You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Utah’ tag.

Tara poses in Wilson Arch

Tuesday morning I was up on the rock again before the sun rose. We all slept pretty well. It was only a little chilly but Arno and I are such outdoors people, that all five of us had warm gear. Arno went into get-going mode right away, and I let him. I sat and watched the silent desert, and caught the first sunlight fire orange on peaks to the West. The sun rose quickly and I stayed up there till sunbeams had crossed the valley toward our camp, and had nearly crossed the road to us. I had come to rest on a perch above Arno, watching him work for us. He looked up and spotted me, so I came back down into camp. Coffee was ready for the grownups, hot cocoa ready for the kids (none of whom had yet stirred). Breakfast was half-cooked and only needed me to turn the bacon. Hm, camping like this would be easy to get used to.

Me taking photos from Wilson Arch

Our big plan for the day was to get closer to Canyonlands National Park. We were camped at Sand Flats Recreation Area, situated close to Moab, just south of Arches NP. This is a great central location for vacationers into trail biking, dirt biking, quad running, and having a city nearby for water, ice, and beer. It’s not a great base camp for Canyonlands, however. So we packed up to make the 2½ hour trip south (it would have been 1½ hours, but we dawdled). We stopped first in Moab for ice, dry ice, and water. Arno brought a couple of 5-gallon jugs that we lived from.

It’s always interesting to camp with someone new for the first time (well, actually, Labor Day weekend was our first camp trip but it was at KOA and not real camping, so I don’t use that as a reference). Arno is willing to put a lot more effort into things. Since my car camping has evolved slowly from backpacking, I tend to do all things in mini-scale. Use only drops of water if possible, then re-use it. Re-use the same scant dishes, do without some things like actual dishsoap, because a person can actually survive without it. Arno, however, has the truck packed with everything five large campers could need, and then some! He uses the water he needs, the dishes he needs, and actually has a whole routine of dishwashing, drying, and putting away that is perfected.

A fun thing about the two of us is that we both believe that a person can eat well while camping. Of course, we acquiesced to one day for hotdogs (Tara and I brought canned biscuits for our pigs-in-a-blanket preference) and we brought fixins for s’mores. Other than that, we had tortellini, grilled asparagus, fried bacon and eggs, fajitas, etc. I brought my Asian chicken walnut rice salad, but it bombed with the kids, so that’s a mental note for the future. We roused the kids, fed them, and then cleaned up the breakfast stuff while hollering at them to help pack up. We left late morning to the great delight of a couple who had been circling the campground for some time, waiting for a spot to open up.

Arno and me on the rocks above camp

On the road south, I again had strange flashbacks from ages ago. Yesterday when we passed the entrance to Arches NP, I pointed it out to Tara, “Hey! You and I have been there!” She didn’t remember. Today I finally recalled the time when I was here before:  cross-country trip with my mother. Oh, gosh, I was so angry with her on that trip. Man, that woman was a world-class complainer. Tara and I were going to make the move from California to Massachusetts just the two of us, and bond. Tara and I travel brilliantly together, and always have. Mom begged and begged to come along (“It’ll be so much fun, the three of us girls, and I’ll get to know Tara better.”), and I finally agreed. She launched into blah, blah, blah non-stop about her friends, her house, her husband, her church, blah blah blah complain complain. She complained about sitting in the car all day. Complained about the hotels. When we came through this part of the country, she complained about the heat. Never stopped complaining. So, it went from a really fun road trip with my kid to trying to console my mother who carelessly ignored my Tara girl for thousands of miles. Arrggh. No wonder I had forgotten about having already visited these Utah parks!

Right there on the highway, we spotted Wilson Arch, and pulled over to explore our first arch of the trip. We girls had not yet had a chance to “get our rock legs” and were a bit wobbly and unsure on the slickrock. Slickrock, as I discovered in Oak Creek last summer, is best climbed by planting your feet flat against the slope and moving up by walking. Once you achieve the trust of your feet and the rock, it’s easy, but at first it is non-intuitive. We climbed around and through the arch and had some spectacular views of the wide open desert.

Newspaper Rock State Historic Monument

We left the main highway 191 and turned onto highway 211 toward the park. On the way, the views were captivating, and I had to drive in front, since it was easier for Arno to keep track of me and my many stops for photos. Our best stop was Newspaper Rock National Historic Site. Miguel was excited about it and wore his Newspaper Rock T-shirt in honor of the visit, but was still feeling very sick and not able to enjoy much of the journey or the sights. The rock is so-named because it is a large wall filled with petroglyphs. Ancient writing of course touches the anthropologist in me, and I can’t help but stare in awe. The petroglyphs were applied by different indigenous American people over a 2000-year time span, and so one can imagine they tell many stories together on one page. In the Navajo language, the rock is called Tse’ Hane’ for rock that tells a story.

