Day 17: Moab
(Dead Horse Point, Canyonlands National Park, Arches National Park)
We woke up at 7 am, we had breakfast in our room and we jumped into the car. It was a wonderful saturday, the sky was full of big beautiful white clouds that were moving fast over our heads. The first stop of the day was at Dead Horse Point.
Dead Horse Point State Park, actually is not like the other parks we saw. I mean that, in my opinion, it looks more like a giant viewpoint with few trails starting points. I am not saying that is a bad thing, but we were a little bit surprised about that. We entered through the gates and we paid the 10$ vehicle access fee, because our annual pass was not valid there.
The view of the Colorado River, that you can see in this chapters opening picture, is amazing. I think that most of the people who comes to this park wants to take that classic shoot, and it is priceless. Unfortunately the water-color was not at his best, but the sky was spectacular and I was happy with my photographic capture…
We were also able to find plenty of other viewpoints where I took several pictures; standing over some of the rocks can be a little bit dangerous if you walk near edges, so I had to be very careful!
We left after about an hour and a half, and we headed to the next stop that was the magnificent Canyonlands National Park where we used our annual pass to enter.
Every single day of our west USA tour was different from the one before: now we were facing another incredible natural landscape, one that I will remember for all my life. Even from the visitor center we were excited from the view.
There is not an official free shuttle bus in this park, so we used our rental car. The spaces are huge and every single viewpoint or trail has a big parking lot, so I think that’s the best solution even there. I recommend you to do the same, unless you are part of a big group, in that case you can rent a shuttle bus in one of the Moab agencies.
The park main road is called Grand View Point Road, and as you can guess is full of viewpoints. We were stopping the car many times, we were super excited. We reached the Shafer road view point, that as its name says, is a scenic overlook that offers a magnificent view of the Shafer Trail Road. This “road” is a 18 miles dangerous dirt track located down the canyon. I think that it requires extreme caution for both vehicles and mountain bikes, we even saw a couple of crazy drivers with big jeeps that were going down pointing at the valley. I also think that this road shouldn’t be attempted by novice drivers or people without off-road experience.
Our next stop was the Mesa Arch Trail. The walk is not particularly long and neither difficult, during this little “hike” we met a lady that was searching for the right way and for her husband. She was very kind and we walked with here with a couple of minutes until she found the husband and so the right way to go.
The Mesa Arch is magnificent, a real natural masterpiece! It’s also is a little bit smaller than what you can think, especially if you only looked it in some pictures without anyone around. Unfortunately the place was full of people because it was the middle of the day, it was also very difficult to take good pictures. I can remember that I said to myself “I had to come back tomorrow morning at sunrise!” because I knew that the sun rises straight behind the arch.
We got into the car and we moved to the most scenic area of all the park that is called Island in the Sky. Here we had lunch with our super-cheap sandwiches and we met again that lady. She and her husband were having lunch near us so we talked a little bit. They asked us many questions about Italy and also about what we thought of our west USA tour. They also told us that thunderstorms and heavy rain were coming the day after, so they suggested us to hurry up to see as many places as we could!
So, we made use of what they told us and we immediately went to see the Green River Overlook. That was, I think, the most beautiful landscape view I saw in my entire life. Despite that now I traveled many other places, I never saw something comparable to that. That point sits at about 6000 feet elevation (about 1800 mt), you can look through Soda Springs Basin towards the Green River. Even if you are used to open spaces and great heights, this overlook view is a real unbelievable breath-taking experience. You can try to guess the distance of the elements you see, but it’s impossible! The perspective is incredible and the vista stretches out for a hundred miles to the horizon.
The Grand View Point Overlook is right next the Green River Overlook, and it is as beautiful as his neighbour. We spent there some time, and then we decided to follow the old lady advice and leave this magnificent park. At this point I can assure you that the Canyonlands National Park deserves a very special place in my heart.
Arches National Park is not far away from there, it takes about half an hour from Canyonlands and you can use the annual pass to enter there too. Even this road is full of magnificent viewpoints so it took a little bit longer than expected. We collected the maps at the gates and we gave it a quick look at them. We decided very fast how to spend the rest of that day.
We made a quick stop at The Organ then we moved on along the park road. It was about 5 pm when we arrived at the Balanced Rock. This incredible rock is visible from the park road, and as long as you are getting closer, you can’t believe your eyes. The rock itself is huge, and it sits over a thin pedestal. We walked along the small loop that leads close to it, the view was amazing and, you can tell for sure, it feels like it could fall down at any moment.
After a half hour there we decided that it was the time to leave for the last stop of the day, The Delicate Arch.
The Delicate Arch is one of the most famous and beautiful arches in the park, we reached the parking lot at about 6 pm and we had about an hour to reach the top point. The trail to see Delicate Arch is 3 miles long (4.8 km) roundtrip and climbs 480 feet (146m). You walk over the rocks and the surrounding landscape is all made of red rocks. The path is signed by rocks or stone chips and it’s pretty easy to figure out where you have to go.
As I said before, this is one of the most beautiful and famous arches of the park, so when we arrived at the top you can bet that we weren’t alone for sure. There was plenty of people all around the arch, many of them were in line for taking pictures. Others were standing in front of the arch even for 5 minutes each. It was a little bit disappointing, I have to admit. I was not the only one that was pissed off, another photographer started to scream at the people something like “Hey, you are in everybody’s picture!”. Damn it was really frustrating and so I started to whistle at them too.
At the end they finally got the message, so I took few portraits at my wife from the distance, then we found a good spot to sit and wait for the sunset. Later I went behind a small rock so I was not in the middle of the frame of other photographers, then and I stayed there for about an hour until I got my moment.
The sun was setting right in front of me and I had a perfect view of the arch, I took many pictures until it became completely dark. As long as the sun was setting down, most of the people around left the place, so I finally felt some of the magic of this wonderful place.
After the sunset we had to come back to the car, and it became very dark in few minutes. Another crazy thing I remember of that day was that most of the people didn’t even had a flashlight with them! I had mine, and another man near me had another one; it ended that we both were followed by about over 20 persons each.
Obviously they didn’t see anything and they had to follow us through the path, it was not a problem for me, but I remember I thought that they had to be very stupid… I mean: you take a hike, you wait until night, and you are without a flashlight… Come on!
While we were going down the trail, looking at the horizon we saw plenty of lightnings, and we also heard thunders. The lady was right!
We got back to Moab and we had dinner at Milt’s Stop & Eat. That’s the oldest burger restaurant in Moab, it was first opened in September of 1954 and it’s an institution in the city. I had a double Cheeseburger and my wife Giorgia had a Chili Cheeseburger. Both delicious!
We stayed at: Motel 6 Moab