Tag Archive | Moab

Moab 2015: Castle Creek Winery

Upon leaving Canyonlands, we had a little bit of time before we had to make the long drive back to Salt Lake City. And it just so happens that a little way outside of Moab is one of Utah’s few wineries! I wanted to go!

Castle Creek Winery is located 14 miles up Highway 128, a scenic drive along the Colorado River. It also happened to be the route of most of Jon’s half-marathon the previous day, so I had the opportunity to see what he was up against. There was a long… uphill section that looked really tough! There are lots of campgrounds and trail heads along the highway that look like they would be perfect for exploring – if only we had more time.

The winery is on the grounds of a resort ranch. You can stay there, and it looked like activities included horseback riding, swimming, rafting, hiking, and of course, the winery. There is also a museum on the grounds that we didn’t have time to check out.

The sign seems more weathered than it should, given the age of the winery...  I sense a theme...

The sign seems more weathered than it should, given the age of the winery… I sense a theme…

Our tasting was interesting… A complimentary tasting included 5 samples, which let us taste all but one of the wines. They were decent but not complex, fine for everyday drinking but they wouldn’t hold up to age. None had much in the way of structure or tannins. But that isn’t what made it interesting. Our server did that all on her own. She was nice enough, but was an older lady who was very worn – I didn’t smell smoke but she had the look (and the voice) of a ‘several-pack-a-day-for-several-decades’ smoker.

I asked about the history of the winery, and her response was to urge us to go downstairs and watch the video. When we didn’t appear to be moving quickly enough, she kept prodding until we felt we had no choice but to go. Downstairs was odd. We found ourselves in a random cold, dimly lit hallway with glass windows facing out onto the dark production floor. And, as she promised, there was a 5 minute video explaining in extremely general terms the history of the winery and their production story.

Other than telling me that Castle Creek Winery played an integral part in changing Utah’s laws to allow for wineries, I learned nothing. Well, that’s not quite true… I had learned my lesson, and did not ask further questions upon emerging from the “dungeon.” That made the tasting go really quickly. That said, the wines were fine, and several had beautiful labels, so I bought one bottle to enjoy in our hotel room that evening and we got on our way…

Picturesque truck

Picturesque truck

And because the winery didn’t inspire me to take any photos inside, here’s a photo of what I hope is an authentic historic school outside of Moab.  I say I hope because it shares its parking lot with a gas station.

A historic schoolhouse - I hope...

A historic schoolhouse – I hope…

We made the long drive back to Salt Lake City in order to fly out the next morning. Another great vacation had come to a pre-mature end…

Moab 2015: The Windows and Double Arch

After Delicate Arch, which are the most famous arches at Arches National Park?  The Windows!  And we had a chance to visit them!

The view of North Window from afar.

The view of North Window from afar.

After Broken Arch and Sand Dune Arch we decided to visit the arch trifecta in the park, the Windows section. Windows gives tourists a big bang for their buck, with four arches all visible from the parking area, or from close up if you walk a mere mile round trip from the parking lot. We started our hike on pavement, up some stairs to North Window. North Window is even with ground level here, so there was no shortage of people climbing around in it. That’s the drawback of the accessible arches.  There were lots of screaming children here too, so we took a few photos and headed on our way.

North Window Close Up

North Window Close Up

South Window is just past North Window, and is actually carved from the same sandstone fin. South Window is above the ground though, so I like the views here better because I could get a photo without the throngs of people that are standing and sitting in North Window.

South Window

South Window

South Window Close Up

South Window Close Up

Turret Arch is nearby – I think it looks like a keyhole – and there is a little unnamed arch right next to it. With a little bit of effort you can climb up into it, so I had Jon take my picture standing in the arch. Despite saying that he regretted not standing in Delicate Arch for a photo, he wouldn’t go up and stand in Turret Arch. Some things never change.

