While eating a McDonald’s cheeseburger in the City Market parking lot of Cortez, Colorado, I scanned thru an outdated guidebook of National Parks. I was weighing the options of my route with regard to weather. A friend had advised me to travel through Independence Pass near Aspen, CO before it closed for the winter, which at 12,096 feet can happen in early September. I also wanted to go further north to the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Park. What I pondered was whether I had time to go a little further west and make it to a few of Utah’s amazingly well-known parks: Arches, Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon (north rim). I could either go north or west at this point. And if I went west I could cross back on my path and pick up where I left off. If I went quickly, I would have plenty of time. And if I didn’t take the time to go west now, it could be another two months before I would make it back to this area. My travel budget didn’t allow that to happen without a major change. Obviously, I chose to take the detour west.
As soon as I worked my way into Utah and along Monument Highway, I found instant gratification. The piles of red dirt that rose to pinnacles and arches along the roadside were just as beautiful as I had imagined, but even more amazing in person. I contemplated a detour through Canyonlands National Park, but the warnings of low vehicle clearance made me keep going. Besides, I had stopped so many times along the roadside to take pictures I wasn’t sure how it could get any better. I will go back and see what I missed another time.
Moab was the border town of Arches National Park. Though I had never been, I have known about Moab for a long time and even carried a sticker around with me for a few years after college. While in the Adventure Recreation major at Green Mountain College, one of our professors was a former search and rescue professional, and all-around-outdoor-fella, who spent a lot of time in the West. I once put together a menu plan for a week-long biking trip to Moab and Bryce for one of his lessons. I wasn’t so much a mountain biker, and still am not, but it was a valuable lesson in calorie requirements of outdoor activity programs.
I regret not exploring much of the Moab, but usually, that means shopping or eating, and I had plenty of PB&J supplies at this point. I can’t expect to fully dive into every location (which is a bit of a sad realization) but one that hit home while passing through Pagosa Springs. Up until New Mexico, I was surviving by visiting friends and family and taking advantage of their meals, shelter, and friendship. I missed that now and knew that if I were going to search for something at this point I would find it in the outdoors and not at a bar. Also, funds would not last long spending $20-40 on food and drink every meal and $40-100 a night on lodging.
Once again, I found several campsites listed and took a drive by to check them out. I decided on the Moab KOA because it had a heated pool. It almost felt like I was back on the beach with nothing but dirt in my campsite and the squeal of excited kids on vacation. That night the cold reminded me otherwise.
Unfortunately, “fancy campsite” also means “busy,” and when a family rolled in to set up their tent with the piercing glow of their high-beams at 11 pm, I cursed myself for choosing the spot. I was a bit too stressed as I sat planning the next couple of big days, trying to ignore the loud neighbors and cigarette smoke blown into my tent, to have a good night of sleep.
I used my insomnia to catch up on photo editing and start some of my blog posts. At this point, I realized that I would be posting a month or more behind my actual location. The curse of wanting to learn a new blogging format and then getting caught up with courses on Photoshop, HTML and CSS was affecting me. Who has time to do it all while driving 6-8 hrs, hiking, and figuring out the next move?
The next morning I had an ambitious plan to visit Arches National Park and set myself up for Bryce Canyon National Park the following day. My literature pointed to at least ten other things I would normally consider to be must-do activities in the Moab area, but I had numerous scheduling considerations such as where to find a place a stay for Labor Day. If I were going to be in a big National Park town, I would surely have to sleep in my car. And from the dust of the Moab campsite, I valued a place with a hot shower. I called ahead to a campsite in Torrey, Utah, 156 miles away and made reservations for the next night, making it a necessity to get there.
Labor Day, lions, tigers and bears to watch out for, Airbnb or campsite decisions, mileage traveled in one day, oil changes needed for my poor new and well-loved car, were all major planning considerations. Can I just have a spa day?
Overall, I was successful at making it to Torrey, though the adventure was much more than I had bargained for. Check out the next blog post to find out about my breakdown in Goblin-country!