I’ve shared a lot of big red rock photos recently! If you’re starting to get a bit overwhelmed by it all, rest assured that this is the last rocky outdoors post for a long while :) Moab was the last National Park stop on our Southwest road trip, before we cruised back into civilization for a long weekend in Denver with friends.I use ‘Moab’ in the title of this post pretty generously. Moab is not just *one* park. It’s the gateway city to Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah – not to mention the Colorado River.As this was a once in a lifetime road trip, we decided to cram in at least one hike in each park over our two days in Moab. We started with Park Avenue Trail in Arches National Park, as it’s a fairly easy two mile round trip hike, with spectacular views in either direction.Arches National Park was the first destination on our trip that was COLD. No more shorts and flip flops! The wind chill whipped along Park Avenue Trail, encouraging us to suit up in layers of hats, gloves, scarves and coats!That said, the mid-October timeline made the crowds scarce, and we had the trail all to ourselves. We’d heard horror stories of crammed parking lots, stand still traffic, and crowded, sweaty trails in Moab . . . so the chilly wind was a small trade off for stunning views like these all to ourselves!As we were the sole hikers, we had the choice of rock seats all to ourselves :)By the time we got to the end of the one mile trail, clouds had set in and the chill turned to a freeze. So we hiked backed to the car at a steady pace, excited to blast the heat!What a stunning trail to kick off our time in Arches National Park!Next, we climbed back into our trusty rental car and drove to Delicate Arch Hike, our second trek of the day. Although there are more than 2,000 arch formations in Arches National Park, standing at 46 feet high and 32 feet wide, Delicate Arch is the largest in the park. It’s also stunningly unique, in that it stands high on a cliff’s edge, framing the landscape inside it’s arch.On our ride over to Delicate Arch, we drove passed Balanced Rock (below), which was a sight to behold, and an easy park attraction to enjoy from the car!When we arrived at the trailhead for Delicate Arch, we bundled up once again for a three mile round trip hike. The majority of the hike was along a slowly inclining rock, with direct sunlight beating down. In the summer, this hike can be a hot challenge – in the fall, we appreciated the sun’s warm presence on our backs! As we approached the arch, the trail turned into a slim ledge with a sharp drop off. I didn’t take any photos here, but the path did get slightly more technical towards the end. That said, this path soon curved around an opened up to a brilliant view of the arch! There were maybe 30 people around the arch, eating lunch, taking photos, and enjoying some down time at the end of the trail.In this instance, we were thankful for some company as we wanted to snag that iconic arch photo!We also did our part and snapped some photos for other visitors, before settling down for a granola bar in the sun.Which was accompanied by some fantastic views. After our short rest, we hiked back to the trailhead, where we hopped in the car and said ‘farewell!’ to Arches.
Tip: Although we didn’t have time, we’d been told by friends that the best hike in the park was the long loop that starts at Landscape Arch, goes out to Dark Angel Pinnacle and returns via the Primitive Loop Trail. If we go back, we will be doing this loop first thing!Next on the list was enjoying a bit of downtown Moab, which included a pit stop for lunch! We used TripAdvisor to check out some local Moab haunts, and were both immediately smitten with photos of the cheesy tortilla creations at Quesadilla Mobilla. We were super chilly from all of our hiking, so we ordered our quesadillas and and chowed down in the comfort of our heated auto. WOW is all I have to say about this meal!While this wasn’t a shopping vacation (more hike, less retail!) I couldn’t pass up a gander through Moab’s Rock Shop, where I wound up spending numerous hours and hundreds of dollars. Seriously this shop was SO cool. My inner Girl Scout geek crawled out, and I couldn’t help but read every single leaflet in the store. After 30 minutes in the shop, Kai totally bailed on me. But I couldn’t pul myself away. This store felt like a museum, and I had to walk down ever aisle, and touch every stone before I could make my final purchases!See those disco balls of glass refracting sunlight? Look at the beautiful rainbows they created below!Of course I bought a little glass disco ball for my kitchen!And some fish fossils for my dad :)And some sparkly white stones for my living room!This is what my basket looked like an hour into my explorations.I now have a huge sheet of picture sandstone above the stove in my kitchen . . . and my Gramma does as well! :DHow cool is this?!Andddddd my