Turret Arch

Turret Arch

Somehow, I convinced Jon to go on the primitive trail back to the parking lot. I just had to explain there wouldn’t be people on it. And I wasn’t kidding – we walked around behind South Window and all the crowds vanished within 100 feet. We were all alone! I liked the photos from this angle best, as I was able to capture the sinking sun framed in North Window, and the people standing in it were small enough to not be obtrusive.

The sun setting through the South Window arch.

The sun setting through the South Window arch.

The primitive trail wasn’t anything too challenging, and a short hike saw us back in the parking lot. We had one more arch that I wanted to see, but I could tell that Jon’s energy was fading. He was a sport though, and let me do the trek down to Double Arch, which is off the same parking lot as the Windows.

Flowers near North Window

Flowers near North Window

Double Arch is two arches that are joined at one end, giving a very unique look when photographed from below. The hike is 0.5 miles roundtrip through some soft sand. Once we were there, I climbed up on the slick rock to get some better photos while Jon waited below. There were several young adults climbing under the arch, but I was able to get some photos with only a couple of people in them. All in all, I thought this arch was much more peaceful than the Windows.

Double Arch

Double Arch

We didn’t linger long because Jon was getting really tired and we were both hungry. We headed back into town and decided to go to Zak’s for dinner. Zak’s has steak and other eats, and we were able to get a table in the bar after only about 5 minutes (the wait in the restaurant was about 35 minutes, they said). The full menu is available in the bar, and it was a non-smoking place, so that was just fine with us!

The service was prompt and friendly – and we ordered beers – the Moab Brewery Dead Horse Ale for me, and the Squatter’s Brewery Hop Rising for Jon. We both ordered the Flat Iron Steak with asparagus, with rice for Jon and a baked potato for me. That really hit the spot! We were so hungry that I completely forgot to take any photos of our meal. Jon polished his off with a Uintas Brewery Hop Notch, and I drove us home for an early night…

What a fabulous, action packed day we had!

Moab 2015: Broken Arch and Sand Dune Arch

In my last post, Jon rocked his half marathon, we had a fabulous lunch in downtown Moab – but we were far from done for the day!

After lunch, we were eager to get out touristing, but obviously Jon wasn’t going to be up for a lot of hiking. I drove – and we headed to Arches. Since we were later coming into the park – it was about 1:30 pm – we found ourselves in a HUGE line at the park entrance… We waited a long time – probably about 45 minutes to get into the park. Fortunately for me, Jon was exhausted… too tired to complain about the wait. I did spend some time thinking it would be nice if they had a priority line for National Parks Passholders!

Eventually we made our way into the park, where I had picked out some easy hikes to some of the Arches we hadn’t seen yet (the ranger had given me some great ideas when I was at the Visitor’s Center that morning). We started at Broken Arch – named for the fact that there is a large vertical crack right in the middle of the arch. Broken Arch is 0.6 miles (1.2 miles round trip) of flat hiking through slightly soft sand, with views of the La Sal Mountains in the distance. Remarkably, when we got to Broken Arch, there was just one other family there, and they headed out shortly after we arrived. We were all alone, only 0.6 miles from the trail head!

The view from the Broken Arch trail head

The view from the Broken Arch trail head

Jon and me on our way to Broken Arch - Jon is rockin' his half-marathon shirt

Jon and me on our way to Broken Arch – Jon is rockin’ his half-marathon shirt

Broken Arch is one of the arches you can climb under, so I tried my luck at getting the proverbial “jumping photo.” Our timing wasn’t great though, because several attempts all caught me barely above the ground – you’ll just have to take my word for it that I’m able to jump super-high, while looking completely put together – HA! Sigh… We loved the quiet at Broken Arch, and sat on the rocks near the arch for a while, just enjoying the view and the solitude. But not for too long, because Jon didn’t want his muscles to stiffen up.

Broken Arch!

Broken Arch!

Me jumping at Broken Arch - I jumped really high - seriously...

Me jumping at Broken Arch – I jumped really high – seriously…

As we were getting ready to go, we ran into a young lady from Colorado trying for a selfie with the arch, so I offered to take her picture. We got to talking and she offered an interesting story. She had accompanied a friend who came to Moab to go on a group back-country uni-cycling tour. She came along to do some hiking while her friend was uni-cycling. I had no idea there were organized uni-cycling tours and back country no less!

