Day 9: Sunday 14th
I woke feeling much better. Camp was struck in record time, and we were all ready by 8am to go into Zion and Bryce.
The plan was to go round the Navajo Loop, which winds down to the valley floor from the plateau on which the road is built, but Pat, Mayumi, Julienne and I got separated from the others, and went a different way round the loop. On asking people coming up whether this was the loop, they said it wasn't, so we decided not to carry on round n case it was a very long way. As it turned out, it would have been ok. We all got back to the van fine and (after I got changed into shorts and sleeveless shirt) we set off to Moab.
Stopped at Escalante Canyon on the way to Moab,where some Amerindian ladies were selling jeweller and pottery. I saw some necklaces which I liked, so bought one for me and one for Jan. We carried on past Calf Creek and onwards through the whitish Navajo Sandstone canyons absolutely littered with pinõn pine, yucca and Utah juniper.
I am getting a bit blazé about the scenery, but every now and again it comes up with something new to thrill or amaze, like the road running along a ridge with a 500 foot drop either side, or a particular valley. We stopped for a rest break at the Boulder Mouth Ranch office; a collection of a few buildings, a and petrol station.
Soon after the scenery changes to rolling wooded hills as we climb up into Dixie National Park and out of the Navajo sandstones. Here the Quaking Aspens and firs return in force. The road winds ever upwards to a (road) summit at 9400 feet with stunning views of the valley beyond. the aspens here don't grow in the same fashion as at Kaibab - there, they are mingled into the fir and pine trees, quite densely, with open meadows between. Here the aspens grow in great open groves, with very few other trees. The overall effect is quite beautiful. As we move down, the trees disappear again and we move back into canyon land, following the Fremont River.
We stopped for a picnic at the Capitol Reef visitor centre's park, where a Mule Deer decided to come over to investigate us but was then chased away by two young inquisitive children.
A lot of driving later, we arrived at Moab. The campsite is on the main street, not at all rural, which gave us the chance to do some laundry (at last!). Later we went to Eddie McStiff's, a very popular restaurant with a really nice waiter called Noah. Most of us had Pizza - I had a Downtown Special, with artichoke, pepper, ham (proper slices!), pepperoni, good mozzarella cheese and others... it was yummy.
Afterwards, we went to the cinema and watched "The Truman Show". Jim Carrey played Truman Burbank, who over the course of the film we find is the unwitting star of a TV show. The only thing is he doesn't know that he is living on an enclosed island created by the TV people, and populated entirely by actors. The story charts his realisation of this, and his eventual escape. The film, as Dean said at the beginning, was very different -- not the usual cops-n-robbers or girl-meets-boy type -- and really quite good.
We returned to the camp and fairly quickly settled down for the night.
Day 10: Monday 15th
We hoped to start early again, but it was 8.30 before we were on the road again. We stopped briefly for water and cough medicine for me at a drug store down the street, then set off for Canyonlands park. Half way there we realised that we had left our food cooler at the camp! A quick change of plans ensued - we were to have lunch at the Canyonlands picnic site, but we now had to come back to the camp, which was nice in its way although it meant there wasn't time to see the view from Dead Horse Point.
Canyonlands wasn't spectacular in the way the G.C. was, but it was beautiful and impressive by any other standard. The view at Grand Valley Point extended to the horizon; in all directions there seemed to be canyons right up to the mountains in the distance. We did a short rim walk here, ending is the group (including me!) lying on rocks at the edge of a very high (?1000ft) precipice. The valley "floor" below looked very small below us, and a rock thrown over the edge fell for quite a few seconds... we didn't actually hear it hit bottom.
Next stop was the uplift. The information boards provided two theories as to it's existence - either an upwelling of salt made semi-liquid by the pressure of the rocks above, or it is the result of an ice meteorite 1/3 mile in diameter hitting. Either way, it is a big circular ring of very distorted and uplifted rocks with a ?clay? (grey, steeply sloped and eroded) "mountain" in the centre. I climbed the highest point on the edge, known as Whale Point, after Dean, Janette and Bruno did... on the way up Dean saw a small snake in a crevice in the process of swallowing a (comparably) very large winged insect. I think this is the first time I have ever seen a snake in the wild. The view from the top was not that much better than from the "normal" viewpoint, but worth the climb. You could see more of the circular rings around the centre of the uplift, and the greyish-green "mountain" in the centre was not obscured. Overall a very interesting jaunt.