Farther along the highway, we were treated to better and better views of North and South Six-Shooter Peaks. They are framed by sheer red cliffs and bound by blue skies above and silver grey winter trees below. What stunning country!

At the park gate we found that we were too late to get a campsite inside the park, which had been our goal. There are 26 sites and people in the know show up first thing in the morning to lay claim to them. We toured the campsites anyway, and found that at least 10 of them were roped off, supposedly “under construction,” though what was being constructed was impossible to tell. We backtracked to BLM land a few miles outside the park and found a campsite at Hamburger Rock. This turned out to be a serendipitous event, because we all loved the campsite and the excellent Hamburger Rock. Originally our plans had been to pack up early the next morning and try once more to camp inside the park, but we discarded that idea in exchange for staying put.

Tara peeks into the roadside ruin

We ate lunch and then went into the park to try a trail or two in the remainder of the day. We stopped at the Roadside Ruin, which appears to be a reconstructed grain bin of some kind, made of rocks mortared into a large container under a rock ledge. Arno and I agreed that if reconstructed (it looks brand-new), the granary is not compelling. Even if it’s modeled exactly after an actual ruin, or in the same exact spot. It just isn’t the same. The fascination of an actual ruin is that ancient people actually touched those stones; placed them precisely in that spot.

Ferns drop from a sheltered crack in the wall where water seeps out

Then we took a walk along the Cave Spring Trail. This short trail (1/2 mile) packs a ton of fascinating things into a easy walk and must be swarmed with families at busier times of the year. At first we saw the Cowboy Camp, and though I have always enjoyed finding old remains of relatively recent peoples, it’s fun to see that others find it fascinating too. This camp comes from the days when white pioneering men were trying to make a living out of driving cattle across these wide deserts. Cave Spring trail has a sheltered spring that must have been Life Itself for cowboys working hard in the sun all day. Under the ample shelter of an overhanging rock ledge, we saw a couple of old work tables, benches, boxes to store things, and beside the fire pit was some kind of metal cook stove jerry rigged together with imagination and resourcefulness that makes up the core soul of any Westerner. There were empty tin cans, horseshoes and other tackle, and several large wooden bins for storing food. The Cowboys had copied the Indians there, using wood instead of mortared stone.

pictographs above the spring

Around a few more bends in the trail, we reached the spring, and we could actually taste the moisture in the air. A trickle of water seeps from one long horizontal crack that follows the path in the cliff wall beneath a huge overhanging rock ceiling, making a flat pool that seeps across the rocks. Wet sand stretches away from the sheltered cave-like area, and ends at the inevitable dry sand after only about 10 feet. Where moisture seeps from the horizontal crack, fern fronds dangle in a lovely and unexpected green curtain of freshness and life in that dry world. Stark red pictographs adorn the cold stone walls around the spring. Doubtless there because of the spring. Some ancient person’s thanks and recognition to his Deity, and probably in hopes of invoking further watery blessings in the future.

Diego contemplates grinding grains

Mere steps beyond the moist cool air was another sign of people long gone: troughs worn into stone, likely by Indian women grinding grain into flour. Diego was compelled to touch the indentations. He must have had the same thought as I: a long time ago, someone ancient and beyond reach touched this same stone.

ladders are part of the trail

The trail incorporated ladders as well, to help us gain the top of the rocks. Arno showed off his climbing skills and did not use the ladders. We stood at the top awhile and gazed out across the stunning landscape, then continued down the other side, and back to a sandy trail still sheltered by a wide rock overhang.

On our way back to camp, the setting sun culled deep reds and bronze oranges from the rocks, requiring many more photo stops for me – by this time annoying most of my travel mates. At camp Arno again leapt into meal preparation mode, and I climbed to the top of the rocks with the kids and watched the sun go down. I had my camera on a tripod and managed to get some nice sunset photos as the fiery globe sank from sight.

View from the top of the trail

Tara and Miguel hold up the rock ceiling with their heads

Three-quarters of a reflected sun

Last glimpse of light across the desert horizon

It's even better than this. This stuff is amazing.