Jon looking at the view of the LaSal Mountains from Broken Arch

Jon looking at the view of the LaSal Mountains from Broken Arch

This rock reminded me of a poodle - what do you see?

This rock reminded me of a poodle – what do you see?

On the way back from Broken Arch we took the short spur trail off to Sand Dune Arch. Sand Dune Arch is between two sandstone fins, and loose sand collects there making a fun experience for kids, who can play to their heart’s content in the red sand. And not so fun for this childless couple and my delicate ears – the sounds of kids yelling and shrieking echo loudly here!

A dead tree between the fins at Sand Dune Arch

A dead tree between the fins at Sand Dune Arch

Sand Dune Arch - which one of these kiddos won't make it?

Sand Dune Arch – which one of these kiddos won’t make it?

We hung out long enough to get some photos of Sand Dune Arch, with kids posing, jumping and back-flipping underneath. All only feet from the posted sign that says that Sand Dune Arch has experienced recent rock fall and you shouldn’t stand underneath. Either all those parents are illiterate, clueless, or hoping that the rock fall comes and takes out one of their brood – you decide!

People are stoo-pid...

People are stoo-pid…

 

Moab 2015: A Red Rock Half Marathon

Finally, Jon’s day had arrived – the Canyonlands Half Marathon! He had been looking forward to running a half marathon among the beautiful red rocks. The race is a point to point, beginning about 10 miles up Highway 128, along the Colorado River.

I dropped him off at 7:15 am to take one of the busses up to the start of the race. They close Highway 128 for the race, so there is no way for race participants to get a ride there except for via the busses. We said our goodbyes and I wished him luck, and went back to the hotel for breakfast.  I have my priorities.

Since there is not really anyplace where spectators can view the majority of the race due to the Highway 128 closure, this is really my story… I spent a leisurely morning, heading out to Arches National Park to see the exhibits in the Visitor’s Center.

Jon doesn’t always like to watch the movies that they have, so this time I sat down by myself in the theater and watched the whole thing. The Arches movie focuses on the geology of the park and the forces of nature that have created its arches over the last several million years. It also shows the process of erosion, and explains how arches are just a temporary feature, lasting only until erosion breaks them down.

Sedimentary Rock Types in Arches National Park - Arches NP Visitor's Center

Sedimentary Rock Types in Arches National Park – Arches NP Visitor’s Center

After the Visitor’s Center, I headed back into town, where I passed several of the 5 mile runners, and went to the rock shop just outside of town. This rock shop had everything. You could find all kinds of fossils, rocks, petrified wood and shell imaginable. I spent a while in there, just looking at everything. There was a gorgeous, huge fossilized dinosaur nest, with several intact eggs (not for sale), as well as a carved, stone skull that was beautiful.

For kids (or the young at heart) they distribute cards that entitle the holder to a free piece of dinosaur bone. To collect, you have to follow the dinosaur prints around the store to the shelf where you can choose your piece. I don’t doubt they are pieces of dinosaur bone, but I learned you have to know what you are looking for. There is no way that I would have guessed what I was holding wasn’t just another rock.

Soon enough, it was time to head into downtown and find a parking spot to go see the end of the race. I had enough time to watch and cheer for the runners for about 20 minutes before Jon came in with a time of 1:36:36. I was so pleased with him, especially since the race is at an elevation of over 4,000 feet, and we aren’t used to high altitude! He said it was the most difficult half marathon he has done, and he could totally feel the elevation.

Jon's Half Marathon Finish - 1 hour, 36 minutes, 36 seconds

Jon’s Half Marathon Finish – 1 hour, 36 minutes, 36 seconds

We got him hydrated and then headed back to the hotel so he could take a shower. And then we were off to get lunch! We decided to go to the Twisted Sistas’ Café, a place I had seen reviews for on TripAdvisor. We got there just before it started filling up, and ordered. I ordered the Jamon Serrano Wrapped Shrimp Salad, with chopped romaine tossed with tomato, Kalamata olives and parmesan in a creamy lemon dill dressing, topped with baked shrimp wrapped in jamon serrano.

