Our less scenic journey along Highway 70 was plenty scenic for us. We stopped in multiple viewing areas along the way and were rewarded with a landscape of vast canyons and richly colored rock formations. As we approached the Moab area, the scenery became quite dramatic, with huge towering bluffs rising beside us, eventually forming a chute that led us into the Arches National Park turnoff. The road from the Visitor Center into the park reminds me of the beginning of a theme park ride. A really popular one, where you definitely want to time your entry.
As you climb past the series of switch backs and begin your journey along the 18 mile, perfectly maintained road, you can immediately see signs for trail heads and viewing areas of the most popular sights. Yes, there are arches a plenty, but there are also other stunning geological formations, like “Park Avenue,” where it looks like you are walking down a street populated by towering skyscrapers. I highly recommend seeing the movie in the Visitor Center that explains how the landscape was formed. The entirety of the park is ephemeral in nature, and will change and ultimately erode over time. A long time, mind you; don’t feel you need to rush right out. Even in our time though, some of the arches have experienced massive rockfall, or have collapsed entirely. There are enormous rocks everywhere, impossibly balanced and held in place by the tiniest of foundations. Many look as though they could go at any moment. People are warned by signage all throughout the park not to walk on the arches. And though we didn’t see anyone being quite that stupid, we did see a whole lot of blatant disregard for the other signs saying to stay on the trails. I have a really hard time with rule breakers in the parks and had to bite my tongue a number of times.
We got set up in a really awesome site in Devil’s Garden Campground some time in the late afternoon. It was in the upper 90s and promised to get even hotter during our stay. There are no hookups (ie. no AC), so we had to plan accordingly. For the most part, opening the back window and using multiple fans kept us reasonable. We turned down the fridge to its lowest setting, but even so, it struggled and sucked the battery lower and lower, even though we had full solar. I will just say right now we would not have stayed if we didn’t have the generator with us. At sunset, the battery could be upwards of 90% capacity, but then down all the way to 64% in the morning. We topped it up during approved generator hours (8-10am) and it maintained well during the day. It would not have recuperated from 64% however, and we would either have had to find a campground outside the park with hookups, or give up on cold milk for coffee and ice for my morning shake. That crosses the “fun” line for us, so we’re both happy to have caved and gotten the little Yamaha.
We did a late afternoon hike right from the campground to Broken Arch and Tapestry Arch. Glorious. We happened to have timed our arrival back at the campground right as the sun was setting, so I got a sweet shot of Dory. Dinners were quick sauce pan reheats from frozen meals (like Beef & Broccoli, Pasta and Italian Sausage, that kind of thing), plus a bit of pre-washed salad or rice on the side. Not too much running of the stove and minimal cleanup.
The next morning, Richard rode the National park road and I sagged him. That worked out perfectly for both of us because I got to be in the air conditioned car. We met up at the Visitor Center and he got changed. Dory had to come along with us because we only got to reserve the sweet site for one night. Then, we sort of meandered our way back, this time stopping at all of the lookouts and even taking some short hikes. Richard had to talk me into the short hike to Sand Dune Arch, and that one turned out to be one of my favorites. That afternoon, we hiked out to Landscape Arch, which included Pine Tree Arch, Tunnel Arch, Navajo Arch, and Partition Arch, as a bonus.
Our third day in the park was the hottest and we strategized by taking a driving day trip down to Canyonlands National Park. I was REALLY ready for not hiking in the heat. Along the way, there is a breathtaking overlook at Dead Horse Canyon State Park. While the view is amazing, the story behind the name is awful. Apparently, back in the day, some cowboys corralled a bunch of wild mustangs out on the point of the mesa so they could choose which ones to domesticate. This resulted in the mass deaths of the rest of them, having been cut off from any water source. Humans suck sometimes. On a happier note, we checked out the campgrounds in the park. They are very nice and even have hookups and little shade shelters. That would be a nice place to stay if you’re going to hang out in Canyonlands for a while.
The rest of the day we spent driving the scenic road through Canyonlands, trying hard not to hyperventilate when looking down from some of the view points. There is this one road, the “Shafer Trail” that looks pretty much like my worst nightmare. Incidentally, on our way in, the Acura navigation system had us routed a weird way. I honestly think Bruce was trying to get us on that road from down in Moab. Sorry honey, not with this driver. You can pretty much see all of the view points and even take the short trail to Mesa Arch in 3-4 hours. That was perfect. Dinner that night was in Moab at a place called 98 Center, and that was fabulous.
Upon our return to Dory, we realized just how hot it had been because our real wax LED candles had completely deformed. One of them melted to the point that all of the electronics fell out of the bottom. Guess that’s not the best thing to have inside an aluminum trailer sitting in 100+ degree heat all day. Also: chocolate. Just nope.
As we pack up and move on, I can say these were both spectacular parks. It was nice to be able to stay in Devil’s Garden, but it was a risk doing this in the summer. Spring or Fall weather would probably be much easier on the battery, as well as on my own personal weather threshold. I could hang in there, drinking lots of water and staying off the trails during the worst times, but it was pretty exhausting. Better in an Alto than a tent for sure, but you know it’s warm when you can’t even tell if you’re having a hot flash in the middle of the night. Next stop: a KOA.
Total miles from Fremont Indian SP: 211.4, 18.3 mpg, 4 hours 42 min. Sites: 46 (amazing) and 6 (probably one of the tightest fits). Anything bigger than an Alto would probably not have fit into that “double pull out” site. These sites are reservable through recreation.gov and get booked up solid. Keep checking for cancellations though, that’s how I booked ours. Our last night, hardly anyone was in the campground, even though it still said it was full. I think people bail when it’s hot. There are toilets and water spigots and the sites around the upper loop are some of the nicest and most private.