17 - 26 October 2015 Utah - Moab

Saturday 17th October

Next door to the RV Park are the riding stables and a large equestrian arena. The family that own the campsite are very nice and they love Sandy. The owner’s granddaughter was competing in a barrel racing completion over in the arena. This means that there are several barrels set out around the arena and horses have to make extremely tight turns around the barrels against the time clock. It calls for a lot of agility on behalf of the horse and rider and is very exciting.

We wandered across this afternoon and the place was packed with horse trailers

and some beautiful horses and riders decked out in western gear. They certainly love their horses around here.

Sunday 18th October

Cerys flew out to Nairobi this morning to take part in Women v Cancer Cycle Africa, wishing her all the luck in the world. Back to more mundane issues, our grey water tank (kitchen and shower waste water) has decided to stop emptying. The RV office staff provided the number of an RV maintenance company that come onto site. We have left answer phone messages but we do not expect a reply on Sunday. Tom called, he has been at a water ski tournament just outside Houston with his University team. He did okay but has an ankle injury so would have liked to have done better - maybe next time. Took Sandy for a walk this evening and she saw a Jack rabbit – he was lovely, massive with big ears, but Sandy didn’t think so, she just wanted to chase him.

Monday 19th October

Went into Moab to an RV repair workshop to have the grey tank looked at. We went off for a walk around town whilst the job was being done. They seemed to think that it was the valve that opens to release the water that is the problem and will need replacing.

The early history of settlement here started in 1855 when Brigham Young sent a group of missionaries to Spanish Valley. After a while relations with the local Ute Indians deteriorated and an Indian attack chased the missionaries from the valley. Settlers returned in 1878 to establish farms and ranches and in 1881 the town was named Moab. In 1889 miners discovered gold and in 1952 uranium deposits were found but by the mid 1970’s the mining had stopped. Today the town is busy again with the tourist trade and outdoor pursuits such as ATV riding and 4x4 driving across the desert terrain and of course the attractions of the geology around here with the Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. The town itself has lots of boutique shops, western art galleries, pubs and restaurants. Lots of choice for everyone.

We called back at the workshop, there was no one around but we could see that the handle and the valve had been taken off and the tank emptied. We went to Eddie McStiffs bar and restaurant and sat out on their covered patio with the dog and had a couple of drinks. When we arrived back, the mechanics said that there was nothing wrong with the valve, it was a blockage in the system caused by a rag that was left in the pipework, they believe, during manufacture. However, the estimate of cost had gone up considerably, they said because they had been working on it for two and half hours. We knew this couldn’t be correct because we had called back during the three hours the RV had been there and passed by once, and no one was there. Anyway after a bit of wrangling we got the bill reduced and we departed.

Tuesday 20th October

The weather was not good today heavy rain and thunderstorms.

Wednesday 21st October

The grey water outlet valve is leaking! Back into Moab we went to the RV workshop. One of the nuts on the opening and closing valve that they had put back on yesterday had sheared and the rubber seal on both sides of the valve was not put back in squarely. All fixed again and so far so good.

Tony thought he saw a Bobcat today. We think in the end it was rather a large tabby but it could have been half and half.

Thursday 22nd October

We left the campsite early and made our way north of town to Arches National Park. The weather has not been good over the past couple days and this morning it is cloudy and rainy again but with a promise of sunshine at 9am. Our first stop was at the Visitor Centre for some background on the Park and its history.

We then took the very scenic route up into the Park quickly reached 5,000 feet. Made our way to Devils Garden trailhead passing incredible sandstone cliffs and pinnacles, overlooking desert plateaus dotted with multi coloured grass. At the trailhead we walked the trail to Landscape Arch through narrow sandstone gully’s with high cliffs towering above us. The arch is wide and low and it is difficult to see how it still stands. In 1991 a slab, 60 feet wide, 11 feet wide and 4 feet thick fell from the underneath of the arch leaving behind a very thin ribbon of rock.

The weather forecast didn’t work out and the rain got worse, therefore we decided to return to the campsite.

Friday 23rd October

This morning we made our way to Canyonlands National Park north of Moab, just past the Arches entrance. As we approached the Park we drove into thick mist and cloud, visibility was bad for several miles and then we suddenly broke out of the cloud. We had climbed into bright sunlight and could see the deep banks of cloud covering valleys below us.

Travelling across open rangeland covered in Juniper bushes there were towering red buttes in the distance and a hot air balloon sailing just over the top of them.

We stopped off at the Visitor Centre and watched a short film about the park and its landscape. Canyonlands is a wilderness of rock at the centre of the Colorado Plateau that has been shaped by various forms of erosion into canyons, mesas, buttes, fins, arches and spires. There are two large canyons carved by the Green and Colorado rivers cutting the Park into three very different regions: Island in the Skye, The Maze and The Needles. Island in the Sky is a broad mesa wedged between the Green and Colorado and from its high vantage point the views down into deep canyons and stretching to the far horizon are breathtaking. It was this section of Canyonlands that we explored today.