The most amazing salad!

The most amazing salad!

Jon had the Grilled Turkey and Smoked Cheddar Wrap – Grilled roasted turkey breast, bacon and melted smoked cheddar on a warmed garlic-herb tortilla wrap with lettuce, tomato, onion and avocado, drizzled with a smoked paprika aioli.

Both meals were fantastic, but my salad knocked my socks off! The tangy dressing with the salty jamon serrano wrapped around big shrimp. It was so delicious – I will certainly go back again for that meal!

Moab 2015: Facing My Fears in the Sky

Have you ever stared death in the face? I have! Ok, so perhaps I’m exaggerating a bit, but Friday morning was our zip-lining adventure! I had been alternating between looking forward to it, and absolutely dreading what was sure to be my impending death.

Jon had seen the zip-lining shop when we had been in Moab the year before, and really wanted to try it. I said I would, even though, as you may remember from some of my previous posts, I have a very healthy fear of heights. But I like to challenge myself, so I purchased two non-refundable tickets to a 6 zip-line adventure, complete with an off-road UTV (Utility Terrain Vehicle) ride up to the zip-lines, and a trek across a suspension bridge. Of course, I hate wasting money, so I knew if I made the purchase, I was not likely to chicken out.

As we were getting ready, I started getting really nervous. Jon told to try not to think about it – maybe listen to my audiobook? My nerves abated as we walked across the street to the shop, but I got nervous again when signing the waiver. I went and sat outside to wait for the safety chat and ponder my impending death. Shortly the other soon to be dead tourists all assembled outside and our guides – Chris and Jake – showed us how to get into our harnesses and helmets. I snugged my harness up as much as I could, knowing that I was still a goner.

Soon we bundled into two UTVs and headed up the mountain. The trip was exciting and scary at the same time! Chris explained that in the world of off-roading, this road would be considered a 4 on a difficulty scale of 1-10. It seemed like a 9+ to me.

Heading up to the Zip Lines

Heading up to the Zip Lines

He explained how the zip-line company came to be, and the fact that it is located on private land. He also explained how the zip-lines were engineered and their safety features. I started to feel a little more comfortable, because lots of the reviews said the trip up to the zip-lines was scarier than the zip-lines themselves. I might actually live!

We reached the top of the hill and climbed up a short, steep section of the slick rock to the beginning of the first zip-line. It was called Sneak Peek and it was 280 feet long, designed to ease you in to zip-lining. My nerves were back. I made Jon take a photo with my cellphone to document my last moments on earth. I look nervous…

Me before my first zip - how green do I look?

Me before my first zip – how green do I look?

Jake (one of our fearless guides) zipped first so he could operate the braking system for the rest of us. I was relieved that I didn’t have to try to stop myself… Chris asked who wanted to go first and a 12 year old kid volunteered (I am not an early adopter…). He looked like he was having fun! I volunteered to go third, afraid that if I waited too long I would lose my nerve. But I did it! I screamed a little bit after I first stepped off, but I did it! Once Jake had stopped me at the other end, he had to remind me to let go of the handle… But I did it! And it was fun!

The zip-lines get a little longer and faster from the first one – they are all named for their successive features and challenges. The longest zip- Home Run – is 1300 feet long. Each is unique, some are steeper, some are windier (so you spin more), but they were all fun.

Jon has fantastic form

Jon has fantastic form

Jon waiting for his next zip

Jon waiting for his next zip

In between zip-lines, there are short hikes, including one with a suspension bridge (which looked totally safe but was still scary for me!), and amazing views.  We got a bird’s eye view of Moab, and could even see several of the rock formations in Arches National Park – 10-15 miles away.

We Made it over the Suspension Bridge!

We Made it over the Suspension Bridge!

Don't we look cute!?

