Laura and Lee and Walt and Barb's
Red Rock Reconnaissance

April 26-May 5, 2003

Part 2

Monday, April 28 - Canyonlands, Arches

Moab -> Canyonlands -> Arches -> Moab, 125 miles

Our breakfast was scheduled at 7:30, and we were awake and ready in plenty of time. We met Vance, our other innkeeper, who was also the chef. Oh wow...what a breakfast!!! Definitely NO excuse for going away hungry! We had fruit and delicious oatmeal (amazing how good oatmeal gets if you add enough sugar and nuts and fruit to it ;-) ) and some kind of egg/potato casserole, plus sausage AND pancakes! The pancakes were especially awesome - big and thick but not heavy.

We mentioned to Vance that we were going over to Islands of the Sky in Canyonlands Nat'l park, and he recommended a hike to Upheaval Dome, and also told us about an alternate driving route for the return trip- a four wheel drive road, but he said we'd be fine with two wheel drive since we'd be coming downhill. More on *that* later. :-) And he also told us where to find some more Indian petroglyphs and dinosaur tracks. Ahh...the advantages of staying with someone who has local expertise!!!

We were on the road about 8:30. Canyonlands was quite different from what we were expecting - the area on the top was grasslands - but then there were all these huge canyons in between. :-) There were very few people there. We stopped at the Islands in the Sky Visitor Center and then at several viewpoints on our drive out to the Upheaval Dome trailhead. The color on the canyon walls was amazing, though I think we all had the same thought: "Who needs to see the Grand Canyon after seeing this?" :-)

Upheaval Dome
Upheaval Dome
The hike to the dome was about 2 miles round trip, a little steep in places. The "dome" is really more like a big crater with a big pile of colored sand in the middle, and there's two schools of thought about its formation - some people think that it was the site of a meteor crash, while others think it was a volcanic crater. The different colors in the rock are very cool.

The hike reminded us of our hike to North Dome in Yosemite last year - except that it wasn't as long and we were hiking on sandstone instead of granite. :-) But it *was* uphill both ways and we had to walk on rock surfaces that felt like the granite domes in Yosemite. The vegetation and topography were very similar as well. So we aren't *completely* crazy. :-)

Though we'd only seen one other couple on the trail on the way up, we passed 10-12 people who were coming up the trail as we were going down. Obviously it was a busy day at Canyonlands! :-) (That part was like our North Dome hike, too - we didn't see very many people there, either...quite different from the situation in Yosemite Valley!)

After we got in the Xterra and were driving back along with road, a hiker on the road waved us down. He asked if we were going to the Visitor Center (which was not our immediate destination, as we were going to take the scenic drive to "Grand View" before heading out of the park). But he told us that his wife had fallen on the trail (a different and much more difficult trail than we had done) and had at least a broken arm and would probably have to be evacuated by helicopter, and could we report it? Well, yeah!!! We got his information and Lee drove as fast as he could to the Visitor Center (we had no cell phone coverage). About the time we finished making our report the man showed up, which surprised us because we thought he would wait back at the trailhead until help arrived. At that point we'd done all we could, so we left - it was about noon, and we still had to get back to Arches for our ranger hike in the Fiery Furnace that afternoon. (We tried to find out the next day if they'd gotten her out ok, but the woman at the Arches Visitor Center hadn't been on duty the day before, and no one she called to ask was at their desk. Since she didn't know about it, we assumed that the situation must have been gotten resolved...we hope the lady was ok.)