From the Visitor Centre we followed the road south to Grand View Point at 6000 feet high.

We were just in time to hear a talk by one of the Rangers about the geology of the park and how it was formed.

To cut a 300 million year old story short, about 20 million years ago movement of the earth’s crust caused an uplift and the Colorado Plateau began to emerge and is believed to have reached a height of over 12,000 feet. After years of erosion the average elevation is now over 5,000 feet above sea level. It was a fascinating insight into how this land was formed through its layers of sedimentary rock. How erosion has cracked open and revealed these layers and created the magnificent shapes, deep canyons and high cliffs of this extraordinary place. We walked the trail that follows the high cliffs along the canyon edge with spectacular panoramic views and really scary drops to the canyon floor.

On our way back we stopped off at the Green River overlook and hiked to Upheaval Dome which is in fact a large hole in the ground. No one knows what caused this hole with the attractive green coloured rock but one theory is a meteor strike.

As we made our way out of the park we saw what we had missed this morning because it was covered in mist and cloud. We travelled through a magnificent red rock canyon and saw in the distance the impressive Navajo Rocks.

After our full day and feeling a bit awestruck with some of the sights we had seen we decided to eat out and therefore made our way to The Moab Brewery for dinner. The place was buzzing with lively chatter and very buy but with luck we managed to get a high table near in the bar area.

Saturday 24th October

The weather is good with some bright sunshine burning through the few clouds that are around. We decided to have another look at Arches National Park after our rain filled morning there earlier in the week. Our first stop was at Park Avenue, an area of red sandstone formations that someone said looked like the rows of buildings along New York’s Park Avenue.

Next was Court House Towers which someone thought looked like a court house building!

We hiked up to three The Windows arch formations, one called Turret and the twin North and South windows. It was worth the hike to see these large eroded holes in the rock, it is just incredible how the delicate spans stay up for so long. Some of the weird and wonderful shapes of the sandstone look as if they have been sculptured by humans, not wind, rain and ice.

On the way out we passed huge narrow cliffs that had been sharpened by the wind and rain, some with the shape of Flat Iron buildings.

Moved on to Dead Horse Point State Park which is next to Canyonlands – sounds like a couple of theme parks! Dead Horse Point is a small but stunning park and was the setting for beginning of Mission Impossible II and the final scene of Thelma and Louise – yes the one where they go over a cliff in the car. We called in at the Visitor Centre, they have an outside patio with superb views across to the snow covered La Sal Mountains in the distance. The plateau here looks over the Colorado River, 2000 feet below. We drove down to Dead Horse Point overlook and walked along the rim of the cliff with views of the river valley below.

According to one legend, the point was once used as a corral for wild mustangs roaming on the mesa. Cowboys rounded up these horses, herded them across the narrow neck of land and onto the point. The narrow neck of land was fenced off with branches and brush, creating a natural corral. Cowboys then chose the horses they wanted and then for some reason unknown, left the other horses corralled on the waterless point where they died of thirst within view of the Colorado River 2,000 feet below. I hope it is just a legend.

Found a quiet spot overlooking the valley and tall red cliffs to have a picnic lunch. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, the sun was warm and it was just delightful.

Sunday 25th October

Cerys has completed her 394 kilometer cycle in Tanzania for Women V Cancer. Starting at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro and finishing at Ngorongoro Crater. A tough challenge through 40 degree heat and difficult terrain over five days. What an experience, very well done Cez!

Monday 26th October

Took a ride alongside the Colorado River on Highway 128, a really magnificent route through a narrow gorge with high red cliffs on either side looking like ancient fortresses and palaces. Just when you think you have seen all the spectacular scenery there is here, this place produces more.

Fourteen miles along the road from Moab is Red Cliffs Lodge, sitting at the side of the river in the shadow of 2,000 foot red cliffs. The wooden Lodge has its own stables and winery and in the basement a Movie Museum.

The Lodge is part of Red Cliffs Ranch dating from the 1800’s, a working ranch raising cattle and horses but filmmaking has also been an important part of the ranches history. Many movies have been shot at the ranch and in the area because of its dramatic western scenery. The museum has a documentary film running with local farmers and land owners reminiscing about how the films were made and the people they met. In the 1940’s John Ford filmed many movies there, including Wagon Master and Rio Grande with Johns Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. More recently, City Slicker II, Geronimo, The Lone Ranger. There is also quite a lot of film memorabilia, for example the dummy they put in the car for Thelma to go over the cliff in Thelma and Louise.

Outside on the terrace the view is straight down the Colorado River as the gorge widens out into the Professor Valley, with views of Fisher Towers that featured in Austin Powers, Goldmember.

We made our way back to Moeb for dinner on the terrace of the Sunset Grill, a restaurant high on a cliff overlooking Moab. We watched the sun go down over the red cliffs opposite and then the town light up.

The restaurant is in the former home of Charlie Steen, a geologist who found uranium in the area in the early 50’s. He became a millionaire and built this house into the cliff with a commanding view over the valley.