challenging. It is still breathtaking to look at, though.
We finished up in Canyonlands and turned back towards Moab not long after our photos at the Shafer Canyon Overlook. Back in Moab, we took a little turn-off down Utah 279, which is also called Potash Road. The road actually leads back to that potash mining area we spotted earlier in the day, and runs along the Colorado River.
In the earliest section of the road, we found the Wall Street Climbing Area, which is a popular spot for adventure-seekers from Moab, who come out to try their hand at crack-climbing and bouldering along the canyon walls next to the Colorado. The sun was getting lower on the horizon, so much of the wall was in the shade, which seemed to make it a popular time for climbing. We saw a number of people out climbing, either holding a belay rope for a buddy or scaling the wall. It was one of our closer views of rock climbers, though we have seen a number out and about.
Further down the road, we stopped just outside the potash mine to take some awsome photos of the Colorado River and the buttes beyond. With the sun setting and the rocks reflected on the still water, we managed to get some really cool shots. We also all had fun walking around down by the river. There’s a little boat launch down there, as well as a few signs about protecting the river from invasive species. They had a big sign about what fish to please take home and eat, and what fish to release to help keep the population of native animals strong. It was an interesting read.
When we had finished there, we all loaded back into the car and drove back into Moab. We didn’t have any strong plans for dinner, but after a light lunch, we were all pretty hungry. There turned out to be a pizza place that was basically across the street from our hotel, and while it was not the pizza place we once enjoyed here in Moab, it was good enough. In fact, the pizza place we have visited the last two times we were in Moab has closed, so that’s a bit of a bummer.
For dinner, Mark, Dad, and I had the pizza and salad buffet. Mom ordered a burger instead. She missed out. Our waiter even heard that all three of us were vegetarians and sent out a bunch of veggie pizzas to the buffet just for us. It was lovely. The salad bar was excellent, too. Dad and Mark also tried some local beers, but those were ruled to only be so-so. I would’ve thought Moab would be awesome for craft beer, but I don’t drink the stuff, so I can hardly claim any actual knowledge on the subject.
After dinner, we unloaded the food things from the Suburban into the hotel and have now retired for the evening. Tonight is our last night in Moab, which makes me a little sad. We didn’t have time to visit Arches, which is right outside town. It’s been really busy over there every time we have driven by, though, so it might not have been much fun to visit. I haven’t ever seen so many people at Arches, even in the summer. I guess fall is a good time to visit the desert. I guess that is what we are doing.
Tomorrow we will once again start the day with our canyon run through the outskirts of Moab, and probably with another helping of leftover donuts. A dozen donuts is way too many for 4 people in one day, but it was cheaper to get them that way. I think Dad is actually going to have his veggies and rice, and I don’t really want another donut. Hopefully Mark and Mom can power through the last of the donuts. Tomorrow night we are in Torrey, which is just outside Capitol Reef National Park.
– Trip Total : 1,279 miles –