Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Utah National Parks Whirlwind Tour - by Bill

After a wonderful visit to Orvis Hot Springs it was time to head back through Utah, stopping for the first time to visit several of the National Parks there. We started by visiting Moab, a small town on the Colorado River that’s home to Canyonlands and Arches National Parks. We stayed at Ron’s Pack RV park on the south end of town. Ron’s is a rustic spot but has all the amenities and Ron, though a bit chatty, was full of good tips on how to spend our short time there. He suggested seeing the sunset from Island in the Sky @Canyonlands NP, so that became our first objective.

First stop though was at the Moab Brewery, where we had some yummy burgers and excellent craft beers. Best was the Scottish Ale, of which we should have bought much more.

 After lunch we headed to the north end of town and took the road along the Colorado River surrounded by towering cliffs of Navajo Sandstone to see the campgrounds there. We stayed on the road for about 15 miles and wound up at a Vineyard that Ron had told us about, unfortunately, the bar was closed so there were no cocktails or wine to be had. This area is where many westerns were filmed back in the day, and the restaurant was filled with photos of well-known actors in scenes from the movies they filmed here.

Next it was up to the mesa known as Island in the Sky. The drive up was spectacular with incredible views of mesas, cliffs, and vistas beyond compare. We stopped here and there to take in the sights, then headed to the Grand View Point to take in the sunset. We hiked along the cliffs overlooking Canyonlands NP which rivals the Grand Canyon for their beauty and size. The sun was getting low and the shadows and colors playing on the canyons below were amazing. We got to Grand View Point just as the sun was sinking below the horizon and were blessed with one of the most beautiful sunsets ever.

The next day we were off to see the Arches. What a surreal place that is. The arches were pretty cool, but the whole park was filled with unique landscapes carved from the sandstone laid down millions of years ago when this place resembled today’s Sahara Desert. We took a couple of short hikes to see some of the Park’s famous sights and scared ourselves by looking down from the cliffs we were perched on top of. We saw several rock climbers scaling the towers in the park and it’s beyond me how they can do that.

Our next stop was Zion National Park outside of St George Utah. We camped overnight at Walmart (our first Walmart camping) and drove in to the park in the car. This park is basically a valley like Yosemite with steep cliffs and towering mountains all around. They have buses to take tourists through the park so we hopped on board and took in the spectacular scenery. We took a couple of hikes and on one, stopped to sit in the grass in a sunny spot to enjoy our lunch. Just another magical day on the road to nowhere in particular.

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