Monday morning we managed to leave the TRRR&RR early. Pa and Chelle got up to see us off. We were sad to separate so soon. In the black morning, the rain was delicately pattering a pattern onto the dust on the hood of my Dragon Wagon (the Saturn we have loved since buying it new in 1998). As we pulled away, the raindrops grew in size and frequency.

I took highway 78 from my Pa’s house because the road is in good shape, speed limit is 65, there is very little traffic and the view is lovely. My gas gauge was at about 1/8 of a tank (why hadn’t I filled it when driving all over the Treasure Valley yesterday?), but I knew I’d be on I-84 soon. Unfortunately, the needle drops more quickly at the empty side than the full side, and in half an hour, we were pegged on the red line for empty.

We continued on the Owyhee Highway till we reached Grand View, Idaho. Yes, there was a gas station, but no, at 7:05 am, it was not open for business. Instead of continuing toward Glens Ferry, I took the more direct route to I-84 at Mountain Home. I saw the Air Force Base for the first time (its dozens of bright white lights out there in the desert) and was glad I was never stationed there.

Along that highway, my windshield wipers stopped working. It’s a problem we’ve had with the Dragon Wagon for a couple of years. I had the wiper motor replaced once. It worked for six more months. Now, sometimes when the car heats up, the wipers just quit. The rain was coming down pretty good at this point. No wipers and no gas. I got worried.

We reached the interstate and a gas station with my anxiety at a steady interruption level. In hopes that a cool off would kick the wipers on again, we ate breakfast in Mountain Home at a fairly lame place. But our waiter was “fabulous” –bless him for surviving in Mountain Home- and in no time he had turned our morning into smiles. As we left, Miss T said, “He just made this whole day worth it.” Yes, we both adore gay boys.

Windshield remained determinedly impenetrable, and T recommended Rain-X. I agreed. It could be our only safe option. We returned to the gas station convenience store and got what we needed. I rubbed the Rain-X into the windshield in the nonstop rain, hoping some would stick to the glass. And it did! I could sort of see through the glass, and off we went. Gosh, humans create the darnedest stuff.

The rain poured harder and harder, and I found less and less of the windshield I could see through, as the miles clicked by. I found that, by keeping right foot on the gas, but pressing against the floorboards with my left foot, I could lift myself off the seat and peek through a little 1½ inch gap at the top of the windshield and still see the road. The Rain-X was great; it’s just that it was POURING rain and sleet and the other cars were kicking up muddy water overwhelming the miracle goo’s capacity. My leg got exhausted, I was scared. At one point we were forced to pass a triple trailer, and it was terrifying. I saw nothing. Nothing, for a few heart-pounding seconds until we passed the truck. Yikes. I was pretty sure I couldn’t keep it up till nightfall, and our hope had been to reach Moab that very night.

But, the Universe acquiesced. After we turned south from Burley, we got into some mountains and the rain turned to snow, which stuck to the windshield worse than rain, but didn’t come down as dense. I was able to sit in my seat and rest my leg. Then, the rainshowers changed intensity several times, so in the lighter precipitation, I could relax. Finally, after three hours of anxious driving, it was down to strictly light rain showers. The terrain along the Idaho/Utah border is very beautiful. My sketchy windshield prevented me from taking photos while driving, as I did last Spring Break, coming through here.

By 1pm, we were in the Salt Lake City heinous driving zone, and the light rain was interspersed with sunbeams. I let out a long, shuddering breath, and suggested a lunch stop. We splurged on a delicious Marie Calendar’s lunch and even bought a whole pecan pie to take the to boys!

The rest of the trip was mostly dry. After another 30 minute Japanese lesson, Tara and I were again listening intently as we waited to hear the continuing saga of Jason, Piper, and Leo – demigods extraordinaire – as they battled the children of the Titans while the gods of Olympus tried to resist getting involved.

View from rocks above camp

Arno texted that he would meet us at the Information Center in Moab, and we found them without any effort. The sun had gone down, but it was still light when we found them. They led us directly to camp, and we were able to set up the tent with light in the sky. Then Arno “shooed” me up the rocks to take a look at the sunset. I carried my camera with me, of course. He was already in camp mode and I was truly spent, so I let him manage supper operations, and then pitched in fully when it came time to eat!

Arno prepares a meal while I do not help.

Highway driving in Arizona can be as much fun as stopping at tourist destinations

from Wiki commons, this phenomenal photo shows the effects that create graupel

{as always, click images to enlarge}

When I took my suitcase out to the car this morning, it was snowing!! And there was about an inch of fresh graupel on my car (no, the meteorologist has not been erased from me – though I haven’t worked for the NWS since 2003). Mom’s husband Jim has been looking up my location on his atlas this entire week, so I’ve been keeping them updated on where I am. He told me that the reason it’s so cold here could be because the elevation of Flagstaff is 7000 feet. Aha! Good reason.