Don’t we look cute!?

The course is near other UTV routes, so we saw some of the off-road tours go by, and the last zip-line goes right over a mountain bike route, so we got to fly over top of several mountain bikers pushing their bikes up a steep section of slick rock.

Jon zipping the last zip - Home Run.

Jon zipping the last zip – Home Run.

I took video with my camera – I don’t have a GoPro, so I just hung it around my neck and pressed record, hoping the camera wouldn’t flop around too much or turn around on my body…. I think it worked pretty well.  The video below is me on the last zip-line – Home Run (bear with the slow start…).

I didn’t want it to end. I was ready to keep going all day long! But soon we had reached the end of the sixth zip-line, and Chris and Jake went to go fetch the UTVs so they could drive us back down the hill. Which again, was a trip that was scarier than the actual zip-lining.

The UTV Ride down the hill - it was pretty steep!

The UTV Ride down the hill – it was pretty steep!

I was very proud of myself for doing it and not chickening out. It was exhilarating being able to conquer my fear of heights and discover that something I was terrified to do is actually really fun! Chris and Jake were great – very supportive and it is clear that they get a kick out of helping someone get over their fear as well. I loved this adventure!

Have you ever zip-lined?  If you are interested in trying it out in Moab, Utah, I can’t speak highly enough of Raven’s Rim Zip-Lining – they were great!  http://www.ravensrim.com/

Moab 2015: We Made It!

It was time!  To make our way to Moab that is!  We couldn’t wait to get back there after so thoroughly enjoying our time there last year.

We stopped south of Salt Lake City for a quick lunch and some snacks, and then got on the road for the trip down US Highway 6. Highway 6 is the main highway between Salt Lake City and Moab, and used to be a main thoroughfare between the Midwest and California, until it was bypassed by I-70. It is a very winding highway that is often only one lane in each direction, with passing lanes at regular intervals.

It winds through the city of Price, Utah, a mining town that might be fun to pass a day in. Price has a mining museum and some dinosaur attractions, commemorating the fact that many dinosaur fossils have been found throughout the area. That said, Price seems like a town that time forgot, at least the sections visible from the highway. Lots of run down homes and empty buildings.

Further south from Price, Highway 6 also passes by the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry, which is still being quarried for fossils today (that would be cool to visit). I hadn’t heard of it before, so did a little research on it later.

It was an uneventful drive – we did end up seeing 3 pronghorn and 3 prairie dogs (no photos as we blazed by at 65 mph)… one day I will get a good photo of pronghorn in the wild.

We ended up in Moab right about 4 pm, got checked into our hotel room and immediately changed into hiking clothes. We were at Arches National Park at 4:20! We stopped at the first trail head in the park, the Park Avenue hike – an easy 2 mile out and back through a wash beneath gorgeous sandstone formations.

Jon taking in Park Avenue.

Jon taking in Park Avenue.

The Park Service has Park Avenue listed as a moderate hike, but that is really only because it has a set of stone stairs at the beginning of the hike. If you started the hike from the second trail head, you could do almost the whole hike without the stairs. Much of the hike is in shade, which made it relatively cool (I was wearing shorts and had to put on a fleece).

Sheep Rock, from our Park Avenue hike.

Sheep Rock, from our Park Avenue hike.

After our Park Avenue hike, we drove down to the Balanced Rock viewpoint. Balanced Rock is one of the most recognized features in the park, and it is an easy walk on a paved sidewalk (total round-trip distance 0.3 miles).

I can't get enough of this view!

I can’t get enough of this view!

I asked Jon to try to take a picture of me “holding up” Balanced Rock, like they do with the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but he was not up to the challenge. He took the camera, looked at the viewfinder for a second, snapped a pic, and said “here, that’s as good as it’s going to get.” This was the result…

Me

Me “holding up” Balanced Rock. Ignore my totally pasty, white legs – I’m from the Northwest…

This is what I need girlfriends for – they are way more accommodating to my foolishness…

Balanced Rock at Arches National Park

Balanced Rock at Arches National Park

Balanced Rock was great, but it was dinnertime, and we wanted to make sure to get a place at the Moab Brewery, so we headed back into town. The brewery wasn’t nearly as packed as it was last time for some reason, so we were able to snag a table right away in the bar.