Xterra and Rock
Xterra and rock
We followed Vance's directions and found the road down Long Canyon with no problem. It started out fine, but then it suddenly got pretty steep and narrow...and a little sandy. With a steep drop off the side of the road. Lee felt quite in control since he was driving, but his passengers weren't quite as comfortable. :-) Then we came to the place where there was this *very* large rock that had fallen on the edge of the road and was leaning against the cliff wall, creating a tunnel underneath. Lee looked at it and said "I can't make it under that!" Which would have been bad, because at that point I'm not sure we could have backed up the hill - it was pretty steep and a little soft and sandy. But it was like it is with parking garages - you look at it and think there's no way it's high enough, when really there's plenty of clearance. (Besides, Vance had told us that he'd done this road in *his* truck.) Once we got through that we had a little MORE excitement - a Humvee coming *up* the road. Fortunately we were at one of the few places where the road had widened out - we pulled way over to the side of the hill and let the Humvee pass us on the *outside*. :-)

It WAS a really scenic drive down, though - the canyon walls and rock formations were beautiful. It was a little more challenging than we had expected given Vance's description, though. But we resisted the urge to leap out of the car and kiss the ground when we got to the bottom. :-)

At the bottom we came out near the Colorado river...and looked at the water that we are probably drinking in San Diego right about now. :-) Up the road we found the turnoff for the petroglyphs and dinosaur tracks. We had a rock scramble to get up there, but it was interesting to see them. I think the guy on the left side looks like an alien with a ray gun! And then there's the one that looks like Dr. Doolittle's Pushmepullyu. :-)

Back in Arches again we did the one mile hike called "Park Avenue", which takes you down through an area of huge rock formations. Even an arch or two. :-) Then it was time for our "Fiery Furnace" hike.

Fiery Furnace
The Fiery Furnace
We met the ranger at the trailhead - there were a total of 24 people in our group. The "ranger" is actually a volunteer - we learned that there are very few full-time rangers in the parks, and that most of the people we saw staffing the Visitor Centers and Entrance Stations are volunteers. But to have any chance of getting a job with the Park Service you have to have a lot of hours as a volunteer first, and that's what our "ranger", Robin, was trying to do.

Our hike started at 4:00 and ended at 7:00. It was only about two miles, but there was some rock scrambling involved and that took time with a large group, plus we stopped a lot so Robin could show us various geologic features and talk about them. It was another windy afternoon, and some of the areas we were in had a lot of blowing sand. Robin told us more about cryptobiotic crust (we learned that "cryptobiotic" means "hidden life") and the importance of staying off of it. For most of our hike in the Fiery Furnace we were in sandy washes or on rock.

We learned about the peculiarities of the Entrada Sandstone that allow it to produce so many spectacular arches (they have counted over 2200 in the 76,000 acre park). Entrada Sandstone has three layers - Moab Tongue, the hard capstone; Slickrock, the porous sandstone; and the Dewey Bridge, a more clay-like non-porous layer. Water goes through the top two layers just fine, but when it gets to the Dewey Bridge it suddenly is trapped and looks for a way to escape...which ends up weakening the sandstone at the bottom of the slickrock layer allowing wind and water to erode it away. In time, this erodes up and eventually an arch is formed. There are three requirements for a hole in the wall to be an arch: the hole must go all the way through the wall, it must be at least 3 feet wide, and the erosion must be caused by wind and precipitation rather than by the flow of water, e.g. a river. (An "arch-like" structure created by a river is called a bridge and not an arch.)

We also learned why Delicate Arch is able to stand on its own the way it does rather than being in a wall like all the other arches we saw are - it is actually topped by the very hard Moab Tongue capstone layer, which is more resistent to erosion.

She also told us about "desert varnish" - the dark color that appears on some sandstone cliffs. (You can see it on the top left in the picture below.) It's what most petroglyphs are carved into. Depending on who you talk to, it's either caused by rain, dust, bacteria, and manganese, or it's a chemical reaction between rain, dust, and manganese.

Skull Arch
Arch of the Day
Skull Arch, Arches National Park
Anyway...Fiery Furnace was full of all kinds of colorful rock formations, narrow slot canyons, and of course arches. Like Crawl Arch, Surprise Arch, Kissing Turtle Arch, and Skull Arch - which is today's "Arch of the Day".

It was a terrific hike, and we learned a lot of stuff, plus it was a treat to be able to go into an area where most people can't!

