Thursday, August 8, 2013

Day 7 – Day 13: Moab, Utah

It's been 7 days since the last blog post.  This is now 7 days of blogging all in one go. In writing all of this, I realize how much we've done in a short time. It feels like I've lived a decade in the last 7 days; many happy memories; many adventures, many "take your breath away moments."   I'm grateful for these opportunities to embrace the world we live in. I realized on this trip that in years past we wanted our vacations to be in the Caribbean enjoying the  beach. But that was when we wanted to escape life and get a break. Now I want to step into life; not escape it. I want to meet it head on and savour all of its moments.  This trip is about living in the moment and really, really living.  If it's the moments in life that count, we've had more in the last 7 days than in many years of our lives when we were focused on "getting ahead".   Abundance is all around. It's in the stars above when the milky way if visible to the eye, it's in the power of the water to carve these canyons and the power of the earth to raise up these sandstone structures, it's in the age of the rocks and dinosaur tracks that puts our small lifetimes in perspective, it's in the adaptability of the animals and plants that live here and it's in the warmth of the people we've met--- in their passion for outdoor living.   Utah's motto is "Life Elevated" and it's very true for our trip here.


Day 7 (Aug 1) Grand Junction to Arches NP, Broken Arch Hike

Our site (#33) at Devil's Campground was amazing. Our backyard view was great. Sophia and Jessica had a big rock there which they named S&J Rock. They spent a lot of time there.  We went for a hike off the campground and saw a few arches up close. Broken Arch really had a lot of fallen stones at the base.  We did get lost on the way back and had to hike out to the highway and double around. This hike was to be 2 km but likely was 7 km or more and took us 4 hours !!!!


Day 8 (Aug 2) Arches NP, Devil's Garden

Tom got up early and headed out to Double O arch.  The girls and I got up later and we met up with him on the path and saw Landscape Arch.   Great trail and fabulous hike.  We had to walk our bikes home as the hill was so steep and we were wiped from the walking in the heat.


Day 9 (Aug 3) Arches NP, Fiery Furnace

9am – 2pm we hiked the Fiery Furnace. It's called this because at some parts of the year, at sunset it looks like it's on fire. It was actually quite cool inside with all the shade. Like a different eco system in there.  This was a strenuous hike, requiring jumps over cracks, crab walking down two walls, shuffling sideways, waking up on ledges with drop offs and a lot of climbing up and down.  It was 2 miles but with the ascents/descents, more like 5 miles. We saw many plants; our National Park ranger guide was so knowledgeable too. The girls loved going through Crawl-Through Arch (they crawled through it) and walk through arch ( more my style).  At the end we got to see Surprise Arch and it was a great surprise.  What a great experience and only $30 for all 4 of us --- more than worth it.


Day 10 (Aug 4) Arches NP to Archview RV, Exploring Moab, UT

After checking out, we stopped at the Visitor Centre so the girls could get their Junior Ranger badges.  I laid on the couch and just watched the most amazing scenery float by.   Archview lives up to it's name and we can see North and South Windows from our RV spot.  The views all around are magnificent. WE did some swimming and relaxing and went into Moab for dinner and some shopping.



Day 11 (Aug 5) Archview RV, Canyonlands

Today we headed up to Canyonlands, Island in the Sky district. Another feast for the senses !   We hiked Upheaval Dome.  Jessica thinks it was created by a meteor and Sophia votes for slow-moving salt dome.   It was a hard hike, lots of climbing and very very hot.  This time we had the right shoes, and lots of water. We had a picnic lunch by Grand View, with views of the Green river below.  At the end we stopped at the Visitor Centre and the girls handed in their work for another Junior Ranger badge each.   I headed into town for groceries and didn't see any rain. Meanwhile Tom and the girls had a crazy windy rain storm.  Not really understanding how these things worked, we went for an after dinner drive to see some dino tracks but it was a 2 mile gravel /dirt road off the I-191.  It was flowing water over the washes in some bits from the rain storm and we almost got stuck ! Tom spun us out but my CRV is encrusted with mud . The girls loved it and laughed their heads off everything a big mud splash came up. In the end the road was too soft and we turned back. We tried another dino trail but same thing.



Day 12 (Aug 6) Archview RV, Hummer Tour with Highpoint Hummer

Overcast skies in the distance over Arches and the LaSal mountains.   I can see the fingers of rain coming down.  Utah is amazing in that you can look out and see different weather just by turning your head – over there it's raining and lightening, then in one area is overcast and yet another part of the sky is blue and brilliant with sunshine.   The span that your eye can take in is beyond anything at home.


