Moab, Utah
July 2nd through July 5th, 1999

We made an uneventful drive from Mancos, Colorado to Moab, Utah - - taking the back roads. We were fast learning that we preferred a good two-lane route over the speedier interstate roadways. You see more of the country and for us in the motorhome, two-lane speeds are just fine. Anyway if we were in a hurry, we shouldn't be driving this behemoth! And incidentally from the direction we were coming from, there are no interstate highways to Moab. We located our campsite and found that early summer temperatures were already topping 105 degrees at midday. Therefore for our few days stay in this area, we adopted a noonday rest period. We got up and out early, then came back for a lunchtime siesta in the air conditioning, and again headed out in late afternoon.
Moab is a great location with its proximity to two outstanding national parks. We were continuing our quest to visit as many of the national parks as possible; we have now been to well over two hundred and fifty - - with several more to go. Anyway this was our second visit here and a first for son, Benjamin. If you have a choice about the season to come visit, we would recommend Spring or Fall instead of midsummer. But it was on our path northward, so we made the best of it.
Arches National Park
We have made this travel stop for hiking and seeing the sights. Therefore on the afternoon of July 2nd (Our arrival date), we headed out to visit Arches National Park, located five miles north of the town of Moab. This area was first set aside as a national monument in 1929 and declared a national park in 1971. Our goals for the remainder of the day were to stop briefly at the entrance Visitor Center, then drive the park road out among the giant arches, natural bridges, fins (Middle photograph below), 'windows,' stone spires, balanced rocks, and other stone formations. We also planned to stop and hike out to one or two of the arch formations. Here sliprock caps of Navajo Sandstone (whitish color) overlay horizontal layers and slabs of sediments from long-ago oceans, shores, and deserts. Folds and warps in those layers indicate underlying movement of long-buried salt deposits. Here we can see thirteen different geologic formations that include Paradox (the oldest and at the lowest elevation) and extend upward to Chinle (a conglomerate formation that contains sandstone, shale, siltstone, and claystone), Entrada, Morrison, and others. Nature's forces - - internal heavings, scouring of wind-blown sand, flowing water, freezing and thawing -- have over long timespans, shaped this landscape. The park boasts of the greatest density of natural arches in the world; there are more than 2,000 ranging in size from three-foot (minimum to be considered an arch) to the longest, Landscape Arch. Erosion and weathering continue to create new arches and destroy old ones.

Before starting on our road tour, we bought the Road Guide for Arches National Park and the Hiking Guide for Arches National Park at the Visitor Center. They are great resources that point out the geology, history, plants, and animals of the park. They also highlight each formation and discuss the hikes. The Road Guide even provides tips for photographing the formations.
Our first stop was to take a short-hike to Sand Dune Arch (Above left photo). This trail was described as a favorite of kids. We believe that we are still kids-at-heart and Ben is a big kid, so this half-mile round-trip was a good choice as the day began to cool. We found Sand Dune Arch tucked back within shaded fin formations off the right side of the trail. It was surrounded by blown sand and the seeming ever-present winds kicked grit into our eyes. It was beautiful but without full-surround goggles; it was not a location to spend a long time taking in the scenery. So we snapped a few pictures with the digital camera and headed back up the trail.
Our next stop in the late afternoon was Landscape Arch (Above right photo), one of the longest stone spans in the world. We parked at the 'Devils Garden' parking area and hiked in one mile to the arch. Stretching 306 feet, Landscape Arch is only 11 feet thick at the center. Until September 1991, it was thicker but first a few pieces began to fall. Then within seconds, a slab 60-foot-long, 11-feet-wide, and 4-feet-thick sheared away from the arch's underside. This left behind a thinner ribbon of rock and caused hiking to be banned underneath.