Jon ordered the Black Imperial IPA that he had last time we were there, and our server told him that the latest batch was hit or miss, due to some weird, unknown problem during bottling. He said that Jon was welcome to try one and give it back if it wasn’t good.

We appreciated his honesty and the commitment to a quality product, so Jon ordered a Hopped Rye beer instead and a veggie burrito. He loved both. I had the Dead Horse Amber, which was sold out last time we were there, with a Reuben sandwich, both delicious. We enjoyed our beers, and both had seconds, with Jon ordering another Hopped Rye and me getting a Hefeweizen.

Jon's Veggie Burrito

Jon’s Veggie Burrito

After the brewery, we headed back to the hotel for a relaxing evening.  We had a full day of adventuring coming up, including zip lining!

Moab 2015: A Trip is Born

Jon is a masterful schemer. He always manages to get me to agree to a trip to someplace he wants to go and this time was no exception. How? One strategy is to find a race in the destination he wants to visit. In December 2013, it was the Sacramento marathon. In March 2015, we made a return trip to Moab, Utah, for a high elevation half marathon.

Of course, I wouldn’t be so willing to oblige if the locations were less desirable, but given that Moab is home to both Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, and I loved our short time there in April 2014, of course you know my reaction to his proposal! I began to plot our course – we would fly into Salt Lake City, then drive down to Moab (just under a 4 hour drive).

The pieces began to fall together. I knew I wanted to visit Antelope Island, just north of Salt Lake City. I have been dreaming about Antelope Island since reading a fellow blogger’s posts about it, and had it on my list when Jon and I were considering driving from Washington on our Southwest adventure during the spring of 2014. When we made the decision to fly instead of drive, going out of our way to Salt Lake City was one of the things we had to cut (so many places, so little time!).

I also have read a couple of books lately about the mainstream Mormon faith and its polygamist offshoots, so checking out the historic Mormon sites in downtown Salt Lake City went on the list.

And Jon had been drooling over the idea of a zip line adventure when we were in Moab a year ago, so I asked him if it was still on his bucket list. Of course it was – what a stupid question! I, being terrified of heights, wasn’t sure I would be brave enough, but after researching the zip line company, watching the videos, and reading all the Trip Advisor reviews, plus conducting a Facebook poll of my friends, decided that I would give it a try. When your aunt, who is in her early 70s, says you should go for it, you can’t very well chicken out, right?

Salt Lake City to Moab

Salt Lake City to Moab

With all that, I vowed to fill our free time with hikes in the parks, trying to fill in the gaps of what we didn’t see a year ago, and cheering Jon on at the finish line of his race. A trip was born!

 

SW National Parks Trip: A Last Bit of Arches

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.

Arches National Park in Bloom – the red blooms are Indian Paintbrush

Arches National Park in Bloom – the red blooms are Indian Paintbrush

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.

The view from the Salt Valley Overlook – Arches National Park

The view from the Salt Valley Overlook – Arches National Park

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.

Balanced Rock at Arches National Park

Balanced Rock at Arches National Park

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.

Sheep Rock at Arches National Park

Sheep Rock at Arches National Park

The Three Gossips at Arches NP – I think it should be called Eagle Rock

The Three Gossips at Arches NP – I think it should be called Eagle Rock

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!

Beer Samples come in a fancy glass here

Beer Samples come in a fancy glass here

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.

My Nutty Blue Salad – dried cranberries, candied walnuts, blue cheese crumbles and Angus steak strips

My Nutty Blue Salad – dried cranberries, candied walnuts, blue cheese crumbles and Angus steak strips

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!