Today we were up and early in Moab by 7:35am for our tour with Highpoint Hummer. There was a mix up and though we planned for canyoneering/repelling  we ended up doing the Hummer tour with Dusty, ex-paramedic,  from Oklahoma in an old-school red Hummer. We went out to the  Sand Flats recreation area to take it up the Hell's Revenge trail.  Dusty was a great guide and asked Jessica and Sophia if they prefer the "easy" route or the "hard" route. We had the whole hummer to ourselves and those two replied from their perches at the back that the difficult road was optimal.  So our trip started with Dusty ignoring the road tracks and instead climbing over some rocks to start us on the trail.  We had wheels off the ground a few times, he sped up to get squeals out of the girls (and me too) and even drove up an impossibly steep stone fin backwards.  I admit that my sense of self preservation was going a little "what the heck are you doing" but my head was saying "relax, he's done this before and killing the tourists is bad for business."  This was especially true after Dusty showed us a crashed Toyota 4Runner that is so wedged between the rocks they can't pull it out.  The drivers did survive, but with broken backs and wrists. Apparently there is a YouTube Video of their stupidity out there somewhere.    But for us (with a trained and professional driver), it was a great experience.  We got out and hiked up hills, saw dino tracks, a hidden canyon that is filled with waterfalls after a rain storm and so many panoramic views.  It redefines "middle of nowhere" because I sure felt like we were part of something bigger, grander and more meaningful than I've ever felt in any city.

We had lunch at the Kinsmen Park. They had a really cool musical playground with xylophones and drums , etc made for the outdoors that the kids could play on.   We did some more shopping ( we made our own T-shirts!) , going to Moab Brewery for dinner ( I had yummy fish tacos) .  In between I had a hot rock massage at Spa Moab. How divine !   We came home with another growler of IPA. Yum !


Day 13 (Aug 7) Archview RV, Canyoneering with Highpoint Hummer

We've taken 1666 photos and videos so far.   Many of those were from today. I've read that memories are laid down differently when adrenaline is pumping through your body.  For me there were many adrenaline filled moments. Seeing Jessica and Sophia walk over a cliff edge and putting on a confident demeanor when I felt like shouting " that's my baby – don't go there!" was the start of it. Then my turn.  Whoa.!! I was so scared. I'm leaning back , walking sideways, off a cliff edge that I daren't look down, trusting my right hand to feed the brake rope, trusting my legs to steer me the right way and trusting that my left hand really has no job at all as I dangle in space.  It's very disconcerting.   The crazy part is the first 40 feet puts you into a knee deep pothole of water, which you have to walk through then walk off a 2nd cliff edge and start running right away to avoid slamming into the solid rock. I didn't get the "walk off a cliff edge and start running with the rope" bit,  and had a bit of a first encounter with the sandstone (as the scrape on my right forearm will attest to).  After this is becomes easy as you see the earth finally nearing you.  A very short walk from this is the 2nd repel, 33% higher (120 ft) and so spectacular.  The first part is some walking down a sheer cliff but once you're off the overhang you just sit and lower yourself taking in a view of Morning Glory Arch and this lush valley (Negro Bill) with spring bubbling out of the mountain. It was something out of a movie, but it was real life. I will admit I was terrified. More terrified than when I rolled the Ford Explorer because there was time. Lots of it. Excruciatingly a lot of time.  But the memories, the emotions that alternated from fear and joy are the memories of a lifetime. They are forever imprinted now in super high definition in my mind.  Kyler said that some people sing to take their mind off it , so I started singing "My Favourite Things" from Sound of Music.  It did help actually.  I still screamed when my feet left the wall and I was forced to look down and see how high up I was. 


What an amazing day.  I am so proud of Jessica and Sophia for doing this. We told them this is courage: to feel the fear and go through it to the other side.   They were both very nervous at first but by the second repel they had were pros.   Our guide, Kyler was so experienced. His hands could tell you that.  We had Howard as well in our party; he is an anestheleologist from Kauai and he was very friendly. We're going to share video with him from Tom's GoPro Camera.


After the 2nd repel we had a 2 ¼ mile hike out along Bill Negro canyon crossing the stream many times. Our feet were soaked in runners and socks and did not make for comfortable hiking.  The canyon was very pretty with many wildflowers and patches of prickly pear cactus.   After the tour we headed straight to Pasta Jays for a later lunch/early dinner.   Service was a bit off, but the food was good. On the way home we drove down Potash Road to see petroglyphs on the rocks right along the road.   There were many many of them and some of big horn sheep and people. We also saw dino tracks from afar but didn't' want to hike it since all our shoes are wet.   Back at the ranch (RV) we all laid low; I gave myself a pedicure in the evening and now we're all cozy while a windy rain storm with lightening is raging outside.


Facts we have learned:

  • Prickly pear can be eaten and is made into ice cream. Some animals can digest it with the spines ! 
  • Mormon Tea has ephedrine and will give you a little buzz.
  • The yucca plant's root can be made into soap, the tips into needles, the ends chewed into paint brushes and the leaves taken apart and woven into rope – a very useful plant !
  • Wild rhubarb grows in the spring and again later in the year.
  • Water seeps into the rocks and comes out at the bottom as a spring. The rock is that porous.
  • Cryptobiotic soil, or "biological soil crust" has 200 bacteria types that hold the sand in place from blowing away and also retains water; this can take 200 years to grow ! ; it is what allows many of the plants to grow.
  • The rock has many layers. Today in sandflats we saw the Navajo Layer. At Fiery Furnace we saw the Entrada and Caramel layers.
  • Arches NP has 2400 arches; to be an arch 3 criteria must be satisfied – the arch must be 3 feet in any direction, light must pass through and it must be naturally made.
  • Only about 9 inces of rain fall in the year; right now is monsoon season so lots of flash floods happen. Many of the washes turn into running water.
  • NASA is conducting training for a future Mars mission near Moab.  The rocks and terrain are expected to be similar to some of the areas nearby.

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