I gassed up for reasonable prices again this morning. The lowest prices I have seen the whole trip were in Payson, Arizona at $3.35 a gallon for regular. The highest so far has been near Bakersfield, California, on a huge truck stop sign flashing gigantic red lights: “ONLY $4.27 a gallon!” Funny how salesmen think that adding the word “only” will fool us into thinking we’re getting a bargain.

My trusty dragon wagon

Serendipity has favoured me with stellar highways this week. I continue to choose my route according to the compass orientation of the little red squiggles on my maps. So far the rewards have been better than I could have hoped for. Today I got up early and was on the highway early, chanting to myself “I will make good time today.” (like Annette Bening in American Beauty “I will sell this house today.”) It tore at my heart to speed past vast American panoramas that were screaming at me to be photographed. I acquiesced in part by snapping photos through the car windows (DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!) as I flew through northern Arizona and southern Utah along highways marked Speed Limit: 80 mph. It was surprising how good some of the pictures turned out.

Along Vermilion Cliffs Scenic Drive

Flags and cliffs


On AZ Highway 89a, I passed a sign that said Vermilion Cliffs Scenic Drive and thought that sounded promising. Well, look at the photos and decide for yourself. Incredible! I was compelled to pull

The Grand Canyon is less impressive here, but still awesome

over for photos a couple of times. I rolled across a bridge over what should have been an inspiring canyon, but everyone was looking up, not down. I pulled over and saw that California Condors were giving a show, diving in the wind. By the time I got parked and got my gear out onto the bridge, the condors had tired of showing off for tourists. I only managed a couple blurry shots. The giant bird I captured is tagged on one wing. I also snapped some photos of the canyon and moved on once more. I was so caught up in the birds that I eventually drove on, and didn’t find out till after my trip that the canyon is actually THE Canyon! It’s farther upstream of the Grand Canyon, which I did not visit due to time constraints.

Let me tell you once again about my serendipitous day: Zion National Park. I saw that Highway 9 in southern Utah crossed eventually over to the Interstate, so I took that route. Damned if I didn’t end up smack in the middle of my favourite National Park in the country. I texted my mother “I am a spaz, but hopefully it’s endearing.”

Remarkably fine photo taken from inside the car at approximately 70 mph

Ever since Hoby took his science class to Zion on a high school field trip back in the 1980s, this has been my favourite park. I visited it on a winter trip years later, and now I am here again in warmer months. Since I had to pay $25 to drive through, I was tempted to pay a little extra for a year pass. I want to come through when it’s a little warmer, and camp for three nights maybe, and get a really good look at the place. Ah well. “I must make good time today.” I surpassed even my own expectations of myself by dragging my camera kicking and screaming through that incredible park in only about 30 minutes. If that isn’t a sin, I don’t know what is.

In case you’re wondering why the rush, it’s because my daughter gets home on the plane at the Portland airport at 1:30pm Saturday. I need to be there to pick her up. Since it took me three days to get to Arizona, I’m guessing it will take me three days to get back.

looking out from the tunnel

Radio is sparse in this part of the country, so I have relied quite a bit on my iPod. I’ve got news (LinkTV, BBC, NPR), music, and stories from I finished Pope Joan, which was a very good read. Listened to a bunch of interviews with authors, and lamented the fact that I didn’t put more books on my mobile device before I left. Eventually, iPod options exhausted, I found an actual news station at one point, and heard there is a Broadway musical called The Book of Mormon opening tonight.

windows of the tunnel from the outside

I can’t wait for an opportunity to see it because many years ago I was a Mormon, and I’m sure the jokes will be a riot because I’ll have a little insight. Of course there is controversy about the musical, but people who have actually SEEN it – including LDS who have seen it – say the message very sweet, and actually is respectful of Mormon beliefs, if you can get over the colorful language.

OK! Back on the Interstate it was easier to put miles behind me. I put all my will into getting as far north as I could while I was still awake enough to drive safely. The corridor of communities serving Salt Lake City is as bad as those I drove through around Phoenix – 8 lanes of frantic traffic made worse by construction. Yipes! I made it as far as Layton, Utah, just north of Salt Lake City.

One of my many guises

Recently I posted…

Other people like these posts

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 581 other followers

Follow Conscious Engagement on

I already said…

Flickr Photos