 

SW National Parks Trip: Hike to Delicate Arch

In my last post, I gave you a preview of Wolfe Ranch, the old homestead that is just beyond the Delicate Arch trail head at Arches National Park.  And now for Delicate Arch itself.  It is probably the most famous arch within Arches National Park; it is really picturesque and accessible, so it ends up being in all the official tourist brochures and millions of tourist photos.  If you have seen the “Experience the Mighty 5: Utah’s National Parks” ad that has been all over the internet lately, you have seen Delicate Arch.  If you haven’t seen it – where have you been?  Seriously though, you can check it out here.

Cowboys originally called Delicate Arch The Chaps and The Schoolmarm’s Bloomers – I have to admit I’m kind of disappointed that the NPS didn’t adopt the latter as the official name.  I guess they wanted to keep the names G-rated.  And curiously, Delicate Arch was not actually within Arches when the park was created; it was added when the park was expanded in 1938.

Near the beginning of our hike out to Delicate Arch, with the La Sal Mountains in the background

Near the beginning of our hike out to Delicate Arch, with the La Sal Mountains in the background

The hike is 3 miles round trip, with a total elevation gain of 480 feet.  If that is too much for you, there is a viewpoint where you can park and see the arch without the hike.  The trail to Delicate Arch begins as a well-defined trail, with a bridge over the salt wash, and a gravel footpath that winds its way around the rocks.  There is a little side trail that you can take to see some petroglyphs too, if that suits your fancy.  We didn’t do that this time, but I would like to when I get back there.

Towards the beginning of the Delicate Arch hike – do you see all the little people on the slick rock?

Towards the beginning of the Delicate Arch hike – do you see all the little people on the slick rock?

We hiked past several beautiful spring blooms and Jon was convinced he saw a rattlesnake hiding under a rock – the snake turned out to be dry grass debris.  Oh well, you can’t win ’em all.  After a little while the trail gives way to a slick rock slope and the Park Service stacks piles of rocks called cairns to mark the trail.

Jon posed on the hike to Delicate Arch. You can see a cairn behind him.

Jon posed on the hike to Delicate Arch. You can see a cairn behind him.

Jon frequently bolts ahead of me while we are hiking so I had some time to ponder the beauty of the area, and catch a couple photos of a cute chipmunk.  The trail is moderately strenuous – certainly not a Sunday stroll but it required nowhere near the level of exertion as Angels Landing in Zion. I stopped to catch my breath a couple of times and took photos of the beautiful landscape around me.

The sandstone formations on the way to Delicate Arch

The sandstone formations on the way to Delicate Arch

Once you get closer to Delicate Arch, you walk along the edge of a cliff rock ledge and then move out into a bowl shaped formation with sloped insides.  The edge of the rock ledge is fairly wide so it wasn’t really scary (people who aren’t afraid of heights would say it isn’t scary at all), but at the end you do have to climb over the slick rock to get into the bowl, and this got my fear of heights working overtime as I imagined losing my footing and rolling down the inside of the bowl to my death.  There were high winds that day, so making my way to the edge of the bowl was even scarier. Most people would probably say that it wasn’t really very frightening though, including the guy who was showing off doing gymnastics moves on the sloped slick rock.  Handstands, back bends – this man was insane – he is lucky to have lived!

Me on the rock ledge, close to Delicate Arch

Me on the rock ledge, close to Delicate Arch

Once you see Delicate Arch, you never forget it.  The arch is 65 feet tall, and formed from Entrada Sandstone, which gives it its terra cotta coloring.  Its placement makes it a great arch for photos, because you can see the beautiful landscape beyond the arch and the mountains in the background.  In a word, it is spectacular.  In the summer, White Throated Swifts nest in the top of the arch – what a fantastic place to raise your family!

The gorgeous landscape behind Delicate Arch

The gorgeous landscape behind Delicate Arch

I wanted to stand in the arch for a picture – I decided that at the beginning, and I made up my mind that I was not going to be deterred!  My mom and Jon will both tell you I have a stubborn streak, and it worked in my favor that day.  Even if I was scared – I was going to do this!  This was another place where there were enough people that you had to wait in line to stand alone in the arch, but everybody there was really polite and waited their turn.  Just so you know – you are standing on a fairly wide area – 20-30 feet wide or so, but it was still scary for me.  Who said a fear of heights is rational?