The highlight of Arches National Park is Delicate Arch that is seen in many photographs and represented on the Utah state license plate. We were told that sunset was the best time to view this grand arch. Of course, you've got to hustle back to your car, or you end up hiking in the dark. We set off on the 3-mile, round-trip hike in early evening. At the start of the hike, we passed the Wolfe Ranch (Above right). This historic, late 1800's site was built by John Wesley Wolfe, a Civil War veteran. Somehow, he and his family scraped out a living here for several years.
Benjamin set off in the lead and can be shown in the photo above (You can see him there in the middle group of hikers, sure you can!). He is already two-thirds of the way to the top, before Larry and Annette had hardly gotten started. As you reach the end of the trail, you round a corner and the arch is right there! It's a great surprise. Of course, Ben acted as if he'd been there 'hours' waiting for us slowpokes to arrive (Above left). The sun began to set and the salmon-colored sandstone and summer sky seemed to come alive with color. As we sat on the smooth rocks and watched the view, we felt like we were watching an IMAX movie... but this was real! We stayed until it was twilight and joined the large crowd of people hiking back who had also chosen to make this trip an evening event. Hey no problem, its all downhill . . . most of the way.
Canyonlands National Park 
The following morning found us heading out again, this time in the opposite direction. We drove southwest to explore part of the Canyonlands National Park. We entered at the southeastern Needles Visitor Center and made a brief stop at the nearby Roadside Ruin. This short trail took us to a granary typical of Ancestral Puebloan structures. The trail also passed by various native plants used by the Indians such as barberry, ricegrass, peppergrass, pinyon, and juniper trees.
Needles District. It was here too that we first learned to recognize cryptobiotic soil crust, once called blue-green algae (Photo left). Crypto for short is made up of cyanobacteria, mosses, soil lichens, green algae, microfungi, and bacteria. The cyanobacteria are most prevalent and most important to cryptobiotiec soil. When their filaments become moist, they advance through the soil, binding together, and making a more erosion-resistant surface.
Our first stop in the Needles District was Cave Springs. After picking up a trail guide at the Visitor Center, we set off on the short (.6) mile walk. Just a few years ago you would have found cowboys roaming this area. Because of the reliable water source in the form of a rainwater seep at the base of the cliff, it was a logical place for a camp. Cattle ranching wasn't discontinued until the mid 1970s inside Canyonlands.
In the photo to the right, you can see an old cowboy camp. Situated under a cliff, the furnishings included all the luxuries (?) of home, ranch, and barn. This area contained evidence of other earlier inhabitants, that is in addition to this reconstructed line camp.

Following the bluff on a short ways from the cowboy camp, we discovered several groups of pictographs. They were left by ancestral Puebloan people, sometime between 1000 and 1300AD. These color pictographs are somewhat unusual. Unlike the more numerous petroglyphs, fewer numbers of pictographs survive the ravages of weather, time, and damage by humans. These were protected from fading and the weather by their location underneath the rock bluffs. We also found drawn lines and smoke-stains; additional evidence of ancient habitation.

We next used wooden ladders to explore the slickrock area above the overhangs. Here we found evidence of today's inhabitants, packrats, snakes, lizards, and rodents. 

We later made another short hike to the Roadside Ruin (.3) Trail and identified lots of plants. We became aware of how many of the plants we can now name such as Mormon tea, saltbush, yucca, juniper, pinyon pine, pricklypear cactus, sagebrush, and rabbit bush. These were plants we hardly knew before this summer.

The Ancestral Puebloan people were farmers that settled in areas near good land and water. Their crops included corn, beans, and squash. They built granaries to store their crops along with nuts and seeds. The granaries were created with slabs of rock and mortar.

Island of the Sky. On our last morning in the Moab area, we chose a trip to the top of Canyonlands called 'Island of the Sky.' We walked the short half mile trail to Mesa Arch. The picture to the left shows the arch in the distance. The other picture (Below left) shows the three of us sitting below the arch. By the way, it's a sheer drop-off right behind to a beautiful valley floor hundreds of feet below. No fences here. We continued practicing identifying and naming the varied plants on the trail back to the car.

Our last experience was a petroglyph hunt. In addition to the pictographs at Cave Springs, we had also made a stop at Newspaper Rock yesterday. We got the petroglyph 'bug' and decided to go look for a large collection that was on Potash Road. This is a gravel road that runs along the Colorado River. This area next to a big wash and the river was a popular area for early native Americans. Shortly we found them. There were a large number and variety of petroglyhs and we shot so many photographs that we had to go back to the RV and download. We then returned for another round. As we burrowed underneath the brush along the base of the high bluffs to find more glyphs, we encountered a guide who was conducting a interpretive tour for a couple of interested clients. Before leaving this site, Annette stood on the roof of the car to photograph some of the petroglyphs high on the cliff wall.

We had a great experience. Canyonlands is a huge expansive national park. Next time we want to rent a Jeep and head to the Maze area of the park for a more back country experience. We hear that people get lost out there if they're not careful. Its called a Maze!
Fourth of July
One of the highlights of this trip was an unusual Independence Day celebration. After a shopping trip downtown, we packed a picnic and headed up the slickrock drive to a mesa top overlooking Moab. Along with dozens of others party goers, we enjoyed some wonderful fireworks. Because they were set off in the valley below us, we were able to see the fireworks without looking up. We looked straight off the mesa to see a great light show.
Drive to Wyoming
We headed out of Moab and had a great drive through Price, Provo, and Logan. After stopping for the Bear Lake specialty, raspberry shakes, we camped down the road in Thayne, Wyoming. The next day we drove through some nasty road construction in the canyon along the Snake River. But after a short delay, we motored on into Jackson. We had driven into this summer tourist mecca via the backdoor entrance, but now found ourselves smack-dab in the middle of heavy traffic of Jackson . Where did all these people come from?

Created by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson, 7/01.
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