Back to Moab, where we had dinner at the Moab Brewery again. (Lunch had been jerky and dried fruit and pita chips again.) We got some more of those yummy onion rings and this time we had dessert there, too - the chocolate mousse pie was ok, but Barb had the winner - the Chocolate Spoon cake. Rich and chocolatey!

After we got back to the Inn we all took advantage of the hot tub - it felt really good!

Tuesday, April 29 - Arches, Goblin Valley, Capitol Reef

Moab -> Arches -> Moab -> Goblin Valley -> Teasdale, 243 miles

Moving day! Vance prepared us another awesome breakfast - we had yogurt/granola/fruit parfaits, another oatmeal serving, eggs, and bacon. There was supposed to be coffeecake, but it wasn't done yet, so they gave it to us before we left to eat later.

We packed the car and left about 9:00 and went back to Arches one last time. Our first stop was Skyline Arch. Unfortunately it was an overcast day and not very good for pictures. And it was still windy - it was basically windy for the entire trip.

We drove to the Devil's Garden trailhead and took off to see, guess what, some more arches!!! :-) (This was at my request...I was obssessed with arches. Of all the parks we visited on that trip when I was 8, Arches was the park I was most interested in seeing again. And it did not disappoint me - if anything it was even more spectacular than I remembered. Besides, I needed to find my Arch of the Day!)

Arch of the Day
Landscape Arch, Arches National Park

We didn't have time to do the entire Devil's Garden trail, but we did just over 3 miles of it in a little less than two hours. Landscape Arch (today's Arch of the Day!) is over 300 feet long, and only about 11 feet wide at its narrowest point. You can see fairly recent rockfall in the picture below the arch - a large piece fell in 1991 and some smaller pieces in 1995. Sure wish I'd had blue sky behind this rather than gray!

We also saw Tunnel Arch, Pine Tree Arch, Wall Arch (and doesn't it remind you of the letter "M"?), Navajo Arch, and Partition Arch.

We drove back to Moab to have lunch and do some t-shirt shopping (gotta get a souvenir!!!) and we were on the road to Capitol Reef National Park at about 2:30. Though our first stop was:

Goblin Valley State Park.

This is where the alien planet scenes from the movie Galaxy Quest were really does look like an alien landscape! It was still very windy (poor Barb was having a terrible time with her contacts), but we wandered around in the valley among the goblins for about 45 minutes. Lee found a formation that looked like the defeated rock monster from Galaxy Quest. :-)

After communing with the goblins we continued our drive towards Capitol Reef. Along the way we went through the town of Caineville. Something weird was going was a very small town, but we passed by a field where there were lots of cars parked, and nearby was a hill with lots of people standing on it. We were convinced that they were all pod people, and made haste to get out of the area as quickly as possible. :-) (From what I've learned since then, Caineville is a popular motocross area, and my guess is that there was some kind of competition going on though it seems strange that it would be happening mid-week. But "pod people" make a better story. Especially since we'd seen all those goblins earlier...maybe those are the pods! :-))

It was 6:30 by the time we reached Capitol Reef National Park. We stopped along the road to take a few pictures, but the Visitor Center was closed, so we continued through the park to the little town of Teasdale, where we checked in at the Muley Twist Inn. Our innkeepers recommended Cafe Diablo in nearby Torrey (and the Lonely Planet guide said the same) so we went there for dinner. Oh my. You *don't* expect a 4 star restaurant in a town with a population of less than 500, but this place was amazing. The presentation of the food on the plates was incredible, and it was delicious, too! The desserts were good, too...each dessert also came with a scoop of homemade ice cream. It was a terrific dinner, but boy, was it *cold* when we came out of the restaurant! It had turned into a frosty night.

Part 3
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Text and photographs copyright © 2003 by Laura Gilbreath. "Rock monster" photo copyright © 2003 by Lee Zimmerman, "Xterra and Rock" photo copyright@copy; 2003 by Barbara Fletcher, used with permission. All rights reserved.

Laura Gilbreath
Last updated 5/16/03