The view on the other side of Delicate Arch

The view on the other side of Delicate Arch

So, I walked over, and waited my turn, and then stood in the center of the arch in my victory pose while Jon took a couple of photos of me.  I tried to convince him to stand in the arch, either alone or with me (there were plenty of people who would have taken our picture), but no dice.  Jon is never going to be a guy who is comfortable with posing for photos.

Me in Delicate Arch – this shows how tall it is!

Me in Delicate Arch – this shows how tall it is!

And how was it?  It did freak me out a little, but after chickening out at Angels Landing when we were in Zion – I was very proud of myself!  I talked about it the whole rest of the day!

We enjoyed a lunch of nuts, banana chips and granola bars while we sat on the slope and looked at the arch.  Then after a time, we hiked back so we could see more of the park.  Even though there were lots of people at the arch, this was one of my favorite hikes.

Have you hiked out to Delicate Arch?  What did you think of it?

 

SW National Parks Trip: Arches History

In a story that is probably familiar if you have read my histories of Zion and Canyonlands National Parks, the first inhabitants at Arches arrived about 10,000 years ago.  They were nomadic, but they found deposits of quartz stone that are perfect for making stone tools; their piles of discarded quartz are still visible to the trained eye.

Next, the Puebloan and Fremont peoples moved in around 2,000 years ago to farm maize, beans and squash.  They left few dwellings though, so researches suspect they may have only used the park as a seasonal residence.  And like other dwelling sites in the Four Corners area, they seem to have left by about 700 years ago.  Both cultures left rock art and pottery to tell the story of their existence here.

Near the beginning of our hike out to Delicate Arch, with the La Sal Mountains in the background

Near the beginning of our hike out to Delicate Arch, with the La Sal Mountains in the background

Like at Canyonlands, the Ute and Pauite peoples used the area after the Puebloan and Fremont cultures left; they were here when the first Europeans arrived in 1776.  They left pictographs of men on horses, which are easy to date to after the 1500s when the Spanish first brought horses to the area from Mexico.  The Utes and Pauites are thought to have only lived here seasonally as well.

As you learned in my Canyonlands history post, trappers were the next to arrive, followed by Mormon missionaries in 1855, and then finally by settlers and ranchers in the 1880s.  Interest in the park grew, and the push began for federal protection in the 1920s.  4,520 acres were set aside as a National Monument by President Herbert Hoover on April 12, 1929.  The area was expanded several times over the years, and in 1971, President Nixon substantially reduced the overall acreage of the park, but re-designated it as a National Park.  Arches today consists of over 76,000 acres.

To be honest, I was surprised to learn that Arches became a National Park 7 years after Canyonlands, as Arches is certainly the more famous park.  Over a million visitors come to Arches each year, compared to slightly fewer than a half million per year for Canyonlands.  It must be the arches that are the draw.

A good view of the fins that form at Arches National Park

A good view of the fins that form at Arches National Park

The arches are created when a solid slab of sandstone begins to crack over time.  Water get into the cracks and erodes the rocks, and sometimes freezes and expands the cracks, eventually forming fins.  These fins sometimes erode in a way that leaves an arch above after the center below has eroded away.  Then you have an arch.  The last stage in the process is when the arch collapses.  Of course, the arches aren’t the only feature of the park; Arches has sandstone towers, hoodoos and sand dunes too.  They all have their own unique beauty.

To give you an idea of how remote some areas of the park still are, in 1970 the Arches official brochure indicated that Arches National Monument had “nearly 90” arches.  In 1973, a geological survey team established a method for documenting the locations of all the arches in the park, and went out exploring the park to see how many they could find – there are now over 2,000 arches recorded.  Since 1970 however, 43 arches have collapsed due to the ever present forces of erosion – which one will be next?

In my next post I’ll tell you about our hike out to Delicate Arch!  Have you ever been to Arches National Park?