basket two hours in.After spending at least two hours in the rock shop, Kai and I hopped in the car and checked into what would be our last campground of the trip.We had booked a night at Dead Horse Point State Park, which is a high elevation park with dramatic views of Canyonlands National Park.After we set up camp, we drove to the cliff’s edge to polish off the final adult beverages from our cooler, and watched the sun set over the Colorado River. Behind us were a slew of tiny camp sites, and in front of us, the edge of the world.I have to say, Dead Horse is not a very romantic name for a park. As we set up our tent, Kai and I took turns guessing why the park might be called Dead Horse. We basically skirted around the fact that the park could actually be a gravesite for horses. Our theories ranged from a Native American Chief who went by Dead Horse because his ninja-like movements made a swift and elegant horse look dead, to one of the rocky points looking like a lifeless horse on its back. Well, our friend Google confirmed that it was actually the worst possible scenario – the park’s giant cliffs were actually used as a natural corral by cowboys, who would wrangle the horses out onto the cliff’s edge, compound them in, claim the most beautiful stallions to ride, and then leave the rest to starve, jump, or die of exposure while overlooking the beautiful Colorado River below. Why they couldn’t have just let them go again, I have no idea. But hopefully it wasn’t an intentionally cruel act – and frankly I’m disappointed a park would be named after something so heartless, especially when there are so many inspirational wonders to behold in the park! But nonetheless, it was our home for the night, and we certainly embraced it!Just the kind of spot you want to take a photo to commemorate!The sun’s rays bathed rocks in pink, the trees in a burnt mint, and my husband’s face in yellow!We drank our last ciders in the car, staying warm in the heat but still taking in the spectacular views.
Our night in Dead Horse was the eve of my 32nd birthday, and I have to say, I’ve had definitely had more comfortable nights ringing in a new year.It was a gorgeous night outside, so we built a fire in an attempt to enjoy the evening, but it was SO COLD outside, and my seventeen layers and the hot flames were not enough to keep us warm. So we ate a few marshmallows and then crawled into the tent for the most sleepless night of my life!We were so high up, and the altitude meant that the freezing wind rattled on our tent non-stop. In addition to the noise, my fingers and toes felt like popsicles, and my sleeping bag was not insulated enough to keep out the chill. After shivering in the dark for five or six hours, at 3.30am I finally cracked and woke up Kai.
Together we pawed our way into the car, blasted the heat, and put our toes up to the vents until the feeling slowly started to come back! Kai didn’t want to keep the car on for the whole evening (although though I was completely gung-ho to sleep there!) so the last few hours of the night were spent sleepless, back in the tent. By the time the sun came up I was a sad mix of frozen and exhausted. This was exacerbated by the fact that Kai had gone for a run, so when I went to crawl out of my sleeping bag, there was no where to go or no one to talk to – I was alone in a remote camp site with a phone that had died overnight, and a boyfriend who was was gone with the car keys. I also woke up with an annoying coldsore! It was definitely the worst start to a birthday ever, and I laid in bed crying, feeling broken, abandoned, and exhausted until Kai came back. We then packed up the camp ground, a chore I was SO over, solidifying it as a pretty damn rough start to the day.That said, I’m not very breakable ;) and after a hot coffee and a wardrobe change (into a new Sezane sweater I had been saving for the occasion!) I was feeling a lot better!We then set off for one of the most spectacular parks of the trip (and our last one at that!) Canyonlands!As it was still quite chilly, we decided to drive to Island in the Sky, which is a district of the park with an incredibly scenic drive and a lot of pullouts!
So we drank coffee number two while taking in some of nature’s most fantastic vistas from the comfort of our heated vehicle! We’d really wanted to walk the Mesa Arch trail, a short loop trail that leads to Mesa Arch, one of the most photographed arches in Utah. BUT after seeing plenty of arches in Arches National Park the day before, and not wanting to brave the cold anymore, we moved the trail to the ‘next time’ list and hopped in the car to finish the last leg of our road trip to Colorado!I’ll share birthday part two soon – the day got off to a rocky start, but thankfully I have a wonderful husband who knows just when a gal needs a spa day for her birthday ;) So birthday part two featuring hot springs, spa adventures, and pasta dinner to come!