When we got back to the car after hiking to Landscape Arch, we began making our way back to the park’s entrance so we could get on the road. Arches does not have a through road, so you drive several miles out to see what you want to see, and then turn around and drive back the way you came. This gave us an opportunity to stop at some of the viewpoints and see a bit more of Arches from the road, before we headed on our way.
We stopped at the Salt Valley Overlook, a viewpoint that lets you see the diversity in the geology of the park and the beautiful La Sal Mountains in the distance. This land used to be an enormous sea, so below all the sandstone is a layer of salt, hundreds of feet thick in places.
We saw Balanced Rock, which is a column of Navajo Sandstone with a 55 foot tall rock precariously perched on top. It used to have a companion, aptly named Chip Off the Old Block, but Chip fell during the winter of 1975/1976. Another reminder that the landscape is constantly changing, even if it seems to do it very slowly.
Our last stop was at the Courthouse Towers Viewpoint, close to the Visitor’s Center. We saw Sheep Rock (it really does look like a sheep) and the Three Gossips. I think Eagle Rock is a more fitting name for this one – because I thought the rock on the right looked like an eagle. Do you agree? We also spied Baby Arch, one of the smallest arches in the park. Maybe one day, thousands of years from now, it will be much larger. An arch has to be at least three feet to be considered an arch, but I’m sure Baby Arch is actually much larger than that.
After we left Arches, we headed down the road to our next destination – Cortez, Colorado. We made the two hour drive in good time, moving from the mesa and rock formations to a mountain forest pass, and then eventually farmland. Cortez is a small town of about 8,400 people at an elevation of 7,000 feet. We checked into our hotel (can you believe it was a Super 8?) and changed our clothes, and tried to wash a bit of the grit off our faces from our earlier sand facewashes. Then we headed for a walk down Main Street to find some food. Just an aside: after growing up in a town with no Main Street, I love it when small towns have one! Jon was in a beer mood again, so we went to the Main Street Brewery (fitting name right?).
It wasn’t very busy the evening that we were there, and the service was fast and friendly. They brought us samples of a few of the beers to help us make a decision, and Jon selected their IPA. I went with the Honey Raspberry Wheat beer, which has local honey added during the brewing process and raspberries added during the finishing. It is a light beer that wasn’t too sweet. Perfect!
For food I ordered the Nutty Blue Salad, which had dried cranberries, candied walnuts and blue cheese crumbles on a bed of romaine lettuce. And it was topped with medium rare Angus steak strips. Delicious! Jon had the Rocky Mountain Trout, with rice pilaf and seasonal vegetables (zucchini, mushrooms and onions). He also enjoyed a second beer – their Schnorzenboomer Amber Dopplebock – say that 3 times fast! It was a deep amber beer with lots of malty flavors.
After a very enjoyable meal, we strolled back to the hotel to call it a night – we had Mesa Verde National Park to look forward to in the morning!