Next stop was Green River Overlook, which was just more of the same with the exception of a view of the Green River below, one of the tributaries of the Colorado.
We zipped back to camp for a pleasant picnic meal, and then set out for Arches National Park. The entrance to the park is at the bottom of the Moab fault, on the north entrance to the Moab valley. It towers above you: as the park road climbs out of the valley onto the arches plateau, the cars at the bottom seem like little toys, and even the railway half way up looks like a model. The road carries on round and we get the first view of the arches lands themselves. At first, the forms are much like many of the pinnacles we have seen previously, but then we passed the Balanced Rock, a huge rock balanced on an area about a yard round.
We carried on to the Windows, a group of three arches (the North and South Windows and the Turret Arch), passing the Double Arch on the way. Dean stopped and let us wander until about 4.30, to allow time to get back for supper before a return visit at sunset. I went on to the Turret, which was good climbing and good views in itself, and through which there is a good view of the North Window. I climbed up the turret to the far side, where I found an American who took my photo in the arch. I then walked round to the far side of the south window , where there was a good view of the north window.
When we were back together again, we left for supper, which Cordi made for us. She did a Swiss recipe for us - pasta with a cheese sauce and fried ham with a lettuce - it went down very well, and in the meantime the stop gave the rest of us some time to catch up with swimming! Washing up completed, we set off again for the park. The Delicate Arch is in a fairly isolated place, with a walk of over a mile which rises several hundred feet from the nearest car park. Dean and I started out at the same (fast) pace, but after half a mile or so we got to the first steep rise, and at the top I took a rest break. By the time I looked round again Dean was way off in the distance! The others caught me up very quickly, but also wanted a stop; I went on alone. The walk up was tiring but very rewarding, especially near the end where there were some lovely tiny, wooded valleys. Quite a large number of people were also walking up the trail, although surprisingly there were also quite a few coming down.
Delicate arch itself was a bit disappointing. It is certainly an amazing rock formation, but it is not delicate (see photo!) and the sun is blocked from it at sunset by a large block of stone. However, what there was was worth the trip. The colour of the sun on the stone was almost flame red -- the photo's don't do it justice -- and the sunset itself was lovely. When the sun had well and truly set, and most of the other hikers had left, we set off down to the van again, but as ever Dean went ahead, this time with Cordi and Bruno. The rest of us dallied, enjoying the last views of the sunset on the clouds. About half way down, when I was a little way ahead of Pat, Janette, Julienne and Mayumi, I stopped; the silence of the place, now most of the hikers had gone past us, was wonderful, and when the others reached me I just said "listen". We stayed there for a while - twenty minutes or so - before it got dark enough to make returning a good idea. I think everyone enjoyed the break.
I set off again, and shortly after an American who had a tripod slung across his shoulder came past. As I had been thinking of buying a tripod, I plucked up courage to ask about it. and we chatted together very happily for the next twenty minutes as we walked back to the car park. He was from New York, and said the city had lost something of its character as it had grown less violent. in his words, "we used to dare visitors to come stay". We parted at the car park without having to use the torch I had although only by a short time. The others weren't very impressed with our extended return;; the rest were another five minutes coming back, as they had stopped to look at the stars.
The return to the camp was uneventful, and being quite awake I decided to go out into Moab for a wander and shop. Sadly, as it was now just after 10pm many of the shops I had seen open on the way to the camp were closed, so I ended up having fries and a wheat beer in McStiffs again. The beer was nice, and the fries would be called potato skins back home, which was just what I wanted. Tired but happy I walked slowly back to the camp along the main street and over the bridge, where I met Julienne who was out in search of a McDonald's meal; she ended up in Woody's bar with Bruno and Dean.