Roaming the Red Rocks

I have been in four states over the past week!

From Sedona I traveled North to Flagstaff where I stayed for the night. There, I sampled a couple of the Flagstaff Brewing Co.’s beers which I really enjoyed. The next morning I enjoyed my free breakfast than hit the road to the Grand Canyon.

When I was younger I visited the Grand Canyon with my family and of course it left an impression. This time I was looking forward to seeing and learning more. Once in the park I stopped in the Visitor Center and then headed to the packed Mather Point, the first breathtaking view of the GC.

After visiting several national parks I have noticed two trends in visitors 1) a lot of retirees and 2) a lot of Europeans. It makes for pretty good people watching.

My favorite group at Mather Point were about a dozen French people, one of which had a stunningly Parisian hat on that completely blocked her peripheral vision. Once they had all gathered they popped open a bottle of celebratory champagne while they chattered away. It seemed a proper celebration.

My campsite lay 26 miles East of the Grand Canyon Village in Desert View. The drive included a ton of great stops including viewpoints, the site of a former hotel and mining claim, as well as Native American ruins and a museum. I took my time traveling this route and taking many pictures of rocks trying to figure out how to use my camera.

courtesy of amazon.com

I also picked up the book “It Happened At the Grand Canyon” which was a thoroughly entertaining light read and gave the Grand Canyon a much more personal context.

After setting up camp I wandered back over to the Desert Rim Viewpoint and the Watchtower to join the other resilient visitors who wanted to see the sunset. It was stunning.

I found a perch just west of the Watchtower. For half an hour I witnessed parts of the canyon gradually fall into darkness and the shadows deepen where the plains began. As the horizon grew deeper and more colorful the distinctive shapes of the canyon became silhouettes. It was so clear that I saw two planes making tracks far far above. Finally, it changed from a warm, rosy skyline to a deep blue twilight. Time to head back to camp.

Sunset from Desert View

That evening before bed I took my road atlas and traced all the roads I had driven since leaving home. What a wiggly path has brought me this far!

Saturday I packed up once again and got an early start to Utah. Along the way I passed through Monument Valley and bordered the Navajo nation. It was a stunning section of country that I hadn’t expected to enjoy so much. Along the way there were tons of Navajo craft booths/tourist stands. They didn’t tempt me at all and seemed to cheapen the landscape.

The most exciting part of the drive was along Arizona highway 163 when the winding two-lane road all of a sudden headed straight towards a very tall cliff. The only way to go is up! The road changed from a flat empty road across a plain to a slow and windy gravel drive with turns that intermittently had pavement. Velma and I handled it like pro, way better than the rental RV. It was like taking an elevator straight up and the view from the top was awesome. We came from that squiggle?!

The road that zigzags on the bottom right is where we had come from

From the top of the cliff it was just a bit farther to the Natural Bridges National Monument where I learned it was National Public Lands Day so park entry was free! Hurray! Save six bucks.

The Natural Bridges monument was very cool. It included three separate natural bridges (different from arches, as they are formed by a windy river wearing through the banks to take a more direct route) and several trails. I took the time to hike down to the first bridge which towered overhead. The river that had formed the graceful, colorful bridge was not even a trickle! Below the bridge it was much greener and lovely. The hike included a couple of interesting wooden ladders and hand rails bolted into solid rock!

I drove to the other two bridges and check them out from the view points, then it was time to get on the road again. My stop for the night: Moab, UT

I have to admit, I only dashed through Utah, I didn’t even take a shower there (I was camping after all). I did enjoy Moab and would LOVE to go back, perhaps as a badass mountain biker.

While I was in Moab I checked out the Moab Brewery, camped in the Sand Flats Recreation Area, and had a delicious breakfast and snack from The Love Muffin. There may be more gearheads here than many places in the NW. Wow, right?

Sunday I made the short trip to Arches National Park from Moab. I spent most of the day in the park doing about 6 miles worth of hiking and seeing all sorts of scenery. The coolest hike I did was the last one, an all terrain scramble to the Double O Arch. It was incredible, the trail led up solid rock fins, gave you glimpses into canyons and the more remote parts of the park, and most of all it was challenging!

At the top of a "fin" in Arches

After all this exertion I returned to the car pretty grimy, basically coated in a nice film of red rock dust. Luckily, I was heading to a homey stop next!

Sunday evening I arrived at my cousins’ in Fruita, Colorado beginning my time in state #4!

With love from the road,

Cara

1 thought on “Roaming the Red Rocks

  1. Love the observation of fellow travelers…I might point out that it’s the first time in 17 years you have not been in school in late September! Fall is the BEST time of year to travel, as you are experiencing!!

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